Posted: Jan 29, 2013 7:53 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Montana lawmakers are grappling with some major changes to the state's campaign finance laws; through a series of court cases Montana's campaign finance laws recently saw dramatic changes.
Corporations can now spend unlimited amounts of cash buying ads, certain political groups can hide their donors, and the state's contribution limits are being challenged.
With the landscape of political finance in flux, legislators on both sides of the aisle see this session as an opportunity.
MT State Representative Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls) wants to increase the amount that people can donate to a candidate.
Fitzpatrick said, "My bill is an attempt to level the playing field, so to speak, to give candidates the ability to raise enough money to compete with some of these third party expenditures which are coming to dominate our elections."
Republican legislators have several bills aimed at revising campaign finance laws.
MT State Representative Scott Reichner (R-Big Fork) wants to essentially eliminate restrictions and allow a political committee or party to donate unlimited amounts of money to a candidate.
He says his bill is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow corporate money into elections.
Reichner said, "The Supreme Court has spoken, so you may not like the Supreme Court's decision, there are a lot of decisions that the Supreme Court has made that I don't like, but it's the law of the land."
While House Republicans have not taken a caucus position on any specific bill, House Democrats are working on a package of bills which would limit donations and crack down on "dark money" groups.
MT State Representative Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula) said, "We want to make sure that elections are in the hands of Montanans. We want to make sure that it's not left only to the wealthy, or out of state contributors. We want to make sure that the people in this state are the ones who make the decisions."
There are several other proposals on the table and in order for the bills to make it anywhere, they are going to need support from Republicans in both Houses and Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.