By EBS Staff

Commissioner: Conservative group broke campaign laws


HELENA (AP) – A conservative nonprofit group broke Montana campaign laws in 2012 when it failed to disclose spending on campaign advertisements, the commissioner of political practices said.

Issue-focused ads would not have required reporting, Commissioner Jonathan Motl said. But the Montana Growth Network paid for ads that advocated for and against candidates while passing them off as issue-focused.

Motl forwarded his findings Dec. 18 to prosecutors, who can choose whether to pursue a case against the Montana Growth Network. If they don’t, Motl will likely negotiate a settlement with the organization.

The Montana Growth Network, which was run by former state Sen. Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge, was registered as a tax-exempt issue-advocacy group not required to report its spending or donors. But it was a significant player in the 2012 elections, Motl said in his findings.

The group raised $878,000 from 13 donors during the election cycle, and made $49,000 in express advocacy independent expenditures, spending that requires disclosure to the state.

The Montana Growth Network also paid $476,000 to vendors, including to a conservative group that Motl previously said provided unreported campaign services to candidates, and $174,000 to lawyers and consultants, including Priest.

One of the races it was involved in was the Supreme Court election between Laurie McKinnon, Ed Sheehy and Elizabeth Best. McKinnon was elected in November 2012.

The group spent money on flyers supporting McKinnon and opposing Sheehy and Best. A radio ad called for listeners to sign a petition on Montana Growth Network’s website to “tell activists like Ed Sheehy that you want a fair and impartial Supreme Court that will apply our laws. Because our judges need to leave their activist agendas at the door.”

Motl wrote the ads were advocacy because Sheehy was their focus, and it was not a public policy issue as the Montana Growth Network claimed.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Christmas dinner in a box
Food bank addresses holiday hunger

The Big Sky Community Food Bank, in partnership with the Big Sky Chapel, is helping to make the holidays happier for community residents. The inaugural “Christmas Dinner in Box” is an extension of the food bank’s “Thanksgiving in a Bag,” now in its third year.

The free Christmas meal is meant to serve individuals that are not part of the Rotary Club of Big Sky’s “Giving Tree” program, according to food bank advisory council member Diane Bartzick. The Rotary’s annual holiday campaign assists Big Sky families with children, including meal donations.

Bartzick said the food bank is prepared to serve up to 50 families on Wednesday, Dec. 23, and donations by Kym and George Rapier and the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation made the program possible. Bartzick believes there is a growing need for the food bank’s services in Big Sky.

“I think we’re seeing more people that need the assistance between paychecks,” she said. “The community has grown with the construction market picking up again.”

This year’s “Turkey for a Ticket” on Dec. 11 went a long way to help address that need. The annual food drive – where participants donated 20 cans of food or a frozen turkey in exchange for a Big Sky Resort lift ticket – generated more than 6,000 pounds of canned food and over 800 pounds of turkey for Big Sky’s food bank.

Located in the Big Horn shopping center on Highway 191, the food bank is open Tuesdays from 3-7 p.m., and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New company applies for operating permit for copper mine near Smith River


HELENA (AP) – A mining company applied on Dec. 16 for an operating permit for an underground copper mine that conservationists and sportsmen groups fear could harm the popular Smith River and its trout fishery.

Tintina Resources Inc.’s Black Butte Copper Project would be located on private land that contains one of the highest-grade copper deposits in the world with more than 11 million tons, according to a statement by the company.

The mine site is a mile from Sheep Creek, which feeds into the Smith River. The river is one of Montana’s most popular fly-fishing destinations, with demand so high the state conducts a lottery each year to regulate the number of people making multiday float trips.

The Smith River is too valuable to the state to risk with the development of a mine that feeds into its headwaters, Benjamin Bulis of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association said in a statement. “Is it worth developing any resource that has the potential of destroying a treasure?” he said.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality officials will conduct an initial review to make sure Tintina’s application is complete and complies with state law, DEQ public policy director Kristi Ponozzo said. Any deficiencies in the application would have to be addressed before the state issues a draft permit to the company.

Construction of the mine would take two to three years, the company officials said.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Free Christmas tree recycling offered in region


Republic Services waste management services is offering Christmas tree recycling around the region from Dec. 28 through Jan. 8. Containers will be located throughout Gallatin County including the rodeo grounds in Three Forks, Cashman Nursery in Bozeman, Lewis and Clark Park in Belgrade and the Big Sky Community Park in Big Sky.

Trees will be ground into mulch or compost and to ensure environmental safety and continuation of this service, Republic Services requests that you remove any non-organic material – such as wire, string, or metal – from the tree.

Garbage will not be collected at these sites and Republic Services urges users not to dump household waste with their trees.