Associated Press Montana News Summary
Saturday, October 6th 2012
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Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
CAMPAIGN FINANCE-MONTANA

State seeks intervention in campaign finance order

HELENA, Mont. (AP) The Montana attorney general's office is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to immediately suspend a lower court's ruling that allows unlimited campaign contributions.

The state argues in its Thursday filing the repeal of donation limits creates too much confusion with a month before Election Day.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry says his office recommends that candidates, committees and contributors continue to abide by the limits until the appeals court rules.

The limits range from $630 for an individual contributing to a governor's race to $160 for a state House candidate. The amounts are adjusted each election cycle to account for inflation. The law also limited aggregate donations from political parties.

The case was brought by conservative groups that include the Washington, D.C.-based American Tradition Partnership.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RACE

AG candidates back fight for state campaign laws

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Candidates for attorney general say they would continue the legal fight to preserve Montana campaign finance laws amid several challenges.

Montana has taken center stage in the battle over campaign restrictions in the wake of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision that paved the way for more corporate spending in politics.

Earlier this week, a federal judge struck down contribution limits to candidates. The state is appealing.

Democratic candidate Pam Bucy says she would continue the office's work to preserve those laws if elected. She says conservative groups behind the lawsuits are trying to ensure only the wealthy influence elections.

Republican attorney general candidate Tim Fox says he, too, would continue the appeals on the lawsuits. He says Montana needs some sort of limits on campaign contributions.

SENATE RACE-CHRISTIE

At Rehberg campaign event, New Jersey Gov. Christie calls Montana Sen. Tester a 'phony'

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) New Jersey's governor has called Montana Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester a "phony" who does not represent Montana values.

Gov. Chris Christie called on Republicans to rally behind Tester challenger Denny Rehberg at a fundraising reception with Rehberg on Friday. About 60 supporters attended the $250-per-person event in Billings.

Christie says Tester turned his back on Montana since his election six years ago and lined up behind Democratic leaders like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. By contrast, Christie says Rehberg has remained true to his constituents during six terms in the House.

Tester's campaign spokesman, Aaron Murphy, responded by criticizing Rehberg's claim to be a rancher even though much of his family ranch has been converted into a subdivision.

Murphy says "that's as phony as phony gets."

Christie has been a popular figure within his party this election cycle, campaigning aggressively for Republican candidates in a number of states and for presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

OIL SPILL-LAWSUIT

Exxon hit with new lawsuit over Yellowstone spill

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) Landowners in eastern Montana have filed a lawsuit alleging Exxon Mobil Corp. ignored warnings leading up to a pipeline break that spilled an estimated 1,500 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River.

Friday's lawsuit filed in state District Court in Gallatin County claims the spill could have been avoided if Exxon followed the lead of other companies and shut down its pipe during severe flooding last July.

The 14 plaintiffs are seeking unspecified compensation for their losses and punitive damages as a deterrent against future spills. They claim they suffered damage to property and livestock operations, and health problems from exposure to oil.

Exxon spokesman Patrick Henretty says the company has not seen the lawsuit.

The suit also names pipeline builder Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman as a defendant.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Medical marijuana provider gets probation sentence

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A judge has sentenced a Somers man to five years of probation for his role in a medical marijuana operation that was dismantled in a federal crackdown.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sentenced 40-year-old Darin Mower on Thursday in Missoula. Mower had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises.

Prosecutors say Mower had a medical marijuana operation of more than 300 plants and a dispensary in Kalispell. Mower also allegedly provided marijuana to Jason Washington, a former Montana quarterback who owned Big Sky Health dispensaries in Missoula and Victor.

Prosecutors have said Washington ran a drug-trafficking ring that distributed marijuana across western Montana.

Three others involved in Washington's operation have made plea deals with federal prosecutors. Washington has pleaded not guilty.

UNDERSHERIFF KILLED-SENTENCE

Woman reaches plea agreement in pedestrian fatal

HAVRE, Mont. (AP) A former Hays woman has been given a one-year deferred sentence for striking and killing an undersheriff as he directed traffic around a disabled semi-trailer on U.S. Highway 2 east of Chinook last December.

The Blaine County clerk of court says 62-year-old Mary Louise Stewart pleaded guilty to negligent endangerment Friday. The plea agreement came during her trial on a charge of negligent homicide in the Dec. 14 death of 54-year-old Pat Pyette.

Clerk of Court Kay O'Brien Johnson said the trial began Monday, but had not wrapped up when the plea agreement was reached.

Prosecutors argued Stewart was speeding in an emergency area when she struck Pyette, who was wearing a safety vest, had a flashlight and held a stop sign.

KALISPELL SHOOTING

No charges yet in Kalispell shooting death

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) The Flathead County attorney says he plans to announce next week if any charges will be filed in the Sept. 22 shooting death of a 40-year-old man at a Kalispell residence.

Ron Fredenberg, the father of shooting victim Daniel Fredenberg, told KCFW-TV that prosecutors have told him they believe the shooting was self-defense and no charges will be filed.

County Attorney Ed Corrigan told The Daily Inter Lake on Wednesday he was still reviewing the investigation and planned to issue a formal decision early next week. Corrigan declined to elaborate on his discussion with Ron Fredenberg, but said he would not dispute anything Fredenberg told the media.

A 24-year-old man was questioned about the shooting, but no arrests have been made.

OFFICE SUPPLY KICKBACKS

Woman sentenced in office supply kickback scheme

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A former Billings woman has been sentenced to four months of house arrest for her role in a scheme to bribe military purchasing agents into buying office supplies from the company she worked for.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sentenced 36-year-old Jodi Adkins Birdinground of Denver on Thursday. Birdinground pleaded guilty to wire fraud in May.

Prosecutors said Birdinground and co-defendant Ashley Ann Lamere ran a scheme in which they paid kickbacks to military personnel if they would buy office supply products from them. Lamere is awaiting sentencing

Birdinground acknowledged wiring $300 to a Marine Corps corporal in San Diego in November 2009. Prosecutor Jessica Fehr says the corporal placed 10 orders with Birdinground over the next three months and received a total of $1,800 in kickbacks.

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