Montana Senator Jon Tester, former CIA analyst Nada Bakos and UM Law Professor Anthony Johnstone discussed their views on Russian interference in U.S. elections, and the effect of 'dark money' in national political campaigns at a town hall meeting on Friday morning at the University of Montana.

The meeting, held in a conference room in the University Center, was sponsored by the Montana World Affairs Council, Montanans For National Security and the Davidson Honors College.

Andrew Person of Montanans For National Security said Montana's Republican Senator Steve Daines was invited but did not attend, which drew light laughter from the audience.

Audio for the entire program was captured by KGVO News, and is presented in the above YouTube video.

In his opening statement, Senator Tester, who said he introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, spoke of the millions of dollars spent in the last senatorial campaign in 2012, as well as the most recent elections in 2016.

"In 2012, for example,"said Tester, "$25 million was spent by outside groups in that Montana Senate race in order to influence the outcome of that election. In 2016, this is a nationwide statistic, $1.5 billion was spent nationwide. Since the Citizens United decision we've seen the dark money expand exponentially."

Tester hearkened back to the days of the Copper Kings, when large sums of money were used to influence elections in Montana.

"We've had a long history here in Montana of folks trying to buy our elections," he said. "So, whether it's the Copper Kings, or the Koch brothers, we know that money is really not the same thing as free speech."

As Professor Johnstone began a point about how the Trump administration was attempting to make the voting process more difficult, one man in the audience said in a loud voice, 'That's not true.' At which point, moderator Bob Seidenschwartz with the Montana World Affairs Council interrupted and asked the audience not to speak until the question and answer period later in the program.

Unfortunately, Mr. Tester had another engagement, and had to leave the forum just after 10:00 a.m. and was not able to answer any questions from the audience following the event, however members of the audience were asked to write out their questions for the participants during the event..

Following the presentation, this reporter approached Tester staffer Deborah Frandsen and once again invited Senator Tester to appear on the Talk Back program, or on the Montana Morning news program, both recently honored for their excellence by the Montana Broadcasters Association. Frandsen said she would take the request to Tester's media team.

Please take the time to listen to the entire presentation. The YouTube video lasts for a little over an hour, but it will be worth the time to better understand the views of these three individuals, from the perspectives of a U.S. Senator, a former CIA analyst and a UM law professor.

Many thanks to the Montana World Affairs Council for arranging the presentation.