A federal judge Wednesday struck down Montana’s dollar limits on campaign contributions to state candidates, dealing another blow to long-standing state laws that attempt to limit money in politics. U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell of Helena, in a brief order, said the nearly 20-year-old limits violate free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution, because they prevent candidates “from amassing the resources necessary for effective campaign advocacy.” Lovell permanently blocked the state from enforcing its contribution limits, apparently opening the door for individuals, political parties and political action committees to give virtually unlimited amounts of money to candidates running for Montana office this election season. However, state Attorney General Steve Bullock – who’s also running for governor this year – said his office will ask for an emergency stay of Lovell’s ruling while it appeals the order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“This is a destructive ruling for Montana’s citizen democracy, and disturbing for those of us who believe that democracy is not for sale and politics is about values and issues, not money,” said Bullock, a Democrat. James Brown, a Dillon attorney for the coalition of individuals and business, political and Republican Party groups that sued to overturn the limits, called the ruling “a complete victory for my clients on the contribution limits.” “We argued … that Montana’s admittedly low contributions limits prevent candidates from effectively conducting campaigns, and the court agreed,” Brown said.
The stricken limits say individuals and PACs could give no more than $630 each to a gubernatorial candidate, $310 to candidates for other statewide office, such as attorney general or state auditor, and $160 to district or local candidates, such as those running for state Senate or school board.
Full Article: Judge strikes down Montana campaign contribution limits.