Supreme Court Keeps Montana Campaign-Contribution Limits in Place

In this Oct. 4, 2018 photo, the U.S. Supreme Court is seen at sunset in Washington .(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court rejected a challenge Monday to Montana’s base campaign contribution limits, which the Ninth Circuit upheld over a year ago.

The Campaign Legal Center explained in a statement this morning that base contribution limits were adopted in Montana by ballot initiative in 1994. The limits allow the state to cap how much money individuals, political action committees and political parties contribute to candidates for state elective office.

“Declining to hear this case protects the viability of contribution limits nationwide as a tool for state lawmakers to combat pay-to-play politics,” said Paul Smith, vice president at Campaign Legal Center. “The prospect that large, unlimited contributions could be given to candidates as a quid pro quo for political favors should be self-evident. For that reason, the courts have long recognized the constitutionality of campaign contribution limits, and today they represent one of the few remaining checks on actual and perceived corruption in the campaign process.

Calling the Ninth Circuit’s decision in the case “well-reasoned and consistent with 40 years of precedent,” the group said the challenge to Montana’s limits was “part of a continuing legal strategy to undermine all campaign finance laws, which CLC has been fighting on the federal, state and local level.”

The high court also turned down a gun-rights case Monday that subtly challenged the legitimacy of Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s appointment by President Donald Trump.

In the underlying case, former Nevada Senate contender Barry Michaels brought a suit to add a self-defense exception to the federal law barring convicted felons from firearm ownership.

The suit named the U.S. attorney general as defendant, however, a role that since November has been filled by former Justice Department Chief of Staff Whitaker.

Represented by the firm Goldstein & Russell, Michaels claimed that Whitaker’s appointment caused a constitutional crisis that would not allow for the court to properly address matters at hand. Michaels suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein be named in Whitaker’s place instead. 

The onetime political hopeful has for years been a small-business owner but is barred from gun ownership due to nonviolent federal convictions including mail and securities fraud.

Per its custom, the court did not comment on the decision to deny Michaels a writ of certiorari Monday.

The cases were two of dozens rejected this morning by the justices. In a separate opinion, however, Justices Samuel Alito balked at his colleagues’ decision to remand a capital murder case, White v. Kentucky. 

In the case, petitioner Larry Lamont White was sentenced to death in 2014 for a rape and murder that occurred 31 years earlier in Kentucky.

Louisville police finally cracked the case based on DNA found in the panties of victim Pamela Armstrong, along with a cigar discarded by White. 

Granting White’s petition this morning, the Supreme Court found that his case deserves another look in light of Moore v. Texas, a 2017 case where the justices blocked the execution of an intellectually disabled killer.

Alito noted in his dissent, however, that the Moore ruling predates by almost five months the decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court in White’s case. 

“I would accordingly deny the petition for the reasons,” Alito wrote, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. 

White’s attorney Kathleen Schmidt meanwhile thanked the majority for their order.

“Nearly 20 years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for the intellectually disabled, in part out of concern that intellectually disabled defendants are more likely to be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit,” Schmidt said. “We have similar concerns in this case, and we are grateful that the Supreme Court has remanded the case to ensure that all issues in the case are fully and properly litigated.”

Though the justices did not otherwise take up any cases this morning, they did invite U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco to file briefs on behalf of the United States in two disputes 

In its case with CSX Transportation Inc., the Alabama Department of Revenue asks whether a state can maintain a sales and use tax exemption for fuel used by vessels that transport goods interstate. The case also implicates whether this is possible without extending the same exemption to rail carriers. 

The second case pits Toshiba against the Automotive Industry Pension. Francisco will help the United States answer whether the rules and penalties of Securities Exchange Act apply – without exception – to foreign issuers who have no presence in U.S. securities markets.

%d bloggers like this: