Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court ruling and upheld Montana’s campaign contribution limits. Free Speech For People had submitted a series of amicus briefs in support of Montana’s limits as the case developed in the Ninth Circuit.
The lower court had ruled that Montana had no legitimate interest in preventing corruption or its appearance, and that, even if it did, its contribution limits were too low to be “closely drawn” to that interest. Today, the Ninth Circuit panel ruled 2-1 that Montana had adequately established its interest in preventing corruption, and that its contribution limits, while low compared to national numbers, were high compared to the cost of campaigning in Montana.
The limits were passed by voter initiative in 1994, and have been amended since then by the Montana legislature. The Ninth Circuit panel cited evidence supporting the state’s judgment about the risk of actual or perceived quid pro quo corruption was “not illusory,” and confirmed the limits were closely drawn to the interest in preventing corruption because they focus narrowly on the state’s interest, leave contributors free to affiliate with candidates, and allow candidates to amass sufficient resources to wage effective campaigns. As the panel explained, “We should not – and indeed cannot – be in the business of fine tuning contribution limits for states. These judgments are for state lawmakers to make (including voters acting through the initiative process).”
Download the final opinion [PDF]