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The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana • 13

Billings, Montana
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Local State Billings arctic FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2012 enwer E3i I' Local guide, 2 Obituaries, 4 Weather, 6 GET THE LATEST NEWS AND UPDATES AT BILLINGSGAZETTE.COM GOP complaint about Bullock goes before judge Dispute centers on campaign finance regulations missioners office argued that the decision is not reviewable by the courts and pointed out that the office has a history of allowing candidates to raise money before formally declaring the office they were seeking. The court case also featured a seemingly ironic change of tune for major players in some high-profile cases dealing with Montana campaign finance law. Montana Republican Party attorney Jim Brown has argued in federal court that many Montana campaign finance laws are onerous and unconstitutional. He serves as local counsel for a conservative group that successfully challenged the states 100-year-old Corrupt Practices Act in a battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But on Thursday he argued that disclosure on campaign forms of the office sought by a candidate is critical to the political regulation scheme. What we are really seeking here is a declaratory ruling on the meaning of the statute so our party and our candidates can act properly, Brown told Phillips. And Bullock, who has fought in the other lawsuits for more transparency as he seeks to preserve Montanas campaign finance laws, has argued that he did not need to ernor, Bullocks campaign website was changed to let donors send in up to $1,200 even though the limit from an individual donor to an attorney general candidate is $600. Only a candidate for governor can accept donations of $1,200 among the Montana statewide offices. But state lawyers told Phillips that past and present commissioners of political practice have said that nothing in state law prevents raising money prior to declaring an office as long as all donations and expenditures are otherwise reported as usual.

A formal declaration on the fundraising forms would Please see Bullock, B5 disclose which office he was seeking last year while he was raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. He eventually declared in September he would run for governor and now is facing Republican Rick Hill in a general election battle. Bullock was raising money for an unspecified statewide office months before he announced his candidacy for governor on Sept. 7. Many speculated at the time that he would eventually run for the governors office And nearly three months before announcing he would run for gov Associated Press HELENA The Montana Republican Party told a judge Thursday that Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock wrongly raised campaign money without declaring the office he was seeking on compliance forms.

The GOP asked Judge Wayne Phillips to force the commissioner of political practices, who previously dismissed the complaint, to reconsider the matter. The com LARRY MAYERGazette Staff photos Leslie Taft, left, talks with Nicole Marchant, who was with Taft's daughter, Jamee Grossman, before she went missing. Taft was passing out fliers with pictures of her daughter to volunteers at Lockwood School on Thursday. Friends' search for woman scrapped Man faces charges of looting after fires 27-year-old burglarized home in evacuated area, police say By LORNA THACKERAY lthackeraybillingsgazette A 27-year-old man accused of looting an evacuated home during the Dahl fire in late June will be arraigned Friday in Roundup. Eric Aafedt has been charged in District Court with felony counts of theft by common scheme and burglary.

He is being held in the Musselshell County Jail on a $50,000 bond. The lightning-caused Dahl fire raged through the Bull Mountains south of Roundup for about a week beginning June 26. It burned through 22,000 acres and destroyed 73 homes and 150 outbuildings. During the fires early stages, entire neighborhoods were evacuated. Canyon Creek Road was one of the evacuated neighborhoods.

Charging documents said that Aafedt burglarized a home there. The burglary was reported two days after the fire began. According to information filed in Musselshell County, Aafedt took jewelry, clothing, switchblade knives, hunting knives, a money clip with a silver coin, a German eagle statue, a portable DVD player and a Bank of America credit card. Investigators determined that the jewelry had been pawned in Billings. They also learned that Aafedt had used the stolen credit card.

Musselshell County Undersheriff Aaron Edwards said Aafedt was arrested in Billings earlier this month and was brought to the Roundup jail on July 10. Our officers put in a lot of time on this and dealt with all kinds of issues, he said. Were proud of the job they did." Rumors of looting have been rife in Musselshell County since the day the fire started. But Edwards said there have been just two confirmed cases. The most recent report came last week.

Residents had seen a suspicious vehicle taking scrap metal from ruins. Officers were unable to locate the vehicle, he said. Mother talks with police, says she has 'some hope' Gazette Staff A search party organized for Thursday morning in Lockwood to find clues about a missing woman was called off after the womans mother talked with a Billings police detective. The search was organized by friends and family of Jamee Christine Grossman, 25, who has been missing since March. She was last seen with her boyfriend at a residence in Lockwood.

Grossmans mother, Leslie Taft, said her friends felt helpless and wanted to do something. They met Thursday morning in the Lockwood Elementary School parking lot, but Taft told the group the search was called off. I got a call from a detective today, Taft said. Theyre investigating, and there are things they cant tell me. But the search would be a complete waste of time, Taft said the detective told her, declining to mention what Please see Search, B5 Taft carries missing daughter Jamee Grossman's belongings that were left with friends as Taft met with volunteers to pass out fliers at Lockwood School on Thursday.

Yesterday I thought she was dead, and today I have some hope Leslie Taft mother of missing woman, Jamee Christine Grossman Taft talks with Marchant who was with Taft's daughter, Jamee Grossman, before she went missing. Court decisions on telecoms shift taxes, revenue chief says products to be downloaded when it doesnt tax the sale of similar digital products through other outlets. No one from Alltel spoke at the committee, but Nancy Schlepp, president of the Montana Taxpayers Association, read some key highlights of Seeleys decision in support of the telecom company. Bucks said the decision highlights a number of trends in the telecommunications industry, where companies now offer cable television, phone service and Internet. The Legislature no longer can rely on past understandings with the telecommunications industry as a basis for long-term tax policy because of mergers, acquisitions and new entrants into the field, he said.

homeowner and $1,455 per Main Street business owner, Bucks said. Senate Majority Leader Jeff Es-smann, R-Billings, said those figures dont take into account the savings consumers have realized through greater in telecommunications competition. The benefit of the competition has far outweighed the little bit of tax shift that has occurred here, Essmann said. Bucks disagreed, saying: The issue is one of fairness and who pays the taxes. The benefits of costs savings (through competition) occurred nationwide.

They werent specific to Montana. In another case, Bucks said the department will appeal to the Please see Telecoms, B5 Burden increasingly falls on homeowners, business owners By CHARLES JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau HELENA The state Revenue Department director warned Thursday that changes in how telecommunications companies are being taxed, partly through court decisions, shifts more of the property tax burden to homeowners and small-business owners. Director Dan Bucks outlined the impact of some recent court decisions to the Legislatures Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee. 4 He discussed a recent case in which District Judge KatHy Seeley of Helena ruled for Alltel Communications and against the department. Bucks said the department is not appealing that decision.

However, he said this decision will further narrow the base of the states retail telecommunications excise tax and will increasingly affect negatively the replacement revenues that were being counted on. The court ruled that the retail telecommunications excise tax and the pre-1997 telephone law dont apply to prepaid wireless customers, a Revenue Department summary of the decision said. It also ruled that the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act prevents the state from taxing the sale of digital Because the telecommunications industry is a national industry, it pursues its tax goals nationally before Congress and in court, Bucks said. There has been and will be a lot at stake in terms of major tax shifts from this industry to home-owners and commercial business owners, Bucks said. It will narrow the tax base for local governments.

The Revenue Department estimated that the property tax shift caused by moving telecommunications property from one class to another would amount to $18.6 million more in taxes for residential and $6.9 million more for commercial businesses in fiscal 2012. From tax year 2000 to 2011, this cumulatively would cost $904 per 4 i.

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