Common Cause Montana

 

 

 

Common Cause Montana works to strengthen public participation and faith in our institutions of self-government; to ensure that government and political processes serve the general interest, rather than special interests; to curb the excessive influence of money on government decisions and elections; to promote fair elections and high ethical standards for government officials; and to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all Montanans.


Protecting Direct Democracy

 

Telecommunications Reform

 

As an increasing number of participatory democratic processes assume access to modern, high-speed telecommunications services, the question is “are citizens in rural/remote areas being politically disenfranchised by lack of adequate, affordable and equal communications infrastructure.

 

Last fall, Common Cause Montana and Dr. Richard S. Wolff, Gilhousen Telecommunications Chair at Montana State University, partnered to begin to explore this question. This research is being assisted by a grant from the Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere Program of the Social Science Research Council with funds provided by the Ford Foundation. 

 

Our project goals were to obtain a better understanding of the availability and functionality of e-government telecommunications services in rural and remote communities and regions of Montana, as well as, to educate and outreach the public about the issue.  Get the:Full study...Two-page overview...Press release...

 

 

Campaign Finance Reform

For years Montana’s elected officials have used secret slush funds to supplement their official campaign account. These so-called “constituency accounts,” originally intended as a place for candidates to put leftover campaign funds, were exempt from the reporting requirements and fundraising limits that regulate campaign accounts. Moreover, because only incumbents have these accounts, they have an unfair advantage in elections.

During the 2007 legislative session, Common Cause Montana was an outspoken advocate for regulating these accounts, and bringing them out into the sunshine and public oversight.

As a direct result of our advocacy work during the session and the interim rulemaking process, it is now illegal for elected officials in Montana to accept contributions into these accounts—they can only be used for surplus campaign funds! Furthermore, for the first time ever, elected officials must now file quarterly reports on deposits and expenditures of their constituency accounts.

 

Campaign Finance Enforcement Reform

 

Although Montana has decent campaign finance reporting requirements, in recent years the Commissioner of Political Practices (CPP) has been lax and slow to respond to complaints.

 

In 2008, Common Cause Montana studied 20 years of complaints filed with the CPP’s office, particularly ballot initiative campaign and candidate campaign violations, examining the nature and timeliness of response. MT CC has completed the research and intends to release a report on the results of the study this fall. 


Upcoming Legislative Work


During the 2007 legislative session, Common Cause Montana succeeded in preserving direct democracy in a number of areas of electoral reform in Helena, including supporting necessary changes in the initiative process, strong regulation of constituency accounts, mounting a successful defense of same-day voter registration in Montana and supporting attempts to take the private money out of judicial campaigns.

 
During the 2009 Montana legislative session Common Cause Montana plans to harness our state's strong desire for good government practices.  We will be contracting our own lobbyist to initiate, as well as, to support state legislation that addresses findings from our interim session research and enhances the democratic process in the areas of initiative process reform, campaign finance enforcement reform and election reform.  With Montana's legislature meeting only once every two years, this will be an important time to continue our efforts for good government practices and reform policies. 

 

 

 

We encourage you to get involved!  Please sign up to stay abreast of our work in the upcoming legislative session and other ongoing projects.