The Montana GOP spent $100,000 to get the Green Party qualified to appear on the ballot, the Missoulian reported Wednesday.
Montana’s secretary of state qualified the Green Party for the ballot at the beginning of the month, even though the party and the only political action committee registered to qualify a minor party denied obtaining enough signatures.
It had previously been unknown who funded the effort to get the Green Party on the ballot, even though a 2019 law said anyone who gives more than $500 had to register with the commissioner within five days of the donation, the Missoulian reported.
Katie Wenetta, a treasurer for a political committee called Montanans for Conservation, told Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan in an email that the state’s Republican Party contracted a company called Advanced Micro Targeting to hire petitioners, according to the newspaper.
The party made a contribution amounting to $100,000 to Wenetta’s group on Feb. 20 for signature gathering, she said in the email.
Chuck Denowh, a political operative who works with Republican candidates, said he helped establish the committee in January and intended to register it as a minor party qualification committee, but the option was not available in the drop-down menu.
The committee was registered as an independent committee but changed to a minor party qualification committee Monday.
The Montana Republican State Central Committee’s payment to Advanced Micro Targeting for $50,000 was reported to the Federal Election Commission in February, he said.
He also claims he talked to the commissioner’s office about the drop-down options in February, although the commissioner had no knowledge of his contact, according to the Missoulian.
The Green Party in the state is sometimes viewed as a way to draw candidates away from Democrats, leading the state’s Democratic Party to call the GOP’s move “election fraud” and “dirty tricks.”
"The Republican Party contracted people to masquerade as Green Party members, and lied to Montanans in an effort to tamper with our elections,” the state party's executive director Sandi Luckey told the newspaper.
A GOP spokesperson responded, saying the “Montana Democrats and their liberal allies continue to actively engage in voter suppression by limiting ballot access for other minor political parties.”