HELENA — A former lawmaker from Bozeman said Wednesday he would “vigorously” defend a charge filed by the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel for professional misconduct resulting from violations of Montana’s campaign disclosure rules during his 2010 run for office.
In a filing posted Monday on the state Supreme Court website, the court is asked to cite attorney Art Wittich, which would require him to respond within 20 days. He will then face a hearing on the allegations before an Adjudiciary Panel of the Commission on Practice, which will report and recommend disciplinary action if warranted to the court.
“I will defend this latest attack vigorously, and the COP should reject the complaint.” Wittich,a conservative Republican, said via email Wednesday.
Michael W. Cotter, the state’s chief disciplinary counsel who at one time served under President Barack Obama as U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana, noted Wittich was found guilty during a four-day trial in April 2016 of violating campaign finance laws. He said Wittich was found guilty of failing to maintain records of his campaign contributions and expenses and that he failed to report $19,599 in contributions.
“By his adjudicated campaign finance and disclosure violations, (Wittich) engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” of state rules, Cotter wrote.
Cotter stated Wittich took an oath in 1985 when allowed to practice law in Montana to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Wittich said none of his “hundreds” of clients have ever filed a bar complaint against him during his 32 years of practice.
The jury in 2016 found Wittich coordinated with and received services from conservative corporate groups in violation of state campaign laws.
Jonathon Motl, then the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, brought the civil case against Wittich.
Jurors found he took $19,599 worth of in-kind contributions that he didn’t disclose from organizations affiliated with the National Right to Work Committee during his 2010 campaign. The contributions included campaign consulting, direct mail, voter data, opposition research, website design and attack ads against his opponent.
Wittich said Wednesday that he still maintains he did nothing wrong in his 2010 campaign.
“I reported all of my campaign contributions and expenditures,” he said. “Nonetheless, I paid the judgment (over $94K). The case is over.”
Wittich was allowed to keep his House seat, but in June 2016 District Judge Ray Dayton ordered him to pay a $68,232 fine, plus court costs, for a total between $80,000 and $90,000.
Wittich was defeated in 2016 in his bid for re-election. He said the latest action was politically motivated.
“Yet the liberals want more than me out of the Legislature, and are continuing the smear by destroying my professional future,” he stated.
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