A former TEA Party Republican legislator is trying to get some special treatment under the law this week.
Former state lawmaker Pat Wagman trying to get a judge to let him be prosecuted by his fellow TEA Partier and local GOP candidate for legislature – Nels Swandal, who is currently the acting Park County Attorney.
Wagman is implicated in the infamous meth house scandal which involves allegations of illegal coordination with the dark money kingpins of American Traditions Partnership. Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates. But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in apparent violation of the law.
Park County’s deputy county attorney Kendra Anderson told the Livingston Enterprise that she and Swandal plan to get in on Wagner’s lawsuit to allow them prosecute it.
Readers will no doubt find it interesting that Kendra Anderson is also Nels Swandal’s law partner.
Swandal is running for the state legislature in Livingston’s SD 30 against Democratic candidate Mary Murphy–in spite of reports of alleged Judicial Code of Ethics violations which were reported in Montana papers across the state during the last election cycle. The allegations involve a fundraising letter sent out on ultra-conservative judicial candidate Laurie McKinnon’s behalf, paid for by Laurie McKinnon’s campaign, metered in her hometown, signed by Nels Swandal while he was a sitting judge, which the judicial code of ethics says is not permitted. The Billings Gazette reported that Swandal says
“questions posed by the Montana AFL-CIO to candidates ‘are among the most un-American ideas I’ve ever seen,’ and that he wouldn’t seek endorsement of the Montana Conservation Voters ‘because of their assault on private property.’”
So it sounds like Wagman is hoping evade accountability for his corruption.
Indeed no group has been more insidious than American Traditions Partnership in corrupting Montana’s elections. In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline reported on the documents uncovered in a meth house that revealed seedy underbelly of secret money in Montana’s elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and this secretive right-wing group.
The Livingston Enterprise story does not appear to be online, but you can read it below–its definitely worth reading. If someone has a link I’ll post it.
Local man files suit against commissioner of political practices
By Rose Brown
Enterprise Staff Writer
A Park County resident who the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices said violated campaign finance laws in 2010 has now taken legal action against the commissioner. Pat Wagman filed a civil case in Park County’s Sixth Judicial District Court April 10 claiming Commissioner Jonathan Motl violated Montana law earlier this month by not referring his recent decision to the proper county attorneys. Montana statute says the commissioner is required to refer his decision to the county attorney where the alleged violation occurred. Wagman’s legal complaint claims the alleged violation would have occurred in Park and Sweet Grass counties, because that’s where the campaigning took place. Motl said in a Thursday phone interview the violation was a filing and reporting violation, and since all Montana candidates file and report in Lewis and Clark County, the violation therefore occurred there. Wagman’s complaint states that notifying only the Lewis and Clark County Attorney was “legally absurd.” He asks that the commissioner’s decision not to inform the Park and Sweet Grass attorneys be declared illegal and that Motl now be required to refer the recent finding locally. Wagman also asks that Motl pay his legal fees. The Park County Attorney’s Office said last week it agrees with Wagman’s claim that the commissioner is required by statute to refer his decision regarding Wagman to Park County for further action, said Kendra Anderson, deputy county attorney. The Park County Attorney’s Office plans to intervene and become a party in Wagman’s legal action, Anderson said. Motl said Thursday he believes Wagman’s lawsuit is “an avoidance complaint.” On April 8, after Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher declined to prosecute Wagman, Motl filed a civil action against Wagman in Lewis and Clark County’s district court. Motl’s decision regarding Wagman, released earlier this month, states that he violated campaign finance laws when he refused to disclose campaign finance records when asked. Motl also stated in his decision that Wagman accepted services for less than cost from Western Tradition Partnership when he campaigned for senate in 2010. Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, is a 501(c)(4) grassroots lobbying organization that promotes conservative values and aims to fight “environmental extremism,” according to the group’s website. In 2012, a Montana judge ruled that WTP had violated campaign finance laws by failing to report donors and expenditures. Wagman’s attorney, Chris Gallus, said in an email Friday that Wagman is an honest man and he produced all required documents and paid for services provided. Gallus said in a Thursday phone interview he thinks Commissioner Motl is very liberal and he is selectively targeting his recent findings at conservatives. In response to Gallus’ claim, Motl said his issue with Wagman, as well as with eight other Montana politicians he recently filed civil action against, is not political. “I don’t think the issue is whether or not they were conservative. The issue was whether or not they had a relationship with Western Tradition Partnership,” Motl said Thursday. “As a corporation, it cannot get involved in candidate’s political campaigns.” While many of the commissioner’s findings are settled out of court before litigation, Motl said he did not consider settling with Wagman or the eight other candidates he filed against recently because they “failed the most basic and fundamental public trust responsibility of a candidate running for public office — (they) refused to produce campaign records requested by the commissioner on behalf of the people of Montana.” “I don’t see how the commissioner can settle that,” he said.