HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana lawmakers are considering raising campaign contribution limits for state candidates and allowing decisions on campaign finance violations to go to mediation, over the objections of the outgoing regulator who says the measure could affect a pending case and diminish his office’s independence.
The bill by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings, would increase how much money state candidates can receive from political parties, committees and individuals. Richmond said the measure is in response to a federal judge’s 2016 ruling that Montana’s low limits unconstitutionally restricted free speech.
“We, the group that worked on this bill, believe that these campaign contribution limits are reasonable and that the Legislature, because of the actions of the court, needs to set a policy for our contribution limits,” Richmond told the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.
The campaign contribution case Richmond referred to is not settled. An appeal of U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell’s decision to strike down Montana’s contribution limits is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which could reinstate them.