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Tobacco company and major contributor to Rick Scott violated campaign laws in Montana

RAI services company spent money trying to defeat a Montana ballot initiative without disclosing it.
RAI Services violated campaign laws in Montana. The company has donated $200,000 to political committees aligned with Rick Scott since 2016. (The Associated Press)
Published Sep. 12, 2018

One of the country's biggest tobacco companies and a backer of Republican Gov. Rick Scott's Senate bid was caught violating campaign laws in another state.

RAI Services Company, the makers of Newport and Camel cigarettes, didn't disclose their financial involvement in a campaign to defeat a Montana ballot initiative that would tax cigarettes more to pay for healthcare programs, the state's top campaign official determined.

A Sept. 5 decision found "sufficient evidence" to show RAI and another tobacco company, Altria (formerly Philip Morris), helped fund the campaign against the ballot initiative and didn't report it within five days as required by Montana law. The news was reported by Montana Public Radio.

"The failure to fully and timely report and disclose cannot generally be excused by oversight or ignorance," Montana's commissioner of political practices wrote in the decision.

RAI Services donated $25,000 to New Republican Political Action Committee on Feb. 27. Scott stepped down as chair of the PAC in February. The PAC is closely aligned with his campaign and is focused on electing him to the Senate and running ads critical of his opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

The cigarette maker and tobacco giant previously gave $175,000 to Scott's Florida political committee "Let's Get to Work" between June 2016 and February 2017.