A judge has ruled a Montana legislator can remain in office after a jury found the lawmaker took illegal corporate contributions during his 2010 primary election campaign.

District Judge Ray Dayton made his ruling Friday during a hearing in Anaconda for Republican Rep. Art Wittich of Bozeman.

Dayton fined Wittich more than $68,000 after jurors found he took took $19,599 in illegal and unreported contributions from groups affiliated with the National Right to Work Committee. The contributions included campaign consulting, voter data, direct mail and opposition research.

Montana law prohibits candidates from accepting contributions from corporations, and candidates must report all in-kind contributions they receive.

Wittich's attorneys had argued he no longer holds the Senate seat he ran for in 2010, and he shouldn't be removed from a House seat whose election wasn't in question.

Reported by the Associated Press.


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