Today, October 15, Attorney Milt Datsopoulos accused Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl of expanding Montana’s political Practices laws to include things that had not previously been violations. Motl says that this accusation is partly true, but that there is precedent.

"To the question of whether or not the commissioner is making new law, this commissioner is not," Motl said."There are up to five prior commissioners who have made consistent decisions with what I made [in the Datsopoulos, McDonald and Lind decision]."

The precedent that Motl cites do have a difference from the case at hand though.

"The decisions made in regard to ballot issues haven't been directly to candidates," Motl said. On that point, [Datsopoulos] is partially correct. It has been applied in part to candidates, but it hasn't been applied where there hasn't been an applicable complaint filed."

Datsopoulos also claimed that companies like his own law firm have long allowed political campaigns to use phones and office space for political campaigns without needing to report these as in-kind donations. Motl says that although the law has only been applied to ballot issues up till now, there is at least one similar case for political campaigns.

"I think it was Commissioner Ed Argenbright who said that a band out of Ringling, Montana, that played a campaign jingle for a candidate, had to report the in-kind value of recording that jingle. That is pretty close to saying that a law office has to report the in-kind value of the use of its facility."

Motl says there is not a separate set of laws for in-kind disclosures to political campaigns and ballot issues and that although the law may not have been directly applied to political campaigns, it is still the law.

Jonathan Motl: