HELENA – Governor-elect Greg Gianforte announced this week that Anita Milanovich will serve as General Counsel in his future administration, appointing her as Principal Attorney in charge of running his political agenda.
Currently running her own national litigation firm in Butte, 40-year-old Milanovich is a well-known lawyer on conservative issues in Montana ranging from campaign finance and suffrage to anti-abortion and LGBTQ initiatives. In November, she represented Pennsylvania plaintiffs who challenged the results of the presidential election in a later dismissed case. She has also represented Gianforte on several of his political campaigns, including his candidacy for the 2017 Congress.
“I am honored to join Governor-Elect Gianforte’s team as General Counsel and serve the people of Montana,” Milanovich said in a statement released Monday by Gianforte’s transition team. “The governor-elect has set a clear vision for Montana’s comeback and I look forward to working with him to get the job done.”
Milanovich did not respond to interview requests from Montana Free Press.
The choice of staff sparked a number of reactions from attorneys and political observers, many of whom describe Milanovich as an outspoken advocate of conservative concerns.
“[Gianforte] is a full-spectrum conservative, and he will find someone who shares his values because she’s a full-spectrum conservative, ”said James Bopp Jr. of the Bopp law firm in Indiana who employed Milanovich for several years after graduating from Valparaiso University Law School in 2004.
After living in Indiana, where she was also involved in organizing the local Republican Party, Milanovich moved to Bozeman with her current husband in 2012 and continued to work for Bopp on several campaign funding cases against the state of Montana, including challenging the limit personal campaign contributions and challenge to the Disclose Act, which increases transparency for donations in state and local campaigns and remains a major achievement of the Bullock administration. Milanovich’s predecessor as General Counsel, Raph Graybill, played a key role in the formulation and defense of this policy.
Since starting her own practice in Butte, Milanovich has regularly represented Republican interests in election campaigns and election cases. She recently signed President Donald Trump’s campaign challenge for the Montana mail-in election on behalf of Republican lawmakers Greg Hertz and Scott Sales, arguing that Governor Steve Bullock “usurped” state law by ruling allowed local election officials to only use postal ballot papers during the pandemic. A federal judge ruled against this challenge in September.
In addition to campaign funding and voting rights, Milanovich has historically opposed LGBTQ civil rights in court and in state law. In 2017, while still working for the law firm Bopp, she represented Montanans for Locker Room Privacy, a group that campaigned for an election initiative to prevent transgender people from using public bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Efforts failed to secure enough voter signatures to be put on the ballot.
During the 2019 legislature, Milanovich campaigned on behalf of the conservative Montana Family Foundation for a series of bills relating to LGBTQ people, religious expression, and reproductive rights. He supported a proposal to severely restrict abortions after 20 weeks of gestation and opposed an amendment to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the areas of housing, healthcare and public housing. Neither measure became law.
“Anita’s new position as General Counsel to the Governor is the governor’s profit and loss,” said Jeff Lazsloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, in an email to Montana Free Press. “She is a very competent, intelligent and experienced lawyer and we wish her all the best in her new role.”
Milanovich also offered her personal legal analysis of LGBTQ issues. In a 2019 published for USA Today, Milanovich expressed her opposition to transgender women, whom she referred to as men, who attended sporting events with other women.
“[T]The whole premise for gender competition in sport is the simple scientific reality that men are generally stronger, faster, and more physically capable than women, ”wrote Milanovich. “When men and women have to compete together, women almost always lose.”
“My heart aches when I see men fighting who think they are women,” the play continued. “Even so, a just, just and compassionate solution cannot require redefining what it means to be a girl or a woman.”
As a member of the Gianforte administration, Milanovich will take on far-reaching tasks. The governor’s general counsel is often responsible for coordinating legal action with lawyers from various government agencies related to the priorities of the executive office. The governor’s general counsel is typically involved in guiding bills through the legislature and advising the governor on potential legal challenges that various bills may face.
“To be honest, she’s ideal for that,” said Bopp, referring to Milanovich’s political instincts. “[At the Bopp Law Firm] Our goal is never to say no when we can find out. Our goal is to say, “Yes, but do it this way.” [Gianforte is] I will find an attorney to help him figure out how to be the most efficient, effective, and as legally sound as possible in trying to implement the guidelines he wants to follow. “
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