Montana’s limits on direct contributions to political campaigns are justified in trying to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption while still allowing candidates to raise enough money to run a campaign, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday. The decision overturned a ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell, who in May 2016 said the limits enacted by voters in 1994 restricted political speech. “This lawsuit … sought to open the floodgates of money in Montana elections by making it easier for out-of-state corporations to buy officeholders,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement. “I’m glad the federal courts upheld Montana’s limits on money in elections. “For a century in Montana, winning an election for state office has meant going door to door and meeting face to face with everyday voters: democracy at its best. Today, we’re one step closer to keeping it that way. Elections should be decided by ‘we the people’ — not by corporations, millionaires, or wealthy special interests buying more television ads,” he said.
The Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices put the new limits into effect Monday, said spokesman Noah Horan. It would affect candidates currently running in local elections, but anyone who had received a campaign donation under the old limits would not have to return it.
Attorney Jim Bopp of Indiana said he planned to appeal the ruling, but hadn’t decided whether to ask a full panel of the 9th Circuit to reconsider the case or petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear it. He has 10 days to seek an en banc hearing or 90 days to petition the high court.