Montana campaign law prompts candidate to file lawsuit


Montana campaign law prompts candidate to file lawsuit

BOZEMAN, Mont. - A Bozeman-area candidate for House District 69 is challenging a new state law that covers references to a candidate's voting record.

Matthew Monforton is the Republican candidate challenging incumbent Ted Washburn in the primaries this year. Monforton says the law is unconstitutional and violation of his right to free speech. We broke down what the campaign law means.

If a candidate talks about another candidate's voting record, they must refer to specific votes that candidate made on that issue. If they changed their mind on the issue in the last six years, that has to be included. Finally, the candidate publishing the voting record must sign a statement saying the information is true and accurate.

We sat down with Monforton and his incumbent opponent Ted Washburn, who voted for this law last year.

Monforton explained why this lawsuit was necessary, just days after he filed for candidacy this month.

"The first amendment permits me as a candidate the right to talk about Ted Washburn's voting record the way you want to talk about it, not the way Ted Washburn wants us to talk about it and not the way the state wants us to talk about it," said Monforton.

Washburn, is a three-term incumbent who has voted on an estimated 1,000 bills. Monforton makes the point that voters do not have time to decipher all of the votes on particular issues.

"That is going to take a tremendous amount of time, that most people simply don't have," said Monforton.

Washburn has a different outlook on the law, which he voted for just last year. He tells us the law is holds candidates responsible in Montana for fair campaigning.

"This puts weight on what you are going to say, what you are going to do. If you are discussing issues with voters, you need to be fair, you need to be right upfront and be honest," said Washburn.

Washburn acknowledged his lengthy voting record, but says if opponents choose to discuss issues he has voted on, he wants them to do so fairly.

"We've got a long trail of three sessions with our votes, all we want is to get it reported accurately," said Washburn.

A hearing has been set for early February in Missoula regarding this lawsuit.

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