Montana attorneys on Tuesday defended the state’s new campaign finance disclosure law against a gun-rights organization that wants parts of it struck down before next month’s primary elections. The Virginia-based National Association for Gun Rights claims the law passed by state legislators last year would force it to register as a political committee for making issue-advocacy statements that are protected by the First Amendment. The law imposes burdens — filing reports, disclosing contributors and opening a bank account among them — on groups that “simply desire to talk about matters of public concern,” the association’s attorney, Matthew Monforton, said in court filings. State attorneys argued the law does not prevent so-called social welfare groups such as the National Association for Gun Rights from speaking freely, but it requires disclosure from those who do.
“Enjoining Montana’s election laws on the eve of an election would deprive Montanans of information that they have a compelling interest in knowing, at a time they need it most,” Assistant Attorney General Stuart Segrest wrote in court filings.
The arguments were held Tuesday in federal court in Missoula. The gun-rights group is asking U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen to issue an order preventing the state from enforcing portions of the law by May 15.