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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte is facing a campaign finance complaint alleging his campaign illegally coordinated with a political action committee to circumvent campaign donation limits.

Gianforte’s campaign sent an invitation for a July 17 lunch and fundraiser in Helena that stated if individuals had already made the maximum donation of $1,420 per person to his campaign, contributions could be made to Montana First Action PAC. The invitation added in parentheses that the donation “directly benefits Greg’s Governor campaign," according to the complaint filed by the Montana Democratic Party.

The complaint, filed July 22 by state Democratic Party Executive Director Sandi Luckey, alleges Gianforte's campaign illegally controls Montana First Action, is coordinating with the PAC and is using it as a workaround of the state's contribution limits.

Under Montana election law, an independent committee cannot be controlled by a candidate.

According to finance reports, Montana First Action has raised $145,680 since it was established in June 2019 to support conservative candidates and causes.

Gianforte’s campaign manager Jake Eaton called the filing “a frivolous complaint with absolutely no merit.” He accused the Montana Democratic Party of using it to deflect attention from an ethics violation made by Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney.

Cooney was fined $1,000 earlier this month for violating state ethics laws when he participated in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring.

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Iris Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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