Monday, October 04, 2004

Supreme Court Action Affirms States' Rights to Institute Low Contribution Limits

The U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing to an appeal brought by Montana Right to Life against a Ninth Circuit ruling which upheld the state's $100 contribution limits for non-statewide public office. The Court's action gives tacit approval to the Ninth Circuit's holding.

Montana has the lowest contribution limits of any state: (adjusted for inflation since the law's inception in 1994) $500 per individual per gubernatorial candidate per election; $250 per individual per candidate for other statewide office per election; $130 per individual per candidate for all other public office per election. The Ninth Circuit found that these limits did not interfere with a candidate's ability to run a campaign.

Twelve states currently have no contribution limits for individuals whatsoever (Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas). Other states have aristocratically high contribution limits (California's $21,200 limits for gubernatorial candidates and New York's $33,900 limits for governor's candidates in the general election come to mind).

The import of Montana Right to Life v. Eddleman and the Supreme Court's refusal to hear its appeal is that states are now on safe constitutional ground to institute limits at least as low as Montana's $100 limits. For those interested in rectifying the extreme influence which a tiny number of wealthy people have in deciding who serves in government, this comes as good news.

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