One state’s crusade to limit campaign contributions could have nationwide repercussions

Should Montana have to prove corruption to limit campaign contributions?

By Alan Greenblatt | Governing

Montana has spent more than a hundred years trying to keep a lid on campaign contributions. It is still trying.

Back around the dawn of the 20th century, the Anaconda Copper Co. and a cabal of “copper kings” ruled the roost in the Treasure State. One of their number, William A. Clark, actually bought himself a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1899; that body initially refused to seat him due to qualms about the bribery scheme. Clark’s plot and others led Montana citizens in 1912 to approve a corrupt practices act, barring all corporate spending in state elections. That law lasted until 2011, when it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that it interfered with free speech.

But Montana still had in place limits on the size of campaign contributions that could be given to candidates.


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