How did a prestigious Missoula law firm with a history of political practices cases end up finding itself on the wrong end of a decision by the Montana Political Practices Commissioner? According to Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl, the answer is most likely "culture."

The law firm Datsapoulus, McDonald & Lind was found at fault on five counts in Motl's recent decision, a decision which was a response to a complaint filed by Sheriff Candidate Josh Clark against opposing candidate T.J. McDermott and the aforementioned law firm.

Motl described Datsapoulus, McDonald, and Lind as an active participant in campaign finance laws in the state of Montana and claims that if they had done an objective analysis of the laws, they would reach the same conclusion he did.

"What prevents someone from doing that," Motl asked. "Well culture does. If you are use to doing things a certain way, and you've done them that way before, and it is compatible with the community, then you continue to do them that way. That isn't to say that culture is always right, in this case, it isn't right."

Motl sees this decision as a way to correct Missoula's political culture.

"Reporting and disclosure, if it works has to be full reporting and disclosure, not by a few, but by everybody," Motl said. "To the extent that a culture says 'it's okay not to report and disclose this,' then that's the culture that needs to be adjusted, and that's what this decision is doing."

For Motl, the difference between the $1,000+ worth of campaign support offered by Datsopoulus, McDonald and Lind and the money pumped into the state by Western Tradition Partnership is one of magnitude.

"We all were stunned, as a state, by the actions that Western Tradition Partnership carried out," Motl said. "If you want to enforce a major campaign practice violation against a corporation like that, it has to be enforced consistently. You still have to enforce the laws the same against everybody; it doesn't matter what party they're in, or what community they are in. The laws have to be applied equally."

A full description of Motl's findings can be found on the Political Practices Commissioner's website.


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