HELENA – As state lawyers Thursday asked federal courts to temporarily block a ruling that wiped out Montana’s dollar limits on campaign donations, at least one candidate was already telling donors they can contribute unlimited funds – for now.

The Missoulian State Bureau obtained a recording of a voicemail from state Rep. Champ Edmunds, R-Missoula, in which he said donors have “a limited window” to make donations “for any amount, for any candidate.”

“Right now there are no campaign finance limits, so if you know of anybody that can write checks, you might want to give them a call,” Edmunds said in the voicemail on Wednesday.

Edmunds confirmed Thursday that he’s been calling potential Republican donors and fellow candidates to tell them about the court decision.

U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell of Helena on Wednesday struck down most of Montana’s limits on what people, political parties and political action committees can give to state candidates in Montana, saying they are an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights.

The decision voided limits put in place by voters in 1994. A coalition of individuals and business and Republican Party groups had filed suit to challenge the limits.

The state Justice Department asked Lovell late Wednesday and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday to stay or block the effect of the ruling, while the state appeals it to the Circuit Court.

Lovell gave the plaintiffs’ coalition until Monday to respond – thus leaving his ruling intact at least through the weekend, unless the 9th Circuit Court issues a stay.

***

State asks to stay contribution-limit ruling and Montana’s political parties had varied reactions Thursday to the ruling.

The state Democratic and Republican parties said they’ve informed candidates that the limits have been abolished for now, and that donors, if they choose, can make unlimited contributions to state candidates.

The Democratic Party, however, hopes that further legal action will restore the contribution limits, said party spokesman Chris Saeger.

“We cannot have limitless spending on elections in Montana,” added Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, a co-chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “This is absolutely insane, and I think every Democratic legislative candidate in the state knows that.”

Attorney General Steve Bullock, who’s running for governor and whose office is challenging Lovell’s ruling, said through a spokesman Thursday that he won’t accept donations above the old $630 limit, which was struck down.

Bullock, a Democrat, denounced the ruling on Wednesday as “destructive,” and said it “put Montana’s elections up for auction to the highest bidder.”

Rick Hill, Bullock’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race, is reviewing Lovell’s ruling and hasn’t decided whether his campaign will accept contributions above the old limits, said spokesman Brock Lowrance.

Lowrance said if Hill is elected governor, he’ll work with the 2013 Legislature to establish a “solution that is constitutional” on campaign donations and possible limits. Through early September, Bullock had raised $1.4 million in campaign funds and Hill $1.2 million.

Edmunds, the Missoula legislator, said he thinks the ruling makes sense, because it allows candidates who aren’t well-known to raise money more easily, from fewer donors.

“When you’re a new guy, a lot of people don’t think you’re going to win, and it’s hard to find people to support you,” he said Thursday. “Now, the people that you do find, they may be able to support you more, if they have no limits.”

(11) comments

Hayek
Hayek

People with money are always going to use it for what they want, contribution limits do nothing to keep the wealthy from gaining influence. If they can't give to candidates they will give to super PACs and if we outlaw those they will find a new way. There is no enforceable law to solve this problem that doesn't blatantly disregard people's right to do what they want with the money they have earned.

So why not let people just give what they want to candidates? It ensure everyone has their free speech rights, the freedom to do what they want with their own money AND it would clean up some of these races. There would be no need for super PACs which complicate politics and make campaigns even more dirty then they already are. Super PACs say the things that even campaigns wont, it would bring a little honesty back to politics.

Still Here
Still Here

Wow, this is fun, Jace, Money pays for influence. What would you do for money? If I give old Chump $1000.00, don't you think he would answer my phone calls? If I gave him $10,000.00 don't you think that he would listen to me about what vote would best help me. Age old American political problem, Big money, wealth, verses the will of the people.

idiot state
idiot state

Walter is right-the Democrats simply don't like free speech when it applies to those on the other side. They've had free rein in that state forever-big labor union contributions and the unions' stranglehold on the government. Now Steve Bullock and his Democratic corrupt pals will have to march to the tune of federal law and the Supreme Court. Look at the Democrats squeal like pigs-it's a delightful thing to hear!!!

Yellowstone
Yellowstone

This makes me sick to my stomach. The principle of one person one vote is being thrown out in favor of one dollar one vote. Whoever can afford the biggest megaphone wins. That is bad for democracy. The Montana Legislature was full of baffoons last session. From the bill that was introduced to say that global warming was actually beneficial to Montana to the legislator singing on the floor to the tune of Home on the Range and changing the verse to say "where the buffalo don't roam". They made fools of themselves and now they'll solicit unlimited campaigns to drown out the voice of average citizens who wants someone to represent them.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Not about free speech. It is about who has the most money and who can afford to buy that all important advertising. What this ruling is saying is that if you have supporters who have lots of money then you deserve to be elected. Of course I know from facing this challenge in my public service career in the 90's, that to get money you have to make promises and dometimes when you get behind the desk after election day and all the facts become apparent, things are not quite as simple as they first seemed. So, it is not about free speech. Nice catch phrase there conservatives who support this junk, it is about buying elections. I want a level playing field and the only reason that is hard for you guys is you are not about fair...you are about corrupt....

getuptodate
getuptodate

I sincerely hope that this man never gets elected again! He did not do one good thing for Montana during the last session. All he did was vote straight party line. He even voted against House Joint Resolution 5 establishing a Developmental Disabilities Appreciation Week (http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0211W$BLAC.VoteTabulation?P_VOTE_SEQ=H250&P_SESS=20111 & http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0211W$BLAC.VoteTabulation?P_VOTE_SEQ=H281&P_SESS=20111) and other important services even though he himself and very close family member(s) of his have disabilities.

It's time to wake up Missoula and not send this man back to Helena, he does not serve the peoples best interest. Anyone who thinks he did a good job has their heads buried in the sand!

JaceHolyoak
JaceHolyoak

Champ Edmunds does a great job of representing Montana. I am 18 and I live in Lolo and I am proud to say that Champ Edmunds is my representative. He doesn't vote straight party lines look to the oil and gas revenue for schools. That is bipartisan legislation that he was a main proponent for last session. That isn't the only legislation either. He is completely right on this point. No contribution limits=freedom of speech!

Aberdeen
Aberdeen

Edmunds meets the classic definition of a "carpetbagger" - he doesn't even live in HD 100.

Still Here
Still Here

Wow Scoop, You really should look at the bills the Mr. Champ Edmonds sponsored in the last legislative session, great legislator. He Mr. Edmonds is the best the GOP can put out there they will again be the laughing stock of the Country of the with their stupid, time wasting legislation, fits right up there with Birther Bob. You really think that eliminating campaign donations. Lets hand our States rights, to the highest bidder.

walter12
walter12

The Dems sure do not like competition in the money arena. But they love all the money that they get from the public service and school unions, don't they?

Scoop
Scoop

Edmunds is a great legislator. The Missoulian, along with the progressive democrat establishment, has been trying to undermine his reelection from the start. Mainstream Missoulian's know better - he is a common sense voice for jobs, growth and limiting intrusive government.

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