Appeals Court Upholds Montana Campaign Disclosure Law - State and Federal Communications

August 13, 2019  •  

Appeals Court Upholds Montana Campaign Disclosure Law

The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building in San Francisco

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Montana law requiring groups to register with the state as political committees if they run any kind of ad that refers to a candidate or ballot issue within 60 days of an election.

The state law requires any group to register and file disclosures once it spends $250 or more on ads or mailers referring to a candidate, political party, or ballot issue within 60 days of an election.

The National Association for Gun Rights challenged the reporting requirements as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

The association argued the law’s definition of electioneering communication was too broad and should apply only to materials that advocate directly for or against a candidate.

However, the appeals court said disclosure requirements should not be limited only to regulation of express advocacy.

The Montana law was meant to shine a light on campaign related spending by groups that don’t disclose their spending or donors.

The appeals court did strike down a portion of the Montana law requiring groups to have a treasurer who is a registered voter in Montana.

The court found that requirement was not substantially related to any important governmental interest.

The National Association of Gun Rights has not made a decision on whether to appeal the ruling.

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