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HOUSE BILL NO. 451
INTRODUCED BY H. HARPER
A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE REASONABLE SPENDING FOR RESPONSIVE GOVERNMENT ACT; SETTING MANDATORY CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURE LIMITS FOR STATEWIDE, DISTRICT COURT, PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION DISTRICT, AND LEGISLATIVE OFFICES; PROVIDING PROCEDURES AND PENALTIES FOR ENFORCEMENT; AND AMENDING SECTIONS 13-35-107, 13-37-126, AND 13-37-127, MCA."
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
NEW SECTION. Section 1. Short title. [Sections 1 through 6] may be cited as the "Reasonable Spending for Responsive Government Act".
NEW SECTION. Section 2. Purpose and findings. (1) In enacting [sections 1 through 6], the legislature finds and declares the following:
(a) Montana citizens traditionally participate in their government at a remarkably high level. However, spending levels prevalent in today's political campaigns may alienate citizens from their government, may tarnish the integrity of election processes, and may eventually erode the people's willingness to continue their high level of civic participation.
(b) (i) Campaign spending for statewide and legislative races in Montana has increased dramatically.
(ii) Accepting the premise that campaign contributions are equivalent to spending, total contributions to both general election candidates for governor skyrocketed from $437,794 in 1976 to $2,159,444 in 1992, almost a 500% increase or a 220% increase after adjusting for inflation.
(iii) In contested state legislative races, the average cost to win has increased at an alarming rate:
1980 1992 1994
Senate $5,300.48 $8,327.93 $13,250.25
House 2,610.11 4,496.88 6,066.89
(c) (i) Unchecked increases in campaign spending undermine public confidence and trust in the electoral processes and the republican form of government. For Montanans in particular, these increases cast a dark shadow of doubt on the integrity of a citizen legislature.
(ii) In 1994, almost 25% of the state senate candidates who won contested races spent over $20,000, approximately four times the amount that a state senator would receive in salary for an entire legislative session.
(iii) Campaign spending to win a state senate seat has gone as high as $36,000, over seven times the salary of this office for a regular legislative session.
(d) (i) Campaign spending establishes a minimum price tag for elected office and profoundly influences the outcome of elections. In Montana, as elsewhere, the candidate who raises and spends the most money is overwhelmingly favored to win.
(ii) Between 1980 and 1996, in over 90% of Montana's contested statewide partisan races, the candidate who spent the most money won the office.
(iii) Potential candidates, intimidated by the level of fundraising required to compete at the level of campaign spending typical in today's politics, choose not to run. Consequently, Montana voters are deprived of the diversity among candidates that is both fundamental and essential to a healthy democracy. Reasonable campaign spending limits enable more candidates to seek office, increasing the quantity, depth, and diversity of ideas presented to the public.
(e) (i) Voters lose confidence in their elected officials when they believe that money has more influence on election outcomes than their votes do.
(ii) A majority of voters in the Rocky Mountain region believe that people contribute to political campaigns "because they hope to have more access and influence over . . . candidates".
(iii) Over 80% of the voters surveyed in the Rocky Mountain region agree with the statement, "Most elected officials are not really in touch with the problems of average people."
(f) (i) Montana voters, for the most part, do not use campaign contributions as a vehicle for their participation in our democracy.
(ii) Less than 1/3 of 1% of Montana's registered voters contributed $500 or more to any candidate in 1992. However, those contributions composed almost 30% of the total amount contributed to all candidates in 1992.
(iii) Less than 1% of Montana's registered voters contributed $200 or more to any candidate in 1992. However, those contributions composed 43% of the total amount contributed to candidates in 1992.
(iv) Less than 3% of Montana's registered voters contributed $35 or more to any candidate for office in 1992. However, those contributions composed more than 58% of the total amount contributed to candidates in 1992.
(v) Clearly, over 97% of Montana's voters did not participate in the 1992 electoral process by contributing as much as $35 or more to any candidate for statewide or legislative office.
(g) At a time when policymakers are striving to limit government spending, the unrestrained growth in campaign spending for elected government office creates suspicions about and gives rise to the appearance of corruption in our democratic processes. All attempts to root out that appearance by limiting campaign contributions have failed because of the upward spiral of increased campaign spending.
(h) The least distorted and most instructive channels of campaign communication are inexpensive and often free. Debates, call-in programs, local interviews, door-to-door visits in legislative districts, and other forms of direct voter contact that are not dependent on money offer information in greater depth and detail. Expanded use of these low-cost communication methods, stimulated by the adoption of reasonable spending limits, benefits political discourse by increasing candidates' direct engagement with and accountability to the voters. Reasonable limits on campaign spending would assist, rather than impede, voters' access to candidates and ability to make informed choices among candidates.
