Jury Finds TEA Partier Wittich Guilty on Three Counts

guilty art wittich

A jury Friday convicted sitting Bozeman state legislator Art Wittich of three counts of breaking campaign finance law. They deliberated for around four hours, and returned their verdict in the early evening. It was a week-long trial, but two years in the making by the political practices commissioner and prosecutor, Jon Motl. Wittich is the latest in a slate of GOP legislators to be brought down by a sordid big-money scandal in which a national anti-union group was literally handing out cash and favors to any GOP state candidates who needed it including: Pat Wagman, Mike Miller, Scott Sales, Tom Burnett, and  Joel Boniek . Indeed as the Billings Gazette reported, there were “14 Republican candidates who got off-the-books help from Right to Work and affiliates in exchange for loyalty to their causes.” Now that Wittich has been found guilty, there remains the question of his sentence.  Prosecutors will argue that he should be removed from office.
We are taught not to rejoice in the misfortune of others, so today we should resist the temptation to celebrate the conviction this angry ne’er-do-well for whom few democrats have any use. Rather, we should celebrate the fact that big corporate money from outside, the kind that has been illegally used to muck up our state’s political system, was finally held accountable by a political practices commissioner. That’s no small thing.

It has long been the opposite–campaign finance laws in Montana have been spottily enforced, sometimes simply ignored and often by very people who are tasked with enforcing them.  Sometimes these individuals have even bragged about it. Republican Ed Argenbright, the political practices commissioner in the 1990s, actually testified at a hearing last year that he was greatly concerned that nowadays commissioners such as Jon Motl are trying to enforce all the campaign finance laws. Argenbright said he believed they were better left unenforced. That hearing, which was actually Motl’s confirmation hearing, featured many other right-wing knuckle draggers, all saying the same thing: we don’t like this business of enforcing the laws that regulate money in politics. It’s a real problem.

What they meant is that it’s a real problem that Republicans are always the ones getting busted for spending, or taking, big, unregulated and unreported corporate dough to influence elections. We’ve often heard the baseless charge by the Montana Republican party against Motl that he is “on a witch hunt,” and a part of a conspiracy with Democrats, because the people he prosecutes are usually Republicans. Well, that’s because they are the people breaking the law.  Motl has chosen to go after the illegal corporate money in our system. Democratic and liberal groups spend big too, but they seem to play by the rules.  The prosecution of Wittich, we should keep in mind, originated from complaints filed against Wittich by members of his own party.

And today it was no longer Motl, but a jury of Montana citizens and Wittich’s peers and selected by his own attorneys, who found Wittich guilty, pretty quickly.  Were they, too, on a witch hunt, or part of a vast conspiracy?


19 Comments on "Jury Finds TEA Partier Wittich Guilty on Three Counts"

  1. I still find this hard to believe!
    Justice! What used to be called “American style” about time someone stands up to the crooks and defends the working class. Thanks to all involved let’s keep this going. Onward!

  2. We now know the approaching dangers of the Right to Work organization lurking in the shadow corridors of Montana

  3. Montana Mountain Man | April 1, 2016 11:44 PM at 11:44 PM |

    A day of celebration for Montana with the conviction of whining, lying Wittich. Make him pay the court bill and throw him out of the state. We don’t need these crooks.

  4. It would be nice to see some of the laws Wittich hammered through with his other right wing sellouts revisited again.
    Almost everything he tried to pass or did was against the interests of Montanans and for outside corporations trying to carve out pieces of Montana to take home as trophies. And other times taking away rights of Montanans to live better lives.

    Looks like it is time to get some of our state back, and move progressively to a brighter, healthier,cleaner future back to our state!!!!

    • Rep. (ex Sen.) Whittich lost whatever support he had among Montanans at the end of the 2015 session. During floor debate, Whittich led the effort to kill SB 416. It was the last chance for the right wing to scavenge some remnant of its legislative program. But the bill he blocked also assured his downfall.
      SB416 Short Title: Provide for statewide infrastructure. Sponsor: Senator Brendon (R).

  5. (This is only an aside for further study.)
    Two years after Wittich’s quid, and quo,” W. T. Partnership”
    took on the Supreme Court of Montana.
    It’s a tangled story, that makes sense
    when you read the words of Justice Nelson.


