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Just days after the Montana Supreme Court upheld a verdict in the high-profile political corruption lawsuit against former Bozeman lawmaker Art Wittich, a fellow former Republican lawmaker from Livingston has admitted he broke Montana campaign laws in his 2010 primary race.
Pat Wagman, who served House representative from Livingston from 2003-2007, conceded that he violated Montana laws in his effort to defeat Republican Ron Arthun in the 2010 primary election for the Senate District 31 seat.
In a three-page settlement affidavit filed Friday in Lewis and Clark County District Court, Wagman admitted he accepted services and goods from Colorado-based Western Tradition Partnership.
“I violated Montana law by accepting them and failing to report and disclose them,” Wagman stated in the affidavit.
On Wednesday the high court ruled Wittich, a former high-profile conservative stalwart in the Montana Senate, illegally coordinated with third-party political groups during his 2010 Senate primary election campaign. The court also said the $68,233 fine levied against Wittich would stand.
A jury ruled in April 2016 that Wittich violated Montana law when he illegally benefited from corporate campaign contributions and services from Western Tradition Partnership and other groups tied to the National Right to Work Committee. The jury determined that Wittich received $19,995 worth of services that he failed to report.
District Judge Ray Dayton trebled those damages in Wittich’s case.
Wagman will have to pay $19,995 to the state as part of the settlement reached Friday.
“This was a straight-up case of candidates who broke Montana campaign finance law,” said Gene Jarussi, the special Montana Attorney General who handled Wagman’s case on behalf of the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices.”
Jarussi tried Wittich’s case and also handled the cases of four other GOP candidates involved in the 2010 primary campaign scandal.
“You cannot, with a straight face, say anything other than these people willingly participated in a program that violated Montana’s campaign laws,” Jarussi said Friday in a telephone interview from Billings. “That’s what this was all about. They broke the law and they are paying the consequences for it.”
A total of 10 Republican candidates faced allegations of illegal coordination and failure to report campaign contributions stemming from 2010 Republican primary elections.
Former Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl accused Wagman of illegally benefitting from in-kind contributions and other services from Colorado-based Western Tradition Partnership and other groups tied to the National Right to Work Committee.
Of the 10 who faced allegations of illegal coordination and failure to report contributions. The case against Terry Bannon, of Belgrade, is the only case that remains outstanding.
“I think it shows common sense on the part of Wagman and the commissioner,” said former political practices commissioner Motl. “The jury came up with the value of the services he received and that’s what he paid.”
Current Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan said he was pleased that Wagman settled the case.
“We’re glad to see these candidates taking responsibility and working with the Commissioner’s office,” Mangan said.