Appeals Court Reinstates Campaign Donation Limits in Montana

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conservatives finally have lost a legal battle in Montana, where the state’s limits on campaign donations were thrown out earlier this month by a federal judge. Republicans and big business interests had successfully convinced U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell to nullify the limits, but that ruling has been put on hold by a federal appellate court.


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week reinstated at least for the time being Montana’s campaign donation limits, with the panel of judges saying they need to see Lovell’s full reasoning for his decision.


Lovell, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, then issued a 38-page document that said he stood by his conclusion that the state’s limits were too low to allow effective campaigning, which is what Republicans had argued.


The law capped individual contributions to the governor’s race to $630 and contributions to a state legislative candidate to $160, although the amounts were adjusted for inflation after each election cycle. The law also limited the total amount political parties could contribute to a campaign—for example $22,600 for a gubernatorial candidate.


In June the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to declare unconstitutional Montana’s 100-year-old law prohibiting corporations from contributing to political candidates and committees, and in September a panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to overturn the state’s 77-year-old law prohibiting political parties from supporting judicial candidates. 

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Montana Campaign Donation Limits Reinstated By 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals (by Matt Gouras, Associated Press)

Doug Lair et al. v. James Murray (U.S. District Court, Montana) (pdf)

Another Longstanding Montana Campaign Funding Law Struck Down (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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