Federal Court Strikes Down Montana Campaign Spending Limit [DOCUMENT]
U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell has struck down Montana's campaign spending limits as being a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In his decision, Judge Lovell writes:
The Court finds that Defendants have failed to prove that Montana's campaign contribution limits further the important state interest of combating quid pro quo corruption or its appearance. On these grounds alone, Montana Code Annotated§ 13-137-216(1), (3), and (5) (2011) are in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Missoula Attorney Quentin Rhoades, who recently unsuccessfully defended Montana legislator Art Wittich in a political corruption trial in Helena, said he and Wittich are both gratified over Judge Lovell's decision.
"The court ruled that the contribution limits that have been set by the State of Montana are unconstitutional, and they interfere with people's political and first amendment rights," Rhoades said. "Therefore, he struck them down and ruled them as unenforceable. This is very important with respect to Mr. Wittich because up to this point, (Commissioner of Political Practices) Jonathan Motl has been holding him up as an example of the worst political corruption in the western hemisphere...or at least in Montana."
The court also ruled on the issue of quid pro quo in political campaigns in Montana.
"Part of what the district court held was that there is no evidence that there has ever been any quid pro quo corruption in Mr. Wittich's case, or any other," he said. "This decision points out that this argument that Mr. Motl has been using against any Republican in sight that their votes have been bought and paid for is ludicrous."
From the decision, Lovell writes:
These legislators are dyed-in-the-wool when it comes to these issues, and their positions are not, nor seemingly ever will be, for sale. Thus, the Court is simply unable to conclude that receiving National Right to Work's assistance in any way affected the candidates' voting. Viewing these circumstances, the public would more reasonably conclude that corruption is nearly absent from Montana's electoral system-the evidence shows that despite a hand-full of opportunities, legislators chose to keep their noses clean. In short, none of Defendants' examples demonstrate a real harm to the election process or to the public's interest in that process, as is required by the Ninth Circuit.
Rhoades pointed out that Lovell's ruling is subject to appeal by the State of Montana.
"The State of Montana has an opportunity to appeal this ruling," he said. "They have shown a willingness to .appeal these kids if rulings in the past and by all means, just as Mr. Wittich took advantage of his right to appeal, so the state will as well."
KGVO News has reached out to Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl for a comment, but that call has not yet been returned.