ATP Responds to 9th Circuit Stay in Montana Contribution Limit Case

HELENA, MT — American Tradition Partnership responded today to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to stay the ruling of U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell, who ruled in favor of the group and other plaintiffs in tossing out Montana’s political contribution limits last week as unconstitutionally low.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision means Montana’s limits, the lowest in the nation for state legislative candidates at $160, will be in effect at least until Judge Lovell releases his full opinion and the court can review his reasoning.

“This decision by the Ninth Circuit hands power back to Montana’s political insiders and powerful interests by denying candidates the ability to raise enough funds to challenge the status quo,” said ATP Montana Director Doug Lair. “While this is a setback for the First Amendment rights of all Montanans, we expect to prevail in the end as we have in our other challenges to the burden imposed by the state’s campaign finance regime.”

Judge Lovell in his order referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Randall v. Sorrell, which struck down Vermont’s campaign contribution limits as being too low to allow candidates to raise the funds necessary to run competitive campaigns. Low contribution limits have been cited by many experts as leading to high incumbent re-election rates – in the nearly 40 years since Congress first adopted contribution limits, the success rate for challengers to Congressional incumbents has been cut in half.

Montana’s individual contribution limit to candidates of $630 to the gubernatorial ticket, $310 to candidates for statewide office and $160 for candidates to other office

Limits on contributions to candidates by political party committees of $22,600 to the gubernatorial ticket, $8,150 to candidates for statewide office, $3,260 to candidates for Public Service Commission, $1,300 to candidates for State Senate and $800 to candidates for other offices.

Limits on contributions to candidates by political action committees of $630 to the gubernatorial ticket, $310 to candidates for statewide office and $160 for candidates to other office.

The case was Lair v. Murray, CV 12-12-H-CCL.  Judge Lovell’s order is attached as a PDF.

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