Montana Transparency Project Announces Launch Date
Government transparency is getting another watchdog in Montana with the creation and launch of the Montana Transparency Project, a non-profit, nonpartisan initiative dedicated to helping organizations and individuals prepare and keep track of public information requests, educating local governments and elected officials on the Right to Know and ensuring the protection of this constitutional provision for all Montanans.
MTP is excited to announce its official launch date of Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. The organization is prepared to assist with information requests immediately.
Along with front-end help on requests, the Transparency Project is available to submit requests on its own behalf when doing so would be in the public interest. Additionally, MTP hopes to serve as a general resource and consulting body for all things Right to Know.
Its co-founders are Jacob Linfesty, MTP’s president, Lauren Halverson, vice president, Lydia Dal Nogare, treasurer, Caroline Bullock, secretary, and Addie Slanger, communication chair.
The five are all deeply passionate about the Montana Constitution and are overwhelmingly excited to see MTP, a project on which they’ve been working for months, officially launch.
“Making the Right to Know more accessible to Montanans will foster a more responsive and open government that will better serve the needs of our state,” says Linfesty. “It’s exciting working with other young Montanans who care about our state constitution. We know that this is an area where we can make a real difference by serving everyday Montanans who want to get involved, but aren’t sure how.”
The organization was born after Linfesty, Bullock and Dal Nogare connected in summer 2023 while working in Helena. The three had found themselves in Right to Know-adjacent spaces and commiserated over how convoluted — and at times frustratingly ineffective — the information request process was, despite the Right to Know being enshrined in the Montana Constitution.
They envisioned an organization that could help walk people through the request process, assist with follow-ups and even submit requests on its own behalf. Halverson became involved with MTP while working with Linfesty on a legal research project, and Slanger was introduced to the group via a mutual connection in the government transparency space.
Linfesty is from Billings, and is currently in his first year of law school at Harvard. Bullock, raised in Helena, is a senior at Claremont McKenna College majoring in politics, philosophy and economics. Dal Nogare, from Kalispell, is in her final year of law school at the University of Wisconsin. Halverson, originally from Broomfield, Colo., and Slanger, born and raised in Helena, both attend law school at the University of Montana.
With guidance, collaboration and support from the Montana Freedom of Information Hotline — an institutional giant in the state’s Right to Know space — the MTP board is excited to take on the issue of state and local government transparency. The Hotline and MTP, working together closely in each organization’s endeavors, hope to chart a path toward partnership in the future and look forward to working together on projects and goals.
“The Montana Transparency Project will complement the free services the Montana Freedom of Information Hotline provides through Right to Know specialist Peter “Mike” Meloy, a veteran Helena attorney,” says Montana FOI Hotline Chairwoman Melody Martinsen. “MTP will provide another option for citizens, particularly, to receive free, non-attorney assistance in filing requests for public documents, which can be confusing and frustrating for people new to the process.”
“The Montana FOI Hotline board believes that MTP’s expansion of services will benefit Montana citizens by providing another resource to help obtain those records deemed public by the Montana Constitution,” Martinsen continues. “The Montana FOI Hotline and MTP plan to collaborate on public education efforts during 2024. Together, the two organizations have the capacity to work proactively to educate citizens about their rights under Montana’s Constitution. We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with the MTP board on these efforts.”
Visit MTP’s website starting Jan. 3 at montanatransparencyproject. org for more information or to get in touch for help with a public information request.