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Helmville Lawmaker to Juggle Campaign, Legal Defense
Rep. Mike Miller, R-Helmville, is confident a judge will clear him of allegations
HELENA — A state lawmaker facing a legal complaint that could result in his removal from office said Thursday he will seek another term anyway because it would be a waste of his legislative experience if he didn't run.

Rep. Mike Miller, R-Helmville, is confident a judge will clear him of allegations that he coordinated with and accepted illegal contributions from a secretive conservative group called Western Tradition Partnership in his 2010 primary election campaign, he said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Miller filed to run for a fourth House term Wednesday. He said he anticipates no difficulty in handling a political campaign while defending himself against the civil complaint filed in January by Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl.

Miller said his decision was driven by the need for experienced lawmakers in the state House.

The 2015 legislative session likely will be populated by dozens of new lawmakers because term limits prevents many incumbents from running again.

"It seems wasteful to not utilize my knowledge of how state government functions, along with Montana's tax laws, gained over the past three sessions. I also still have some bills I want to get passed," Miller said.

Motl ruled in December that Miller accepted illegal donations from Western Tradition Partnership by underpaying the group and its affiliate, Direct Mail and Communications Inc., for campaign letters it produced and distributed.

Miller also illegally coordinated with the group in sending out fliers attacking his opponent and failed to maintain campaign records, Motl's investigation concluded.

The ruling is part of a wide investigation into allegations of illegal coordination between Republican candidates and Western Tradition Partnership.

Motl's findings don't have the force of law, so his office brought the matter to a judge to decide its merits and apply state campaign finance laws. If District Judge Kathy Seeley upholds the findings, the penalties could include a fine or removal from office.

Western Tradition Partnership, now called American Tradition Partnership, is a nonprofit corporation that claimed to be an educational group that didn't have to reveal its donors or spending. The group mailed attack ads against moderate Republican legislative candidates in the past three election cycles, and also gained notoriety by challenging several state campaign finance laws.

A state judge ruled last year that the group acted as a political committee and required it to disclose its spending and donors. Since then, the group has ceased political activity.

No other Republican has filed to challenge Miller in the House District 80 GOP primary, though the filing period continues until March 10.

Democrat Elizabeth Cain of Lincoln and Libertarian Ron Vandevender of Wolf Creek are also running for the seat.
 
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