Montana's campaign regulator says two tobacco companies opposing a ballot initiative registered late and failed to report a campaign expense.
Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan wrote in a decision last week that Altria Client Services and RAI Services Company registered as incidental political committees two days late in June. They also failed to report the travel expenses of a representative who appeared before the Montana Chamber of Commerce.
The companies represent the makers of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes and report spending $8.8 million on the Montanans Against Tax Hikes committee that opposes the initiative to raise the state's tobacco tax. The initiative seeks to raise the state's tax on a pack of cigarettes by $2 to $3.70, on snuff to at least $3.70 per 1.2-ounce can and tax e-cigarettes and vaping products for the first time.
The new revenue, estimated to reach $74 million a year by 2023, would be used to pay for the state's share of Medicaid expansion, which enrolls nearly 100,000 people and would otherwise expire next year if lawmakers don't renew it. Money from the tax increase also would go to smoking cessation programs and health programs for the elderly, disabled and veterans.
Committee spokesman Chuck Denowh says the violations are minor and notes that allegations made by the initiative's sponsors against the committee itself were dismissed.
Most campaign violations are resolved through negotiated settlements.