The race for Montana Attorney General is heating up, with charges and counter charges by the Democratic candidate Raph Graybill and the Republican Austin Knudsen.

At a press conference in front of the Department of Justice building in Helena on Tuesday, Graybill accused Knudsen of taking donations from big tobacco.

“We call on Austin Knutson, my opponent, to return the money he's taken from big tobacco companies and take a pledge that if he becomes Attorney General, he will appoint a special counsel to handle tobacco litigation because they've given him so much money. You see, what's going on in Montana is we are owed $43 million by big tobacco.”

Graybill said that the state of Montana has been after big tobacco to pay its court ordered obligations that have resulted from litigation over the past several years.

“Democrats and Republicans in the Attorney General's office have fought for us, for your kids and for my kids to make sure tobacco is paying up,” he said. “You know, one way to make that problem go away if you’re big tobacco is to buy the next Attorney General. Because Tim Fox is doing the right thing and standing up to big tobacco, they're trying to buy Austin (Knutsen). So we held a press conference saying he's got to return those donations. You've got to pledge not to hire their lobbyists. And you got to pledge to appoint a special counsel to handle those cases.”

Knutsen responded to KGVO News that the charges by Graybill were not unexpected and that they are the act of a campaign in trouble.

“This is what a desperate candidate looks like,” said Knudsen. “Ballots are going out this week and Raph is down double digits in the polls, and he knows this, so they're grasping at whatever straw they can come up with. But this is all public record. And you know, the idea that that we can stop and control outside third party spending in these races is just not possible.”

Knudsen threw the gauntlet to Graybill in the matter of corporate campaign contributions.

“If Raph wants to me to somehow tell outside third party groups that they can't spend money on my behalf, then I think he’d better start with the Democratic Attorney General's Association,” he said. “They put a million dollars in his campaign and are paying for TV ads for him. That's the same thing. They're big donors are from Big Pharma. This is an act of desperation. It's not surprising, but it is unfortunate at this late stage in the game.”

Graybill is the current chief counsel for Governor Steve Bullock’s office, while Knudsen is the Roosevelt County Attorney.

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