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Montana federal judge sides with Bullock admin in ‘dark money’ lawsuit

BILLINGS- A federal judge in Great Falls ruled Tuesday that large donors to nonprofit groups must once again disclose their identities to maintain their tax-exempt status.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris sided with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and the state of New Jersey against the federal government in his 30-page ruling, which applies to donors above $5,000 to nonprofit charities and lobbying organizations.

The action effectively turns back the clock on campaign finance rules to before July 2018, when the Internal Revenue Service announced it was loosening its campaign-finance reporting laws.

Bullock filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Great Falls on behalf of the Montana Department of Revenue in July 2018 soon after. New Jersey joined the lawsuit in March 2019.

Bullock argued that because Montana uses IRS information to oversee nonprofits at the state level, the change in policy would hinder the state government’s ability to collect revenue.

In his decision, Morris wrote that the IRS failed to properly notify the public of the proposed change and accept comment from the public and interested parties.

Bullock hailed the decision as a win against dark money in Montana politics.

In a Tuesday release, Bullock said, “Days like this are proof that if we stand up and fight for what matters, we can beat Donald Trump and make the government work for us.”

Mitch Lagge

Mitch Lagge

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