Montana’s Political Donation Limits Restored, For Now

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The Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Montana has a century-long history of strong campaign finance laws, so in the wake of Citizens United, conservative groups have made the state a front in their campaign to scale back regulations on campaign donations. But opponents of Citizens United won a small victory in Montana this week: The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a hold on a lower court ruling that struck downMontana’s campaign donation limits. The hold will stay in place through election day. Without the hold, the lower court ruling would have opened the doors to unlimited spending in state and local races.

The successful appeal comes after a series of defeats in Montana earlier this year. Courts struck down a law prohibiting attack ad creators from knowingly making false statements as well as a ban on partisan endorsements of judges. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear arguments on a Montana law that prohibited corporate donations to candidates and political parties because they had already decided the issue in Citizens United.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) and Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger (R) in a video response to the Supreme Court's June decision not to hear testimony on a Montana campaign finance law. Click the image to watch their video.

Montana District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell, who issued the lower court ruling put on hold, wrote that “[m]uch has been made of whether striking Montana’s contribution limits is good policy and good for Montana voters. This case, though, is not about policy. It is about following the law that the United States Supreme Court set out.”

Opponents of Citizens United in Montana are seeking to challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling on election day with a state ballot initiative, I-166. The initiative would establish “a state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings, and charges Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, to implement that policy.”

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