Ninth Circuit keeps Montana campaign finance law —for upcoming election

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled (PDF) Oct. 16 that it will keep Montana’s campaign contribution limits in place for the duration of the election season, extending a stay on a lower court decision. The appeals court ruled that changing the finance rules less than one month before election day and after absentee voting has already started would prove unfair to candidates who have followed these rules throughout the present campaign cycle. The court also held that because Montana’s campaign contribution limits are among the lowest in the country, removing that limit as a matter of free speech pursuant to the 2010 US Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission would drastically alter the playing field. American Tradition Partnership, one of the groups challenging the law, said that while the ruling is a setback, it intends to continue challenging the law and expects to “prevail in the end.”

The conflict in Montana is part of a larger movement that brings the controversial Citizens United decision under fire. The Supreme Court of Appeals for West Virginia last month struck down a campaign law that provided that a publicly financed candidate would receive matching governmental funds after a certain threshold was met for each dollar spent by a private candidate. Earlier that month, a federal appeals court struck down a Minnesota law that required disclosure of campaign contributions. In August, Nebraska’s high court also struck down its law that would have required the government to contribute to certain candidates to eliminate disparities between them and their opponents.

From Jurist, Oct. 17. Used with permission.