The ongoing saga of unlimited money flowing into Montana races continues. Although the 9th Circuit reinstated contribution limits while it evaluates the court appeal, a candidate could accept unlimited money for six days.
As the AP is reporting, the Montana Republican Party took advantage of the opportunity to write $500,000 check to Hill’s campaign, more than doubling the $415,000 he had available to spend at the beginning of September. (He had only raised $1.1 million over the last two years, so a $500,000 check is a big deal.) The Republican Party also gave $30,000 to Attorney General candidate Tim Fox, but failed to get any donors who wanted to give big checks to the spelling-challenged superintendent candidate Sandy Welch.
The party’s Executive Director Bowen Greenwood got ahead of the news by acknowledging the large check today, but it would have become public knowledge next Monday, when this month’s campaign finance reports are due. As it is, we’ll have to wait until Monday to discover the donors behind the Party’s $500,000 check. (Political parties could always receive unlimited donations.) If the backers hail from out-of-state, funneling the check through a state party was devious, since this half-million will show up as an in-state contribution when Chuck Johnson does his next article tracking the money. The Rick Hill campaign might get 90% of its contributions from Montanans, but the state Party gets 85% of its money from out-of-state.
The Bullock campaign came out swinging, calling it an “illegal” contribution. At tonight’s debate, the two candidates sparred over whether “illegal” is the proper term, since Lovell’s decision was law for six days. Rather than getting mired over whether the contribution was legal, Bullock should stick to the moral high ground that comes so easily after standing up to fight Citizens United. The attorney general has a long record in fighting to keep Montana’s elections clean, limiting the influence of wealthy, out-of-state and corporate donors. Hill is using a six-day legal loophole and anonymous donors to buy Montana elections.
*This post was edited to incorporate the legal/illegal controversy during the evening’s debate.