Breaking: Federal Court Strikes Down Many Montana Contribution Limits, Says Explanation Coming Later

Wow.  See this 5 page order, striking down Montana Code Annotated 13-37-216 in its entirety. The judge did note that plaintiffs did not challenge the aggregate limits on political committee [corrected] contributions in 13-27-218 which remains in effect.

It seems quite unusual for a judge to do this right before the election, and to do so without giving any reasoning (just a promise of reasoning to come later).  I expect Montana will go immediately to the Ninth Circuit for emergency relief, and judging from the last time a judge decided an important election question just before the election without giving any reasoning, there could well be an order staying this result, at least for this election.

Below the fold you can read the text of what’s now enjoined.

13-37-216. Limitations on contributions — adjustment. (1) (a) Subject to adjustment as provided for in subsection (4), aggregate contributions for each election in a campaign by a political committee or by an individual, other than the candidate, to a candidate are limited as follows:
(i) for candidates filed jointly for the office of governor and lieutenant governor, not to exceed $500;
(ii) for a candidate to be elected for state office in a statewide election, other than the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, not to exceed $250;
(iii) for a candidate for any other public office, not to exceed $130.
(b) A contribution to a candidate includes contributions made to the candidate’s committee and to any political committee organized on the candidate’s behalf.
(2) (a) A political committee that is not independent of the candidate is considered to be organized on the candidate’s behalf. For the purposes of this section, an independent committee means a committee that is not specifically organized on behalf of a particular candidate or that is not controlled either directly or indirectly by a candidate or candidate’s committee and that does not act jointly with a candidate or candidate’s committee in conjunction with the making of expenditures or accepting contributions.
(b) A leadership political committee maintained by a political officeholder is considered to be organized on the political officeholder’s behalf.
(3) All political committees except those of political party organizations are subject to the provisions of subsections (1) and (2). For purposes of this subsection, “political party organization” means any political organization that was represented on the official ballot at the most recent gubernatorial election. Political party organizations may form political committees that are subject to the following aggregate limitations, adjusted as provided for in subsection (4), from all political party committees:
(a) for candidates filed jointly for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, not to exceed $18,000;
(b) for a candidate to be elected for state office in a statewide election, other than the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, not to exceed $6,500;
(c) for a candidate for public service commissioner, not to exceed $2,600;
(d) for a candidate for the state senate, not to exceed $1,050;
(e) for a candidate for any other public office, not to exceed $650.
(4) (a) The commissioner shall adjust the limitations in subsections (1) and (3) by multiplying each limit by an inflation factor, which is determined by dividing the consumer price index for June of the year prior to the year in which a general election is held by the consumer price index for June 2002.
(b) The resulting figure must be rounded up or down to the nearest:
(i) $10 increment for the limits established in subsection (1); and
(ii) $50 increment for the limits established in subsection (3).
(c) The commissioner shall publish the revised limitations as a rule.
(5) A candidate may not accept any contributions, including in-kind contributions, in excess of the limits in this section.
(6) For purposes of this section, “election” means the general election or a primary election that involves two or more candidates for the same nomination. If there is not a contested primary, there is only one election to which the contribution limits apply. If there is a contested primary, then there are two elections to which the contribution limits apply.

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