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A Montana District Court Judge on Friday found a former lawmaker from Livingston guilty of corruption and banned him from future elections.
Great Falls District Court Judge Gregory Pinski ruled that former Rep. Joel Boniek, R-Livingston, failed to disclose $9,060 in contributions from Western Tradition Partnership, a conservative nonprofit corporation, which conducted a direct mail campaign in support of Boniek’s 2010 House District 61 primary election bid, which he lost.
“This Court determines that Candidate Boniek exhibited corruption, specifically quid pro quo corruption, in his 2010 HD 61 Republican Primary Election,” the ruling read.
As part of the judgment, Pinksi banned Boniek from future elections until he has filed additional campaign finance reports disclosing the WTP money and pays fines totaling $54,362.
The judge said that in exchange for the appearance of a grassroots campaign, Boniek promised “unswerving fealty to the corporations carrying out the direct mail campaign: ‘complete opposition to union bosses,’ ‘100 percent in favor of your gun owner’s rights,’ ‘100 percent pro-life stance’ and ‘100 percent opposition to radical environmentalists.’”
Boniek on Friday denied any wrongdoing. He told the Chronicle that his treasurer and deputy treasurer had been charged with the same thing and that they had come to a “no wrong” settlement with the commissioner of political practices. He should have been cleared, too, he said, which is why he refused to participate in the case against him.
The case against Boniek is civil in nature, not criminal.
“I said it makes no sense to prosecute me, and they told me they were going to anyway,” he said.
“They don’t like Joel Boniek, and this is how they’re beating him up,” Boniek said. “They hate liberty and they hate conservatives, and I am a champion.”
He called the judge a fraud with a political agenda and said he had no plans to appeal to the Supreme Court because they are also corrupt.
“My carefully reasoned legal arguments were called jabberwocky by Pinski,” Boniek said. “They treat me like an enemy of the state because their agenda is socialism. I don’t fear them anymore. I am a political dissident. You don’t get attacked by the system unless you stand against their injustice. I have the courage, and I speak for the little people that are powerless. I am a servant of god. I am in his protection. I stand in my integrity.”
Western Tradition Partnership, which changed it’s name to American Tradition Partnership, bills itself as a “a no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda.”
The group spent thousands of dollars in undisclosed campaign advertising supporting some Republican candidates and attacking their opponents in Montana and Colorado from 2008 to 2012.
Based on internal documents, some obtained from a drug house in Colorado, WTP has been found by the commissioner of political practices to have illegally coordinated with some of the supported candidates.
Friday’s ruling is the third WTP-related campaign practice complaint brought to conclusion in Montana. Six other cases are still being litigated.
Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said Friday’s ruling was significant and that it is a precedent that supports Montana’s ban on direct corporate contributions and could be seen as a factor in other cases.
“What it says is that the body of evidence is admissible in a court of law,” Motl told the Chronicle. “And it says that when that evidence is presented a judge is willing to find a campaign practice violation against a former lawmaker.”
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