HELENA — A group other than the Montana Green Party has been attempting to qualify the party for the 2020 ballot in Montana – but it’s not clear who.
Club for Growth Action, the political arm of a conservative, free-market group that’s been active in Montana elections, filed paperwork last week to finance “an effort to qualify a minor political party for primary elections using a minor-party affiliation.”
But a spokesman for the group in Washington, D.C., told MTN News Thursday it had explored undertaking that effort for the Green Party and then decided against it.
“It is not an active project anymore,” said Joe Kildea, vice president of communications for Club for Growth.
Still, people gathering voter signatures to qualify the Green Party for the 2020 ballot have been seen in various Montana cities in the past week. Sources told MTN News that those signature-gathers may be part of an effort funded by someone other than Club for Growth.
One thing is clear, however: The Montana Green Party is not itself trying to get on the ballot, through any signature-gathering effort.
In a post on its Facebook site Wednesday, the Montana Green Party said people have been “falsely collecting information on behalf of the Green Party.”
“We are not collecting, nor have we hired or asked for volunteers to collect information this 2020 cycle,” the post said.
Montana Green Party officials could not be reached for comment.
Currently, only three parties are qualified to have candidates on the Montana ballot: Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians.
Additional parties can qualify if they submit at least 5,000 signatures of registered voters by the first week of March – which also happens to be just before the March 9 deadline for any 2020 candidates to file to run.
If someone other than the Green Party is trying to qualify it for the 2020 ballot, it wouldn’t be the first time that such an effort has been part of political subterfuge in Montana.
In 2018, a group called Advanced Micro Targeting paid signature-gatherers to qualify the Green Party for the ballot – but it was never revealed who hired the company.
The Montana Democratic Party, which believed that Green Party presence on the ballot might siphon away votes from Democrats in the general election, successfully filed suit in 2018 to remove the Greens from the ballot, by showing the effort hadn’t gathered enough valid signatures.
A spokesman for the Democratic Party told MTN News Thursday that one of its staffers spoke this week to a signature-gatherer in Helena -- and that the person, who was attempting to place the Green Party on the ballot, said they had been hired by Advanced Micro Targeting.
Club for Growth has been active in Montana this cycle assisting Republican U.S. House candidate Matt Rosendale – one of six Republicans people running for the state’s open House seat. Through last year, it has routed individual campaign donations to Rosendale totaling $227,000.