The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that it will keep Montana's campaign contribution limits in place for the duration of the election season, extending a stay on a lower court decision [JURIST reports]. The appeals court ruled that changing the finance rules less than one month before election day and after absentee voting has already started would prove unfair to candidates who have followed these rules throughout the present campaign cycle. The court also held that because Montana's campaign contribution limits are among the lowest in the country, removing that limit as a matter of free speech pursuant to the 2010 US Supreme Court [official website] decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [opinion; JURIST report] would drastically alter the playing field. In choosing to extend its stay of the district court's injunction against the law, the court evaluated the following factors:
(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.American Tradition Partnership [advocacy website], one of the groups challenging the law, said [press release] that while the ruling is a setback, it intends to continue challenging the law and expects to "prevail in the end."
The conflict in Montana is part of a larger movement [JURIST report] that brings the controversial Citizens United decision under fire. Last month the Supreme Court of Appeals for West Virginia [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a campaign law that provided that a publicly financed candidate would receive matching governmental funds after a certain threshold was met for each dollar spent by a private candidate. Earlier that month, a federal appeals court struck down [JURIST report] a Minnesota law that required disclosure of campaign contributions. In August, Nebraska's high court also struck down [JURIST report] its law that would have required the government to contribute to certain candidates to eliminate disparities between them and their opponents.