For a second time in four years, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that Montana’s campaign contribution limits are unconstitutional — a decision that could open the way for a flood of money from political parties just three weeks before the June 7 state primary. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell was a clear setback for state Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, who has defended the strict limits that voters enacted in 1994. Lovell said Montana officials did not prove that the limits “further the important state interest of combating quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.” Motl urged restraint by political parties that can now contribute unlimited amounts of cash to candidates. Lovell expressed no opinion on what contributions should be for individuals and political action committees and left the question to the Montana attorney general.
After conferring with Attorney General Tim Fox, Motl said he was reinstating limits that were in place prior to the initiative, with a slight adjustment for inflation.
The contribution limit for gubernatorial candidates will rise to $1,990, up from a maximum of $1,300. Other statewide offices will now have limits of $990 per election cycle, including primary and general elections, up from $640 for candidates in contested primary races.