Commissioner: Trappers Violated Montana Campaign Laws

Trapping Group’s Actions Referred for Prosecution

The Montana Trappers Association and an affiliated ballot committee violated state law in its campaign against a proposed ballot measure that would restrict on trapping on public land, the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices has ruled.  Montana law requires transparency in campaigns, including ballot issue donations and expenditures.

Commissioner Jonathan Motl, in an opinion issued this week, said the Montana Trappers Associaton and  “failing to properly report or account for campaign contributions and expenditures.” State law requires that such expenditures be report.

According to the ruling and the serious “nature of the violations,” the Office of Political Practices has referred the matter for prosecution.

“Because of the nature of the violations this matter is referred to the County Attorney of Lewis and Clark County for his consideration as to prosecution. Should the County Attorney waive the right to prosecute or fail to prosecute within 30 days this Matter returns to this Commissioner for possible prosecution.”

The complaint against the trappers also included the issue of using property of the State of Montana for campaign purposes and by failing to properly report or account for campaign contributions and expenditures, which the Cowgirl Blog had reported on here.  While the Commissioner’s ruling also substantiated this part of the complaint, in doing so it also noted that Montana’s current laws do not apply accountability to public contractors who use state vehicles to campaign, only public employees themselves. The Fish Wildlife and Parks certainly did not authorize the trappers to use their trailer for campaigning.

It’s also worth noting that the finding specifically states that “the failure to properly disclose and report the magnitude identified in this Matter cannot be excused by oversight or ignorance.”The Bozeman Chronicle reported on the violations here.

The type of trapping advocated by pro-trapping groups, and which I-169 would  have made illegal, is a Trapped bobcathorrid practice which results in the animal’s leg being crushed and the creature left to lie in agony for days before dying.  It is cruel and barbaric.  And yes, such traps also frequently ensnare and torture animals such as dogs as well as endangered species such as lynx, despite the idiotic protestations we hear from those who believe the torture of animals is an enjoyable pastime.  Here is a sad story from Missoula about a man’s dog.   Trapping needs to be banned.  It is long past time this practice was ended for good.


17 Comments on "Commissioner: Trappers Violated Montana Campaign Laws"

  1. I aghast. Just aghast that the Montana Trappers Association would not be on the up-and-up.

  2. Remember, when not openly violating Montana campaign laws, the Montana Trapping Association is fighting hard to remain in the 19th century by opposing even basic ethical wildlife management guidelines.

    Thank goodness for our court system and for the efforts of Friends of the Wild Swan, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Western Environmental Law Center who actually rose up to defend public lands and wildlife, while many other ‘sportsmen’s’ groups and public lands groups in Montana remained 100% silent.


    • That’s because some of these groups who didn’t sign up have been sold a bill of goods, some kind of vague, ill-defined palaver about how supposedly the conservations community has to live with trappers because if they don’t people will think they are against hunting and angling too. What that would be, these folks can never say. It’s a ludicrous premise, and said premise is the basis of the whole “we have to live with trappers” B.S. Trappers are a liability to conservation, not an asset. It’s not 1985 anymore folks. Time to wake up.

  3. It’s also interesting to note how many times the name of trapper Jason Maxwell pops up in the investigation. He is the one who used the trailer from MFWP without their approval. He is an administrator of the Facebook page for the Montana Trappers Association. You will also note that this page does not ever show an animal in a trap. Why doesn’t he want people to see what trapping really is about? He then attacks any information or source of information that shows an animal caught in a trap saying that the photos are bogus or altered. Why doesn’t he show the “truth” about trapping? He offers no photos to counter the ones showing an animal, or part of an animal, caught in a trap or snare. There are no photos of dogs, elk, eagles, moose caught in traps (or snares) on the MTA page, or his other page Montana Wolf Hunting. Traps do not know they are supposed to catch only their intended targets, they will catch anything that has the misfortune to step in one. Sen. Jennifer Fielder is a trapper and her husband is a trapper and is a member of a trapping organization. Did she know of this incident with MTA? Did her husband? Jason Maxwell has also approved of physical intimidation during the signature collection for the ballot initiative to ban most trapping on PUBLIC lands. He has also said he would leave a wolf carcass on one of my friend’s doorstep. He is the face of trapping in MT—and other states I imagine. What kind of person would say of trapping, every day is like Christmas, you never know what you’re going to get. A trapper. Who has said, “We trappers do cause pain and suffering to animals and apologize to no one” A trapper. These were said by Toby Walrath current president of the MTA and Dennis “Foothold” Schutz, former president of the MTA. I don’t think these 3 trappers are what most MT residents want to represent life in Montana. Look up the regulations (or lack thereof) of trapping in MT. There are no limits on most species, no mandated trap check time only recommendations (except for wolves in which its legal to leave a wolf in a trap for up to 48 hours before “dispatching” it by a bullet, choking it with a catch pole or just leaving it). MTA is going to fight this. Good luck to them. It should be rather entertaining to see how they are going to explain a $25,000 “mistake”.

