MTPR

Judge Strikes Down Montana's Campaign Contribution Limits

May 17, 2016

A federal court has ruled that Montana's campaign contribution limits are unconstitutional. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell on the limits passed in 1994 comes less than a month before the state's June 7 primary.

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl says he’s disappointed by today’s ruling, but says the decision does not leave the state without campaign contribution limits.

"Under Montana Law, the Court's ruling striking the current limit, effectively reinstates the political committee and individual contribution limits that were in place before the 1994 enactment."

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl.
Credit Corin Cates-Carney

Montana’s Attorney General’s office agreed, citing a state Supreme Court case, which says that when a law is struck down as unconstitutional, the previous version of that law goes into effect.

That is not good news to Bozeman lawyer Matthew Monforton who worked as lead attorney challenging Montana’s contribution limits.

"The problem is both versions, both the pre-1994, and the post-1994, versions of Montana’s contribution limits are blatantly unconstitutional."

Monforton says reverting to the old contribution limits will lead to further litigation. He wants all contribution limits to be struck down.

Lovell's ruling said Montana officials did not prove that the limits  "further the important state interest of combating quid pro quo corruption or its appearance."

Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock called on the Attorney General's Office to file a request for a stay and then file an appeal.

"Montana elections should be decided by we the people," Bullock said. "This ruling is a travesty and a step back toward the  era of the copper kings. Allowing Montana’s and our elections to be bought by people with unlimited wealth is bad for the integrity of our elections and our democracy."

The plaintiffs in the case, which include several political action committees and Republican central committees, claimed the limits restricted freedom of speech, association and candidates' ability to raise enough money to effectively campaign.