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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Officials Seek To Delay Implementation Of Campaign Finance Ruling

The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess
Montana Public Radio
The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices is asking a federal court to put on hold a ruling that would allow political parties to donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.

On Tuesday, a U.S. District Court judge in Montana struck down limits on contributions to candidates. The judge said the limits were unconstitutional. When that happened, Montana’s old contribution limit laws went into effect, except for the laws capping how much a political party can give.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl says he spoke with the Attorney General’s office and they will ask the judge for a stay. That would restore the current limits on political party contributions for 2016.

"The reason you have limits is to create a situation where candidates, political committees, and the public have some certainty for how elections should be funded," Motl says. "If you don’t have limits you are into the possibility that you could have incredible amounts of special interest money coming into the state."

Indiana-based attorney James Bopp, who represented some of the plaintiffs in the case and initiated the Citizens United lawsuit, says there is no evidence that limiting the amount political parties can give will negatively impact candidates seeking election.

"It is really ridiculous to think that a political party would corrupt its own candidate for a promised vote one way or another. Political parties are simpatico with their candidate, not seeking to corrupt them."

Before Tuesday’s ruling, state law capped total contributions from political party committees to candidates in amounts ranging from $850 per election for a state house candidate to just over $23,000 for a gubernatorial candidate.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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