On Friday Missoula County Undersheriff Josh Clark filed a complaint with Montana's commissioner of political practices alleging that his opponent in the race for Missoula County sheriff, TJ McDermott, violated campaign laws by receiving campaign help from a Missoula law firm without disclosing it.
Montana campaign law states that candidates cannot coordinate with corporations in campaign efforts.
Clark lost to McDermott in the election by a wide margin.
His complaint alleges McDermott received help from the law from Datsopolous, MacDonald and Lind. Specifically, there are allegations that the firm held events for McDermott -- like a meet and greet at the firm's Main Street office -- as well as shelled out money for invitations, food, and drinks, and allowed the use of a phone system.
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl says candidates aren't allowed to coordinate their campaigns with a corporation like the law firm. A corporation can spend independently, for instance, by buying an ad supporting a candidate or attacking a different one, but the candidate cannot play an active role.
"It's an allegation of involvement by a corporation in a candidate campaign, and that particular allegation raises hairs on the back of Montanans," said Motl.
Motl says the investigation into the complaint should be done in the next couple months. Potential penalties run from fines to McDermott losing the race he won.
A judge could potentially remove McDermott from the post.
"Our laws are very clear that corporate activity is not allowed in candidate campaigns, and the reason for that is we want the candidates to serve the people of Montana, not the corporations of Montana," said Motl.
There are also allegations in the complaint that ads ran on a newspaper's website in support of McDermott, but didn't disclose McDermott's political party or who paid for the ad. Motl says that segment of the complaint is completely separate from the matters involving the law firm.