Attorney Milt Datsopopulos Discusses “Expanded” Political Practices Laws, Says they Cause a “Chilling Effect” in Political Involvment
Missoula law firm Datsopoulos, McDonald and Lind recently found itself on the wrong side of a decision handed down by the Montana Political Practices Commissioner regarding its support for the T.J. McDermott for Sheriff campaign.
According to Attorney Milt Datsopoulos, Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl is interpreting some of the political practices laws differently than has been done in the past.
"What has been happening, is Mr. Motl has expanded the requirements, or refined them to the degree where they are more complicated, that most of us [are] not aware of what the expectations are now," Datsopoulos said.
Datsopoulos referred to the difficulties of evaluating the cost of in-kind candidate support, in this instance specifically, the use of office space and phones that were set aside for the McDermott campaign to use for politicking. In Datsopoulos' opinion, the expansion of the law into this kind of territory runs the risk of deterring political involvement of companies in the future.
"You get caught in some of these technical violations and you read about yourself violating the law... it's got a chilling effect, no question," Datsopoulos said. "That's one concern I have about being overly enthusiastic about these factors and if that is what your expectation is as a commissioner, then you have a much higher obligation to get that information to the people who are going to participate."
Dotsopoulos said that he supports disclosure laws, and that enforcement of those laws is "important for all of us." However, he also says that the Political Practices Commissioner needs to inform the public about the laws and suggested holding meetings around the state on the issue.