Following Montana’s Campaign Spending – Not an Easy Task [Podcast]
Montanans are well aware that millions of dollars are being spent to earn their votes this election season, but it's difficult to know how much money is being spent and by whom.
By Thursday, October 25, all legislative candidates had to file their campaign financing disclosure files (state wide candidates had to file on Monday), but all of the numbers won't be crunched for quite some time.
Denise Roth-Barber works as the managing director for followthemoney.org, an organization that attempts to trace the money spent in all of the U.S. statewide races. Roth Barber explains the investigation process like this,
"First, a citizen will need to go to the Commissioner of Political Practices website. Then they have to open up each report filed by each PAC . . . there's about a hundred or more . . . and then look at the expenditures scheduled to then find any independent spending. They do identify that, but it's pretty buried. If that's not hard enough, some groups have chosen to just submit their federal reports, which do not in any way signify how much money was spent in Montana. They're not very useful reports."
One of the most contested financing issues this election will undoubtedly be the $500,000.00 given to gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill during a short window of time when contribution caps were overturned. The $500,000 came from the Montana Republican Party, which in turn, received the money from the Republican Governor's Association.
As it turns out, The Republican Governor's Association, already files contribution information federally. However, they are not required by federal statute to explain how much money is spent in each state.
Montana, in turn, does not require the information to be filed in state if it is filed federally, so analyzing the federal files to decipher which states received money would require an extreme amount of deduction and might not even be possible.
Because of all the time required to analyze the various documents, Roth-Barber says that her organization will not have a full picture of all of the money spent until after the election is over.