Helena, Mont. – The Commissioner’s office is aware of the 9th Circuit’s ruling on Montana’s robocall law and defers comment on the decision to Montana’s Attorney General. The Commissioner reminds Montana citizens, however, that campaign finance reporting and disclosure laws apply to Montana election communications, including robocalls.
Montana law requires that all election communications, electioneering communications, and independent expenditures include attribution disclosing who the communication is funded by, and contact information for the source (Mont. Code Ann. § 13-35-225). The Commissioner will enforce the requirements of the attribution statute on all political communications, including political robocalls and texts under the COPP’s jurisdiction.
“While political robocalls may potentially violate federal law, the Montana COPP has no jurisdiction,” said Mangan. “We will, however, enforce the appropriate reporting and disclosure and attribution requirements on all election and electioneering communications that concern a state or local candidate or issue on a Montana ballot, including robocalls. This means that committees and candidates must comply with Montana’s attribution statute and include the caller’s mailing information and funding source. Any political robocall out of compliance may violate Montana’s campaign finance law.”
Candidates and committees should be aware of a separate federal law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which regulates telephone communications. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces the TCPA, and Montanans can file a complaint with the FCC if they believe they have received a phone call or text message which violates the TCPA.
Further guidance on the TCPA by the FCC states:
Restrictions on political campaign-related robocalls or robotexts vary based upon whether a call is delivered to a landline telephone, a cell phone, or certain protected telephone lines such as emergency or toll-free lines, or lines serving hospitals or similar facilities.
Political campaign-related autodialed or prerecorded voice calls, including autodialed live calls, prerecorded voice messages, and text messages, are:
- Not allowed to cell phones, pagers, or other mobile devices without the called party's prior express consent.
- Not allowed to protected phone lines such as emergency or toll-free lines, or lines serving hospitals or similar facilities, unless made with the called party's prior express consent.
- Allowed when made to landline telephones, even without prior express consent.
The mission of the Commissioner of Political Practices is to promote confidence, transparency, and accountability in Montana’s democratic processes. Additional information about campaign finance disclosure requirements are available on the Commissioner of Political Practices’ website.