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COPP News

Montana's Candidate Contribution Limits Confirmed by U.S. Supreme Court as Constitutional

Supreme Court Denies Request to Hear Lair v. Mangan

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELASE

Helena, Mont.— Today the Supreme Court noted without dissent to not hear the Montana campaign contribution case, Lair v. Mangan (SCOTUS Case No. 18-149).

The Supreme Court’s decision today denied Mr. Lair’s final opportunity to strike down Montana’s contribution limits as unconstitutional.  Montana’s contribution limits have been upheld as a “marginal restriction”[1] on an individual’s free speech and right to discuss and associate with candidates.

Montana's candidate contribution limitations were enacted by a 1994 citizen’s initiative that created limits on the amount that individuals, political committees and political parties can contribution directly to candidates.  These limits were first challenged and upheld in 2003 in Montana Right to Life Ass’n v. Eddleman. 

In 2011, Montana’s contribution limits were again challenged in Lair v. Murry.  The challenge worked its way up and down the courts, and in May 2016—just prior to the primary elections—Montana’s limits were struck down as unconstitutional. 

With today's Supreme Court decision, Montana's limits are confirmed as constitutional.

“Montana’s limits leave candidates with the ability to conduct an effective campaign for office,” said the Commissioner of Political Practice’s Chief Legal Counsel, Jaime MacNaughton. “Our limits allow individuals to associate with the candidate of their choice through their own speech, volunteering, discussing their merits with their neighbors, and through making their voice heard at the ballot box.  Montana secured a victory today for transparency and accountability in our government and elected officials.” 

The Commissioner would like to thank the Montana Attorney General's office whose dedicated  attorneys who have defended Montanans’ rights over the past sixteen years.   

The mission of the Commissioner of Political Practices is to promote confidence, transparency, and accountability in Montana’s democratic processes.  Additional information about campaign finance disclosure requirements are available on the Commissioner of Political Practices’ website.

 

 

[1]  See e.g. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 20-21.

Lobbying Threshold Proposal Notice: Public Comment Period

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The Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) has propsed to amend the threshold amount that a lobbyist can earn to be required to register as a lobbyist. The COPP proposes the amount increase from the 2017 amount of $2,550 to $2,600 for 2019.

Public comment is open; If persons who are directly affected by the proposed action wish to express their data, views, or arguments orally or in writing at a public hearing, they must make written request for a hearing and submit this request along with any written comments to Scott Cook  no later than 5:00 p.m., December 11, 2018. More information is available at this link. Scott Cook can be reached via mail (P.O. Box 202401, 1209 Eighth Avenue, Helena, Montana, 59620-2401), called at (406) 444-2942, via fax at (406) 444-1643, or via or e-mail at scook3@mt.gov.

Commissioner Responds to Concerns Over Political Robotexts

Texts without Attribution Violate Montana Law

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The Commissioner of Political Practice’s (COPP) office has received an increasing number of complaints about unsolicited political robotexts over the past few days.

 

“We’ve received one formal complaint and numerous other complaints about campaign-related text messages,” said Commissioner Jeff Mangan. “Complaints have come in about federal, state, and local political texts and concern the campaign communications of candidates, political parties, and committees.”

 

Montana law requires that all election communications, electioneering communications, and independent expenditures include an attribution disclosing who the communication is funded by, and contact information for the source (Mont. Code Ann. § 13-35-225).  The Commissioner will enforce the requirements of the attribution laws on all political communications including text messages.

 

Candidates and committees should be aware of a separate federal law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which regulates telephone communications.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces the TCPA, and Montanans can file a complaint with

Commissioner of Political Practices Addresses Concerns Surrounding Absentee Ballot Mailers

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Mailers urging Montanans to apply for an absentee ballot—regardless of whether they were already registered to vote by mail— have prompted many concerned Montanans to reach out to the Commissioner of Political Practice’s office. “We’ve had inquiries about the funding behind the mailers, possible political nature of the messaging, voter privacy, and the use of the state seal,” said Commissioner Jeff Mangan. “In reviewing these concerns, the mailers do not appear to violate Montana’s campaign finance reporting and disclosure laws.” 

 

The funding for the mailers is traceable through the Federal Election Commission and does not come from a dark money source. Under Montana law, the mailers do not qualify as an election or electioneering communication because they do not support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue, nor do they refer to a candidate, political party or ballot issue on the November ballot.  Rather, the mailers encourage registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot. Other states, such as Wisconsin, have also had third-party groups send voters absentee ballot registration materials that contained confusing information.

 

New American Jobs Fund, a federally registered super political action committee, sent the Montana mailers and used a Voter File purchased from the Secretary of

Montana's Campaign Contribution Limits Upheld

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On May 2, 2018 a Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals panel denied the petition for rehearing en banc on behalf of the Court. Montana’s campaign contribution limits are once again upheld and remain in place. The Commissioner extends his thanks to Assistant Attorney General Matthew T. Cochenour, as well as to the Attorney General's Office, for their continued work and support in this matter.

 

Please find the order in No. 16-35424 - Lair v. Motl, attached to this release.

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