A national gun rights group has filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging Montana’s campaign finance law as a violation of free speech. The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) [advocacy website], a Virginia-based organization that wishes to send mailings to Montana voters, filed the suit in the US District Court for the District of Montana [official website] last Friday. They claim that Montana’s new law that every mailing sent to a citizen’s home that includes the name or image of a candidate for political office constitutes an “electioneering communication” and requires the sender to register as a political committee and report monies spent on mailings is unconstitutionally broad and violates freedom of speech [AP report]. The rights group wants to be able to send mailings outlining various candidate’s stances on gun regulations without being subject to the restrictions and regulations placed on candidate-supporting entities.
Montana’s campaign finance laws have long faced legal scrutiny. In October 2012 the US Supreme Court [official website] rejected a challenge [JURIST report] to limits on the political contributions that donors can make to candidates running for Montana state offices. Montana’s campaign finance law [MCA § 13-37-216] limits the individual contributions to gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates to $500 and contributions to candidates for other statewide offices to $250. Earlier that month the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] had temporarily stayed an injunction [JURIST reports] that blocked Montana’s campaign finance law. In June of that year the Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] Montana’s century-old campaign finance law known as the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act [PPL backgrounder] as invalid under the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court’s decision overturned a ruling [JURIST report] by the Montana Supreme Court [official website] that upheld the Corrupt Practices Act.