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Governor Bullock Statement on Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling

Ruling affirms Montana’s campaign contribution limits in end to years-long battle

Monday, October 23, 2017/Categories: Governor's Office/Tags:

Montana Governor Steve Bullock today issued the following statement on the landmark campaign finance ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Lair v. Motl, which upholds Montana’s campaign contribution limits. Governor Bullock led the effort to protect Montana’s campaign contribution limits as Attorney General in a predecessor case, Lair v. Bullock.

“This lawsuit, brought by the same attorney responsible for Citizens United, sought to open the floodgates of money in Montana elections by making it easier for out-of-state corporations to buy officeholders. I’m glad the federal courts upheld Montana’s limits on money in elections,” said Bullock. “For a century in Montana, winning an election for state office has meant going door to door and meeting face to face with everyday voters: democracy at its best. Today, we’re one step closer to keeping it that way. Elections should be decided by ‘we the people’ – not by corporations, millionaires, or wealthy special interests buying more television ads.”

The Lair case involves a challenge to the contribution limits for Montana elections. The Ninth Circuit’s decision resolves the latest in a string of activist lawsuits brought by out of state groups seeking to loosen Montana’s restrictions on money in politics.

The case dates back to Bullock’s time as Attorney General, when he defended the state’s limits. In 2012, a federal trial court struck down Montana’s contribution limits in the weeks before the 2012 general election. Afterward, a national political committee donated $500,000 to a Montana candidate for Governor, about five hundred times the limit before the court decision. The case went to the United States Court of Appeals for a decision and eventually returned to the federal trial court. In 2016, weeks before the primary election, the federal trial court again invalidated Montana’s contribution limits. Today’s decision reverses the trial court, and conclusively establishes that Montana’s limits are here to stay.

“This decision is a big deal,” Bullock continued. “Through a citizen initiative, Montanans chose to limit the amount of money that pours into politics in our state. Montanans have time and again chosen transparency and person-to-person campaigning over big, out-of-state money. With this decision, those protections are here to stay.”

The Lair case was brought by conservative activist and serial litigant James Bopp, the same lawyer responsible for the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court. The decision by the United States Court of Appeals is a significant defeat to efforts around the country to limit states’ ability to make choices about how to regulate their elections.

Since taking office, Governor Bullock has fought to keep dark money out of politics and championed measures to increase transparency in Montana’s elections.

  • Governor Bullock worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to pass the Disclose Act to require the disclosure of donors to independent group spending money on state-level elections.
  • Montana has since received an “A” rating on the 2016 national scorecard for disclosure practices governing direct contributions to state candidates, state political parties, and committees that support or oppose any kind of statewide ballet question from followthemoney.org,
  • As Attorney General, Bullock led the effort to preserve Montana’s 100-year-old Corrupt Practices Act, taking the case for the state’s citizen democracy all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. His office defended Montana’s campaign finance limits and disclosure laws against a wave of lawsuits filed by American Traditions Partnership and other dark money groups.
  • Governor Bullock has been called “the biggest threat to Citizens United,” and remains committed to ensuring Montana’s elections are the most transparent in the nation.
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