  4. Thank you Montana Cowgirl. We appreciate the laborious undertaking by the Commissioner of Political practices investigating our multifaceted complaint and your help in further exposing the integrity and honesty of trappers. We will know more in 30 days.

    • The “integrity and honesty of trapper”, yet you are thanking “Montana Cowgirl” who is not even a female?…. Anyway, false accusations seem to magnified when the COPP is the former lawyer of Footloose MT, and still has ties to their current law office. Maybe this should be something that needs to be investigated a bit deeper? I see in the last release Motl made the decision himself that enough time had passed to remove any “conflict of interest”.

  5. Thank you Montana Cowgirl for exposing the trappers and yes thank you Friends of the Wild Swan, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Western Environmental Law Center and the lawsuit that finally brought SOME relief our wildlife.

  6. This is an interesting read. Doing a little background check it is clear by the filling date Trap Free Montana Public Lands took the lead on this. Footloose Montana grabbed their coattails some time afterwards. I ponder why so much later? Although….. I am grateful for anyone or any organization that promotes conservation or preservation Other then Trap Free Mt I rarely if ever see most of the organization mentioned at any wildlife related meetings with MtFWP or on the Hill in Helena. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

  7. Trapping is simply cruel and barbaric in addition to indiscriminate. Our country should have evolved beyond such treatment of our wildlife by now. Trapping casts us in a shameful light and should be banned except for extreme circumstances.

  8. So the pretend cow person is on the bandwagon. Good for her (or him). After dealing with the MTA, I can tell you no one in the organization would try to hide anything. They are good people, and compared to many who post on here, are much better people than what I see posting on this blog. Trailer issue? Read the law. Apparently Motl did not, and that will come up soon enough. By the way, when the truth comes out on footloose, are you going to print it negatively, or positively? Seems you don’t follow journalism ethics….print the truth? I recall footloose going through the same thing a few years back. Hmmmm, did you report on that? The other thing to keep in mind is that Motl was an attorney for footloose in years past. I guess is pays to make an issue out of nothing.

  9. Dear Mr. Johnson, I am interested in hearing from you what it is that will “come up soon enough” can you elaborate? Also Motl has already addressed this I mean, this is a guy who even fined his own former law firm, so the fact that he once donated this time to help a small grassroots organization and is therefore biased doesn’t ring true to me.

  10. Yep, read them both, thank You. A comment from Trap Free concerning the article in question….”While we appreciate coverage of the trapper’s campaign violations which are important to Montanans and all the investigative work by the Commissioner of Political practices, please note Trap Free Montana Public Lands, formed as a 2014 ballot issue committee, has not incurred any alleged campaign violations or fines. We filed the claim in May of 2014 against these trapping organizations and submitted substantial documentation. However, we have no connection with the reported $240 fine issued to a past ballot issue committee in this article. Thank you.” Yep, different organization, you think the people have changed much? Your call. Honestly, the trailer issue is ridiculous. The person involved was not a fish and game employee. Guess we will see about the other things when an organization with no history with footloose looks at it.

    • Harold, the trailer issue is not ridiculous. What if a rancher was able to get some equipment from Department of Livestock to promote a bill they wanted or did not want passed? Yeah, technically they would not be a state employee but it would still look like the department was endorsing that opinion and regardless of anything else that is not right. Just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t make it right either. People with ethics would know and acknowledge that.

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