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Donors to gov candidate Williams also funding outside PAC

Posted at 4:40 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 18:40:34-04

A political-action committee funded by donors to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Whitney Williams has made payments to entities that work for her campaign, records show.

Yet the Williams campaign told MTN News Tuesday the PAC and the campaign are “totally separate” and that the payments to a fundraising and campaign-compliance consultant are for their work for the PAC – not the gubernatorial campaign.

“The 6th Generation PAC does not fund-raise or pay expenses for the Williams campaign, and vice-versa,” said campaign spokesman Bill Lombardi.

Williams, a Missoula businesswoman, is running against Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in the Democratic primary for governor. Primary election day is next Tuesday and Montanans have been voting by mail since May 9.

The pair is locked in what could be a close race for the nomination and both are raising similar amounts of money for their campaigns.

The 6th Generation PAC formed last November and has the same treasurer as Williams’ campaign. Through April, it had raised about $40,000 – almost entirely from out-of-state residents who had already given the maximum amount to Williams’ campaign.

Political-action committees can make independent expenditures that support or oppose a candidate, and they also sometimes contribute to other candidates or causes.

They are not allowed to “coordinate” with a candidate’s campaign, by paying for its expenses, unless those expenses are reported by the candidate and stay within donation limits.

The 6th Generation PAC, which registered with the Federal Election Commission rather than state campaign regulators, reported paying $8,900 this year to Campaign Compliance of Missoula and $9,000 to Swann Street Partners of Washington, D.C. – both entities that have been working for the Williams campaign. The PAC also gave $3,300 to the Montana Democratic Party in March.

Lombardi said the payments to Campaign Compliance and Swann Street Partners are for services they provided to the PAC.

He also said that 6th Generation PAC is similar to a political-action committee that Cooney has helped raise money for – Montanans Working Together, which is registered with the state and says its purpose is to aid various Democratic groups and candidates.

It, too, has made payments to Campaign Compliance – and its deputy treasurer, Holly Giarraputo, is also the treasurer for the Williams campaign and the 6th Generation PAC.