Ninth Circuit Finds Montana’s Contribution Limits Constitutional


WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision finding that Montana’s base campaign contribution limits are constitutional, reversing a 2015 decision made by a federal district court. The case is about the state’s limits on the amount of money individuals, political action committees and political parties are permitted to contribute to candidates for state elective office. Montana voters originally approved the contribution limits by ballot initiative back in 1994.

“This decision protects the viability of contribution limits nationwide," Tara Malloy, senior director, appellate litigation and strategy at Campaign Legal Center (CLC) "The prospect that large, unlimited contributions could be given to candidates for political favors should be self-evident. This is a good decision by the Ninth Circuit in a challenging environment for campaign finance laws nationally.”

The appeals court held that Montana has a valid interest in preventing pay-to-play activity tied to large campaign contributions, and that its contribution limits are a “closely drawn” way to achieve that goal. The courts have long recognized the constitutionality of campaign contribution limits. This lawsuit is part of a continuing legal strategy to undermine all campaign finance laws, which CLC has been fighting on multiple fronts. CLC filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit in October 2016 urging reversal of the lower court’s decision, and had previously filed a brief in 2014 when the case was first up on appeal.

Learn more about the case Lair v. Motl.