Montana’s newspapers are excitable and accusatory with various conspiracy theories after signatures for a petition to place the Green Party on 2020 ballots were delivered to several large counties in Montana. State election law requires a certain number of signatures from within the state in order to place a third party on the ballot. While the Libertarian Party is already scheduled for the upcoming ballots, which is bound to siphon votes away from conservatives, Democrats are having a meltdown over liberals being given a second option through the “environmental and social justice” Green Party, founded in 2001.
Newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises, a media conglomerate headquartered in Iowa that owns 46 different newspapers in 21 states, is rumored to be operated by conservatives (at least three of its major Montana newspapers occasionally make conservative endorsements) often features frustratingly liberal writers. Their papers were filled this morning with raging conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated complaints that the Green Party may wind up on the ballot.
The Helena Independent Record insinuated that conservative PAC, Club for Growth Action, was behind the signature collection, even though Club for Growth Action, a national political action committee that backs conservative candidates, told the Commissioner of Political Practices that it was not behind efforts to place the Green Party on the ballot.
Other publications also got suggestive with their speculations, with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle claiming that “some shadowy, likely out-of-state group is paying signature gatherers to get the Green Party on the November ballot – a dirty trick aimed at stealing votes from Democrats.”
The Chronicle’s supposed evidence of this was their claim, “a signature gatherer in Helena refused to give his name but was paid by Advance Micro Technology, the firm that enlisted signature gatherers to put a Green Party candidate in the 2018 U.S. Senate campaign between Rosendale and incumbent Sen. Jon Tester” [bold, italics ours].
However, this contradicts the report by Lee’s Independent Record, which says the mysterious figure was a woman.
They write, “A woman gathering signatures outside the U.S. Post Office in downtown Helena would not tell a reporter who employed her, saying her boss told her not to speak to the press. But others who spoke to petitioners around town, including a member of the Montana Democratic Party, were told the signature-gatherers worked for Advanced Micro Targeting.”
The Montana Standard repeated a similar tale of unsubstantiated hearsay. Between these papers, it was clear that they were reporting rumor rather than fact and their descriptions of scary out-of-staters paint the picture of a mysterious one-handed man who may or may not have also shot John F. Kennedy.
The only indication that the signature collection effort is being organized by an outside group is that a survey of those packets dropped off in Yellowstone and Missoula Counties demonstrates they were collected by several out-of-state people. However, with approximately half of campaign dollars in Montana coming from outside the state (in both major parties), it should not be a surprise that outside groups have a political interest in seeing the Green Party represented.
However, that’s not illegal and neither is it shady. Montana law does not prevent outside groups dealing in Montana politics, although a bill passed last year aimed at adding transparency. The law only requires that a group register with the Commissioner for Political Practices if it spends above a certain threshold ($500) in the effort to add a third party to the ballot.
There is no evidence that the signature collectors were paid, that they were paid by any conservative or Republican group, or that said supposed group spent more than $500.
As both the Green Party and the Club for Growth have denied the ballot efforts, Montana’s newspapers seem intent on wild speculation in the matter. However, the National Green Party has issued a letter to Bernie Sanders supporters inviting them to organize within the Green Party. With the socialist becoming the likely nominee much to the consternation of the Democratic National Convention, it only makes sense that grassroots Green Party supporters would expand their coasts into Montana with or without the direction of their headquarters.
If you would like to support the Green Party in Montana, you can find them online here. Meanwhile, if you’d like to sign a petition, you might find direction at your local county courthouse.