Datsopoulos, Macdonald & Lind Downplay Their Western Traditions-like Campaign Finance Violations

by jhwygirl

By now most of you are aware of Missoula County sheriff candidate Democrat TJ McDermott’s violation of Montana campaign finance laws.

It wasn’t until I read that Missoulian story that I realized how much breaking of the law that was occurring. Yikes. An officer of the law sheriff taking cash value favors and gifts like that from lawyers? If that doesn’t raise a few troubling questions…then there’s the matter of who the firm is: Shouldn’t Datsopoulos Macdonald & Lind know better?

KGVO has the morning radio talk show Talk Back from about 8:15 to 9 a.m. daily. I can’t always catch it, but I try. I usually do catch at least a few minutes of it each day. Today I caught most of it, and KGVO’s Peter Christian and John King had interim Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl on the show, from the airport he was preparing to fly out of.

Today’s (October 9th’s) podcast isn’t up yet, but check back, because I should think that anyone interested in campaign finance would want to hear what he had to say. Motl spoke specifically about his two decisions – one being Clark v. Datsopoulos Macdonald Lind PC and TJ McDermott and the other being Clark v. TJ McDermott.

One of the best take-away’s from that aspect of the show – and in regards, specifically, to Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind’s role in campaign law violations – was his equation with what Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind did to what Western Traditions Partnership did for a long list of state GOP legislative candidates a few years back.

The other aspect of the show went into what (I’m going to paraphrase here because the podcast isn’t up) he viewed as what was fairly uniquely Missoula’s less-than-thorough approach to political campaign finance laws. KGVO’s John King has that story up, and again – if you’re interested in Montana campaign finance (if not Missoula) – you should take the time to listen to October 9th’s podcast once it gets up.

KGVO must of caught up later with Molly Howard, a shareholder with Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind – and Peter Christian posted the response from the law firm. And, you know, after having read the news stories and both findings from Motl (links above), I don’t think Datsopoulos recognizes the seriousness of their violation of state finance law. Howard frames the violation of campaign finance laws simple errors in the “reporting of in-kind contributions” – along with changes in how Motl is defining those in-kind campaign contributions.

Thing is, when I read Motl’s decision involving Datsopoulos, et.al.’s violations, he lays it out pretty clearly that it isn’t merely the failure to report the donations, but the fact that what they are doing requires them to register as a political committee, first.

During this whole investigation, TJ McDermott has already returned some cash back to Datsopoulos, Datsopoulos has yet to register as a political committee.

McDermott frames it as a bookkeeping error, while already having returned money (that’s more than just a failure to report) and Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind calls it a “reporting error” when it really is a failure to register as a political committee and then, on top of that, error in reporting the donations that the currently non-existing political committee made.

Downplaying violations of state campaign finance laws isn’t a very honorable or responsible thing. All parties should be straight-up owning up to it. As I see it, both McDermott and Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind seem to fail to recognize the severity of their violation of law.


  1. Just a guy

    Nice work in scraping away the DML whitewash, Lizard.

    Motl made an interesting remark on KGVO that, when read between the lines, says Missoula has a culture of corruption that facilitates these violations. The firm disingenuously responded that these things tend to happen in Missoula because we are so gosh darned civic and politically active.

    I tend to agree with Motl’s point. Missoula’s political corruption is the rotten fruit of a one-party government and an iron-fisted local party apparatus. Without strong and consistent competition for local elected offices, there isn’t any need for the party hack crowd to be clean or transparent.

    This competition probably needs to come from a movement by Democrat outsiders to clean up the party. It would be nice if they could do so without pulling local government any further to the left, but that isn’t how insurgent politics usually works. Of course, electoral parity alone isn’t enough to fully stamp out corruption, but it is the critical first step here in Missoula.

    • lizard19

      not my post, JaG.

      • Just a guy

        Oops…Sorry for not giving credit where it was due, Jhwygirl.

  2. Jhwygirl

    Thing is, if you take Molly Howard’s statement, she’s equating Datsopoulos’ very serious campaign violation as the result of some overly zealous civic involvement…. And laughing it off.

    Dems can’t point to Western Traditions evil corporate source & ignore this.

    But they will.

    Someone should ask Mayor Engen how he feels about this. Is he still OK with endorsing this level of collusion & corruption?

  3. steve kelly

    I’m not sure being too far “left” or “right” is the principle problem. Excessive reliance on authoritarian means to justify the ends is a perennial problem, and not just in Missoula. It’s a hard habit to break for incumbent power.

    The “New” party tried to reform the Democrat Party in the past with some success.

    Without moving “further to the left,” a persistent libertarian-left challenge may be one option that hasn’t been attempted, but one the TPTB couldn’t ignore for very long.

    Name that party….. or non-party. Naan!




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