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Judge hits 'dark money' group with big penalty

By Associated Press
Published On: Nov 26 2013 04:30:16 PM MST
AMERICAN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP
HELENA, Mont. -

A Montana judge is hitting an elusive political group with a $260,000 fine for failing to disclose campaign spending.
    
The civil penalty levied against American Tradition Partnership demonstrates that new campaign freedoms extended to corporations don't make them immune to state disclosure laws.
    
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock said in a Tuesday opinion that the group has shown "complete disregard" for the laws of Montana, its courts, and the "tradition of free and open elections."
    
The group did not return a call seeking comment.
    
The case dates back to attack ads the group mailed in 2008 denouncing candidates. It did not report the spending as political activity to the state commissioner of political practices.
    
ATP has won other legal cases challenging state restrictions on some corporate political activity, and created controversy with its political tactics.