Today, Ethics Watch asked Montana Commissioner of Political Practices James Murry to release for public inspection the so-called "Colorado Documents" at the center of a recent PBS-Frontline documentary on campaign finance in Montana.
The documents involve American Tradition Partnership ("ATP"), formerly known as Western Tradition Partnership. ATP has been linked to elections throughout Colorado, including in Garfield and La Plata Counties and the City of Longmont. Current Secretary of State Scott Gessler represented ATP in a successful suit against the City of Longmont for campaign finance violations in 2009, and his former firm is listed as the registered agent for ATP in Colorado. The documents were reportedly found in a Denver-area methamphetamine house and delivered to the Montana Commissioner as part of his investigation of possible violations of Montana campaign finance law by ATP. After the PBS-Frontline show aired, Christian LeFer and Allison LeFer filed suit in the Montana District Court for Lewis and Clark County against the Commissioner, arguing that the documents are stolen property that should be returned to them. After the suit was filed, the Commissioner announced that the documents would no longer be available for public inspection, pending a decision from the District Court.
On Friday, a judge in a different lawsuit in Lewis and Clark County, Montana ordered the public release of redacted ATP financial records that had been subpoenaed by the Montana Commissioner. PBS has posted these documents, which show that ATP received money to support Colorado candidates and had extensive fundraising in Colorado.
Ethics Watch's letter points out to the Commissioner the strong public interest for citizens of Montana, Colorado and the nation as a whole in the so-called Colorado Documents. Ethics Watch is asking the Commissioner to release the documents for public inspection and copying when they are again available for public inspection.
Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro said, "The publication of these documents in Montana provides a rare opportunity for Coloradans to learn about the dark money forces that shape our elections. In Montana, where a state agency has subpoena power to aggressively enforce campaign finance laws, the public has enjoyed greater transparency than is available in Colorado. We hope these documents will not only expose efforts to use secret money to influence our elections, but also to stimulate reform so that Coloradans won't have to depend on luck or the efforts of other state governments to provide this kind of transparency."
Ethics Watch will post documents when they become available.