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Montana political candidates receive among highest foreign donations

Mark Moran

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(Big Sky Connection) New research from a campaign finance-tracking group shows foreign corporations are investing heavily in statewide elections.

Montana is one of a half-dozen states where the spending was most prevalent. 

OpenSecrets - which follows money in American politics - focused on companies owned at least 1 percent by a single foreign investor, or at least 5 percent by a group of foreign investors who are donating to statewide elections. 

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OpenSecret's editorial investigations manager Anna Massoglia said voters could easily assume that companies active in Montana campaigns are totally owned by U.S. investors, but that is often not the case.

"For Montana," said Massoglia, "companies - like Altria Group, Barrett Gold Corp., Centaur Resources, Reynolds American - companies that we don't necessarily think of as being 'foreign' but are, indeed, foreign influenced."

The report shows six states - Montana, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Washington - received $163 million in foreign funding between 2018 and 2022. 

Washington topped the list, at $67 million. 

Massoglia argued the increase in foreign money in state elections is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which loosened the rules for corporate and union campaign donations - and in the process, crippled state campaign finance laws.

"One of the issues that some activists have raised about foreign-influence companies

participating in elections," said Massoglia, "is the fact that they may be beholden to foreign owners or foreign investors, who do not necessarily have American interests at heart."

Montana just increased its campaign contribution levels

As of this year, individuals and Political Action Committees can donate $11,020 to a governor and lieutenant governor candidate, $790 to a candidate for statewide office, and $450 to a candidate for other public offices.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.