Commissioner removes 5 from election ballot for failing to file campaign finance reports

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HELENA, Montana — The state will remove three legislative candidates and two candidates for county commissions from the Nov. 4 ballot after they failed to file campaign finance reports, the commissioner of political practices said.

Another 34 candidates who filed their reports late will be subject to sanctions, including a possible fine, but will remain on the ballot, Commissioner Jonathan Motl said in his decision Thursday.

The deadline to remove candidates from the ballot for failure to file was Thursday.

Libertarian legislative candidates Joshua Austill and Nicholas Taffs, and Republican Richard Tenneson did not file their required reports, even after notice of an investigation into the filings, Motl's ruling said.

Neither did nonpartisan Mineral County commission candidate Robert McCandless or Democratic Cascade County commission candidate William Wilson.

Austill, Tenneson and Wilson said they would prefer to withdraw than be removed from the ballot. They will be considered withdrawn if the election administrator determines they have met the criteria to do so, Motl said.

They won't be allowed to run in future races until they file the missing 2014 reports, Motl said.

Motl's investigation began after a complaint by Montana Republican Party Executive Director Bowen Greenwood against Democrat Stephen Hoklin, a House District 45 candidate.

Motl then expanded the investigation to 39 delinquent candidates, most of whom filed their reports after receiving notice they were missing. The late filings are still violations of Montana election laws, Motl said.

For those 34 candidates, including Hoklin, the commissioner said he will refer their cases to the Lewis and Clark County attorney for possible prosecution. If the county attorney decides against prosecution, as is typical in these cases, Motl's office is likely to negotiate fines for the candidates to pay.

Motl said his office will compile and list campaign filings by candidate for public review in future elections.

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