  6. Old Line Democrat | April 2, 2016 10:02 AM at 10:02 AM |

    Indeed, this is a great day for the jury system in Montana. However, one doesn’t have to have much of a memory to recall that Wittich, as the client, is quick to have his lawyers file an appeal. In this case, once he gets it on the docket, he will no doubt drag it out as much as possible to see if he and his corporate cronies can pack our Supreme Court a bit this election to get some allies for their hand-picked Laurie McKinnon to put a tea party finger on the scales of justice. Our duty is clear at the ballot box in the upcoming elections.

    The initial battle may have been won but the war will continue to be waged. We, citizens of Montana need to act like the insurgents in Viet Nam and Afghanistan who fought for their country against the superpowers. No, I am not suggesting a shooting war, but a war for our state and our integrity as citizens.

  7. Justice! Montanans need to unite and openly call for this man’s removal from office. No corporate or Right to Work voice in Montana only union! A happy day – tho as mentioned above the saga will continue. Such a verdict before the upcoming election certainly favors Democrats as they so purely play by the rules. Furthermore, since so many other Republicans were connected to this national anti-union group, by association alone, forget policy, it will be easier to tarnish any Republican running for state office. Step by step Republicans in Montana can become all but eliminated and this fine state can progressively move forward. Patient persistence!

  8. Since the 50’s anyone who has supported “Right-to-Work” has proven to be on the wrong side of history and enemies of the American workers, the American family and Democracy. Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961 – “We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights….Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped.”

  9. Dark money needs to be opposed and exposed at every turn.

    This sentence: “14 Republican candidates who got off-the-books help from Right to Work and affiliates in exchange for loyalty to their causes.”

    Could easily be changed to read: “(Fill in the blank) Democratic candidates who got off-the-books help from (Fill in the blank) and affiliates in exchange for loyalty to their causes.”


    See: https://www.propublica.org/article/in-montana-dark-money-helped-democrats-hold-a-key-senate-seat

    Snips: “No one from Montana Hunters and Anglers returned calls for comment.” Many liberal groups active in Montana, including Montana Hunters and Anglers, were connected through Hilltop Public Solutions, a Beltway consulting firm. Barrett Kaiser, a former aide to Montana’s other Democratic senator, Max Baucus, is a partner at Hilltop and runs its office in Billings….Kaiser was on the board of the Montana Hunters and Anglers dark money group. Another Hilltop employee in Billings served as the treasurer for the Montana Hunters and Anglers super PAC. Hilltop partners in Washington also helped run two other dark money groups that spent money on the Montana race: the Citizens for Strength and Security Fund and the Partnership to Protect Medicare….No one from Hilltop returned calls….”

    Additional information about “Montana Hunters and Anglers Action” is below.

    Source: http://helenair.com/news/state-and-regional/group-buys-ads-opposing-rehberg-s-bill/article_8390c320-ff99-11e0-b794-001cc4c002e0.html

    SNIPS: “Land Tawney of Missoula, president of the newly formed group…..Tawney, a senior manager for the National Wildlife Federation , wouldn’t reveal the cost of the buy, but sources told the Lee Newspapers State Bureau that it’s between $200,000 and $250,000….In addition to Tawney, its officers include Democratic state Sen. Kendall Van Dyk of Billings; Barrett Kaiser, a Billings communications consultant and former aide to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; and George Cooper, a senior vice president for a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm and former news producer for CNN. As a 501(c) (4) “educational” group, Montana Hunters and Anglers Action is not required to reveal its financial donors. Tawney said the donors have asked not to be identified, but that they include individuals and organizations.”

  10. Adios, Art.

  11. Matt Koehlear, If a democratic candidate is indicted of campaign violations then a jury of his peers will judge the defendant. Did the tea party gods bestow you the role of judge and jury? Must be those same gods that allow the Tea Party see the invisible ink between the lines of the US Constitution.

  12. Good bye and good riddance Whittich! You and your cronies have given Montana a bad name.

  13. Carolyn Beecher | April 3, 2016 9:09 AM at 9:09 AM |

    Congratulations to Motl for enforcing the law. A big thank you from me.

  14. I admire Chuck Moran and John Esp for having the conviction to testify. I’m disappointed that others impacted by illegal corporate money, such as Debra Bonogofsky, did not step up to the witness stand. Her complaint paved the way for this trial.

  15. When is sentencing? And if (when?) Wittich appeals is sentencing delayed?

    • Old Line Democrat | April 5, 2016 8:08 AM at 8:08 AM |

      There is still another phase to this trial. The jury decided the facts. Judge Dayton will determine the law in relation to the actual corruption. Once the procedural issues are completed, the appeals will begin.
      Any sentencing will be a ways away.

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