Supreme Court Declines to Hear Montana Case, Keeping Contribution Limits in Place


WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in a challenge to Montana’s base contribution limits, allowing a Ninth Circuit Court decision to stand. The Ninth Circuit ruled in October 2017 that the law is constitutional. Base contribution limits are a state’s cap 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.

“Declining to hear this case protects the viability of contribution limits nationwide as a tool for state lawmakers to combat pay-to-play politics,” said Paul Smith, vice president at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “The prospect that large, unlimited contributions could be given to candidates as a quid pro quo for political favors should be self-evident. For that reason, the courts have long recognized the constitutionality of campaign contribution limits, and today they represent one of the few remaining checks on actual and perceived corruption in the campaign process. Although the courts have created a challenging environment for campaign finance laws nationally, the Ninth Circuit decision was well-reasoned and consistent with forty years of precedent, and the Supreme Court rightly declined to intervene.”

This lawsuit is part of a continuing legal strategy to undermine all campaign finance laws, which CLC has been fighting on the federal, state and local level. 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.