Liberal group files complaint over Montana GOP Senate candidate’s financial disclosure

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The liberal nonprofit End Citizens United filed a complaint against Tim Sheehy, the frontrunner in Montana’s U.S. Senate GOP primary, alleging he’s missing some details on his personal financial disclosure.

Sheehy is running for the chance to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in one of this cycle’s most hotly contested Senate races.

He’s also incredibly wealthy, with a net worth between $74 million and $260 million based on his financial disclosure, which would make him among the top 10 wealthiest members of Congress if he wins the primary and general, according to a Business Insider analysis.

In a complaint filed on Wednesday and shared first with The Hill, End Citizens United alleges the Senate hopeful failed to disclose nine separate investments’ underlying assets that “do not appear to qualify as [Excepted Investment Funds].”

“The public has a right to know this information to assess whether Mr. Sheehy may have financial interests that could pose a conflict of interest,” End Citizens United wrote in the complaint.

The group also alleges that Sheehy failed to disclose financial details related to his book, “Mudslingers: A True Story of Aerial Firefight (An American Origins Story),” which came out last month, and re-disclose more than $7 million in compensation that he reported in one section of the form but needed to also note in another section.

End Citizens United pointed to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics’ financial disclosure instructions and report for 2022 in making their legal case that Sheehy’s disclosure raised questions.

EIFs are “rare,” according to the Senate instructions, and defined as “widely held” investment funds that are “publicly traded or available” or “widely diversified,” and the filer cannot have control over “underlying financial interests.” In the case of investment funds that do not qualify as EIFs, “underlying assets must be broken out separately with each underlying asset’s name, value, and type and amount of income reported.”

“You must disclose any underlying asset that had a value exceeding $1,000 at the end of the reporting period or generated more than $200 in unearned income during the reporting period,” the rules say.

The liberal nonprofit also pointed to language in the Senate rules that noted that filers had to disclose “agreements or arrangements,” including those that pertained to “future employment (including any current arrangement with a publisher to write a book or any portion thereof for compensation).”

As it relates to the re-disclosure of compensation in a later section of the form, the Senate rules note that for those filing their first personal financial disclosure or a candidate, they must list where any sources of income over $5,000 are coming from.

End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller accused Sheehy in a statement of “engaging in shady political practices.”

“This is a calculated move intended to prevent Montanans from identifying corruption and conflicts of interest,” she alleged. “Voters are wary of the fact that he’s an out-of-state multi-millionaire running for public office, and they deserve transparent, detailed disclosure reports in order to scrutinize his financial interests. We urge the DOJ to investigate Sheehy and hold him accountable for withholding this critical information.”

But Kedric Payne, vice president, general counsel and senior director of ethics at the nonprofit watchdog Campaign Legal Center, said new filers often get “the benefit of the doubt” when it comes to filling out these disclosures for the first time.

“The question is whether the candidate acknowledges what [the law] requires and will amend the report. The problem comes up if the candidate refuses to amend or doesn’t have an excuse for why they believe that information is not reportable,” Payne noted.

A Republican election attorney disputed that Sheehy’s filing had any issues, saying that the first four investment funds qualified as EIFs while the other five entities noted by the liberal nonprofit meet the Senate rules’ qualifications on Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), Non-Public Equity or Partnership Interests.

The attorney noted that the book arrangement did not need to be noted in the personal financial disclosure because the proceeds were going to charity, and they had been given guidance that they did not need to redisclose the more than $7 million in a later part of the document.

A spokesperson for the Sheehy campaign said in a statement to The Hill that they had worked to comply with the Senate rules when completing his personal financial disclosure and attacked Tester for having to amend his personal financial disclosures multiple times.

“The campaign sought guidance from Senate Ethics while filling out the PFD to ensure full compliance. No issues were ever raised. Unlike Jon Tester who has had to file amendments for 14 annual reports dating back to 2006 because he tried to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments, Tim Sheehy has fully complied with the guidelines,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s really not surprising that Jon Tester’s Washington liberal swamp cronies at End Citizens United, who have spent millions on Jon Tester’s campaigns and who back his closest liberal friends like AOC and Hillary Clinton, filed this frivolous complaint because they know their far-Left agenda will cease to exist once Tim Sheehy beats Tester this November,” the spokesperson added.

Sheehy is gearing up for a competitive Senate race against Tester, though Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), who lost to Tester in 2018, could enter the GOP primary, too.

Tester is one of two Democratic senators running for reelection in a state former President Trump won in 2020, with the other being Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Both Montana and Ohio are seen as prime pickup opportunities for Republicans this fall. The nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report rates both Tester’s and Brown’s seat as “toss ups.”

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