MT Attorney General’s Office appeals District Judge campaign contribution ruling

The state department of justice is filing an appeal to a federal judge striking down Montana’s campaign contribution limits. This ruling from District Judge Charles Lovell removes spending limits on anyone running for office in the state.

The election waits just over a month away.

Judge Lovell says he wanted to put the ruling out as quickly as possible to allow it to take affect for the end of this campaign season. Conservative groups who brought this lawsuit against Montana’s campaign contribution laws are hailing U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell’s decision.

Judge Lovell issued a short, five-page ruling on Wednesday. He writes the court and the parties all agreed to place this matter on an expedited schedule so that it will be resolved prior to this year’s election.

Lovell agreed with those filing the suit in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allows unlimited corporate political spending—saying that spending is protected as free speech.

His decision strikes down a provision making it unlawful someone to misrepresent a candidate if the attack is known to be false. And it removes spending limits—limits for individuals, political committees, political parties and corporations.

As of our deadline, the state Attorney General’s Office was working to file a stay in the case with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the ruling for now. The office of political practices is discussing with their lawyers how to exactly interpret the Lovell ruling.

American Tradition Partnership is one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the state’s laws. The group is responsible for other recent lawsuits striking Montana’s century-old Corrupt Practices Act and the state’s ban on partisan endorsements of judicial candidates.

Both suits were successful using Citizens United as their rationale. The limits that were struck down in this latest case range from one hundred sixty dollars that an individual can contribute to a state House candidate, up a total of almost $23 thousand dollars that a gubernatorial candidate can accept from all political party committees.

The law also limited aggregate donations from political parties. A candidate for governor, for instance, was limited to accepting a maximum of $22,600 from all political party committees.

Montana Director of American Tradition Partnership, Doug Lair said in a statement that “The old contributions limits were so low candidates had no choice but to grovel before special interests to get elected.”

An initiative on this November ballot seeks to make a nonbinding statement that corporations are not people and should not be able to donate to political campaigns–Initiative-166

Treasurer of the campaigning supporting that initiative CB Pearson calls this latest ruling absurd.

“All Montanans should be vitally concerned that an outside group, American Tradition Partnership has through litigation undermined all of our campaign finance laws and they won’t even say who is funding their efforts,” Pearson said. “We support the Attorney General’s efforts to get a stay on this decision, it’s got to be one of the worst campaign finance decisions in the history of Montana.”

Like it or not, Lovell’s decision is the new campaign contribution law of the land right now, with five weeks to go until voting day.

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