Free Speech For People has worked since 2014 to defend the state of Montana from wealthy and corporate interests challenging the historically low campaign contribution limits in the state. In October 2017, the low campaign contribution limits in Montana were upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing a previous lower court ruling on the matter. The Court ruled that the contribution limits, passed by voter initiative in 1994, were closely drawn to the state’s interest in preventing corruption. Following this decision, the defendants in the case, Lair v. Motl, filed a petition for rehearing en banc (i.e., with a larger panel of Ninth Circuit judges). On May 2, 2018, the Ninth Circuit decision was again affirmed as the petition for rehearing was denied, securing an important victory for the people of Montana.
Free Speech For People helped to defend Montana’s existing campaign contribution limits with a series of amicus briefs submitted in Lair v. Motl, including an October 2016 amicus brief, submitted with the Indian Law Resource Center and other partners, in which we argued in favor of maintaining Montana’s low campaign contribution limits to advance political equality and foster a representative government. As the amicus brief notes, the state of Montana currently has the highest percentage of Native American representation in state office, and one of the lowest statewide campaign contribution limits, adding to a growing body of research which demonstrates eliminating big money in politics reduces barriers to political participation for underrepresented communities and creates a healthy democracy for all.
To learn more about our work to defend state campaign contribution limits across the country, click here.