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Mon Mar 15, 2021, 06:52 AM

Political cop folds complaint against group that backed pot legalization

The state's top political cop earlier this month closed a complaint against the Washington-based group that bankrolled Montana's marijuana legalization effort last year, determining the group will not have to disclose its donors.

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan on March 3 reversed his decision made against the North Fund in December, in which he found the group had violated the state's campaign practices by filing under such a designation that it wouldn't have to disclose its donors. The North Fund spent roughly $5 million in support of cannabis legalization in 2020, while opponents to legalization argued they had been outgunned by a dark money group. The primary opponent against legalization, Billings businessman Steve Zabawa, filed the complaint against the North Fund on the designation subject.

"The Commissioner and the COPP have spent significant amounts of time and resources resolving this issue, and we understand not everyone will agree with the final determination," Mangan wrote in the March 3 decision.

Montana's Disclose Act, passed in 2015, requires groups to disclose their donors if the primary purpose of the group is to support or oppose candidates or ballot issues. The recent decision included a letter the North Fund provided to the commissioner's office. Dated Feb. 10, the letter outlined the North Fund's $48 million in political spending spread across ballot issues, non-ballot issue groups, direct spending for non-ballot issue related activities and administrative costs. Expenditures were listed as civil rights, social action and advocacy, as well as capacity-building. There were 83 expenditures in total made to 70 separate organizations, according to the commissioner.

Read more: https://mtstandard.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/political-cop-folds-complaint-against-group-that-backed-pot-legalization/article_90e92605-9fdc-5bd1-ad31-5ac157b6063e.html

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