Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee

In this Chronicle file photo, former Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, sits as chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee during the 2015 legislative session.

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A Bozeman lawmaker said Monday he will appeal to the Montana Supreme Court a jury’s finding that he took illegal corporate contributions from an anti-union organization during his 2010 primary election campaign.

State Rep. Art Wittich’s decision to appeal follows a ruling by a district court judge Monday denying the lawmaker’s request for a new trial.

Wittich requested the new trial in July following a jury’s 10-2 finding in April that he received $19,599 in illegal and unreported in-kind contributions from the National Right to Work Committee and affiliates.

District Judge Ray Dayton heard oral arguments on Wittich’s request last Tuesday. Attorneys for the lawmaker made three arguments for a new trial: There was insufficient evidence; the definition of “contribution” is unconstitutional; and the dismissal of a juror after opening statements deprived Wittich of a fair trial. Dayton refuted each in the order.

“We are disappointed with today’s decision by the district court judge,” said Wittich’s attorney Lucinda Luetkemeyer in an email to the Chronicle. “We continue to believe that the commissioner’s enforcement action was unconstitutional, and that there was insufficient evidence to hold Rep. Art Wittich liable in the amount assessed by the jury. For these and other reasons, Mr. Wittich plans to file a notice of appeal before the Montana Supreme Court.”

The civil case against Wittich was brought to court by Commissioner of Political Practices Jon Motl. The commissioner sought Wittich’s removal from office.

The judge did not order Wittich to step down as a lawmaker but did order that he pay a $68,232 fine, plus court costs.

“Judge Dayton’s work on this case is over,” Motl said Monday. “We all owe him thanks for the fine work and the firm hand he kept on a tough trial.”

Wittich, 58, was elected to Montana’s state Senate in 2010. He served one four-year term. During the 2013 legislative session he was the Senate majority leader.

In 2014, he ran for and won a seat in the state House of Representatives. In June, Wittich lost the Republican primary election to Bozeman businessman Bruce Grubbs.

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Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.


Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

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