(2) The purposes of [sections 1 through 6] are:
(a) to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption in the electoral process by:
(i) restoring public confidence and trust in the electoral process and in the ability of voters to affect this process;
(ii) increasing the likelihood that the outcome of an election is determined by a candidate's merit, not by a candidate's fundraising ability;
(iii) reducing the ability of a handful of voters to skew election results through the contribution of money;
(iv) decreasing the likelihood that candidates will be outspent by substantial amounts, thereby encouraging qualified candidates to run for office; and
(v) limiting the ability of wealthy candidates to use a personal fortune or a family fortune to outspend opponents disproportionately;
(b) to protect the integrity and appearance of integrity of statewide, judicial, and legislative elected officials by:
(i) ensuring that officeholders solicit and act upon the opinions and interests of constituents, regardless of the ability of constituents to make campaign contributions;
(ii) protecting officeholders from campaign fundraising pressures that could influence or appear to influence their official behavior; and
(iii) reducing the pressures on officeholders to respond to the interests of substantial campaign contributors, thereby protecting the rights of those citizens who do not or cannot contribute to campaigns;
(c) to further the equal protection rights of all Montana citizens, as candidates and as voters, to participate in the electoral process by:
(i) encouraging candidates to limit the skyrocketing costs of campaigns, thereby opening the electoral process to candidates less able to meet those costs; and
(ii) promoting spending limits that, rather than limiting the dissemination of new ideas, encourage a greater variety of and depth to issues presented, thereby providing all voters with a meaningful opportunity to support and vote for the candidate of their choice;
(d) to protect the first amendment rights of all Montana citizens to be heard in the electoral process and to hear information from all candidates, regardless of their access to wealth; and
(e) to preserve the republican form of government guaranteed in Article IV, section 4, of the United States constitution and Article V of the Montana constitution by replacing the time and energy that Montana's legislative candidates and officeholders devote to fundraising with time and energy devoted to direct voter contact and constituent service.
NEW SECTION. Section 3. Aggregate expenditure limitation amounts. (1) (a) Except as provided in subsection (5), a candidate may not make aggregate expenditures exceeding the limits prescribed in subsection (2).
(b) Independent expenditures may not exceed $500 by a political committee on a primary or general election campaign or $250 by an individual person on a primary or general election campaign, including the value of in-kind contributions used.
(2) Aggregate expenditure limits are as follows:
(a) for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor combined:
(i) $250,000 in a primary election;
(ii) $750,000 in a general election;
(b) for the offices of attorney general, supreme court justice, and chief justice:
(i) $40,000 in a primary election;
(ii) $120,000 in a general election;
(c) for the offices of superintendent of public instruction, state auditor, secretary of state, and clerk of the supreme court:
(i) $25,000 in a primary election;
(ii) $75,000 in a general election;
(d) for public service commissioner:
(i) $15,000 in a primary election;
(ii) $30,000 in a general election;
(e) for district court judge:
(i) $15,000 in a primary election;
(ii) $30,000 in a general election;
(f) for state senator, $20,000 total for the primary and general election; and
(g) for state representative, $10,000 total for the primary and general election.
(3) For the purposes of this section and the enforcement provisions of [sections 1 through 6]:
(a) "aggregate expenditures" means the sum of all the expenditures, including use of in-kind contributions, made to influence either a state primary or a state general election by a candidate and those expenditures made on the candidate's behalf by:
(i) the candidate's committee or committees;
(ii) the candidate's national, state, and local parties;
(iii) the candidate's immediate family; and
(iv) an independent committee referred to in 13-37-226; and
(b) "immediate family" means family members of the candidate or the candidate's spouse who are directly related within two generations of the candidate or the candidate's spouse.
(4) Each campaign expenditure limitation amount applies solely and independently to either the state primary or the state general election, except:
(a) for a state legislative candidate whose expenditures are limited under subsection (2)(f) or (2)(g); and
(b) that if an individual who is a candidate for one of the offices specified in subsections (2)(b) through (2)(e) faces an opponent in a primary election, the campaign expenditure limitations provided in those subsections are combined into a total campaign expenditure limitation for both primary and general elections.
(5) (a) The commissioner shall multiply the limits contained in this section by the inflation factor, as defined in 15-30-101, for the year in which general elections are held. The resulting figure must be rounded off to the nearest $50 increment. The commissioner shall publish the revised limits as a rule.
(b) An amount prescribed in subsection (2) that is not spent in a primary election may be spent in the general election in addition to the amount prescribed in subsection (2) for the general election.
NEW SECTION. Section 4. Examination of expenditure reports -- determination of violation -- notice. (1) The commissioner shall examine expenditure reports required pursuant to part 2 of this chapter to determine compliance with the aggregate expenditure limits prescribed in [section 3].
(2) If the commissioner determines that a candidate has exceeded the applicable aggregate expenditure limits, the commissioner shall send to the candidate a notice of the determination and of the penalty applicable under [section 5].
NEW SECTION. Section 5. Penalty. (1) A candidate who exceeds the aggregate expenditure limits provided in [section 3] in running for office in either a primary or general election, or both, is subject to the following fines and penalties:
(a) If a candidate's aggregate expenditures exceed the limits provided in [section 3] by less than the applicable percentage set forth in subsection (2), the commissioner shall impose a civil penalty of three times the amount of the excess expenditure.
(b) If a candidate's aggregate expenditures exceed the limits provided in [section 3] by an amount that is equal to or greater than the percentage set forth in subsection (2):
(i) 75 days or more before the primary election or 85 days or more before the general election, pursuant to 13-37-126, the candidate's name may not be printed on the ballot;
(ii) less than 85 days before the general election, pursuant to 13-37-127, the certificate of election provided in 13-15-504 may not be issued and the governor shall immediately order an election to be held no less than 75 days or more than 90 days from the time of the commissioner's directive, unless the offending candidate is a candidate for judicial office, in which case the lack of certification must be treated as a vacancy pursuant to Article VII, section 8, of the Montana constitution and Title 3, chapter 1, part 10. The offending candidate may stand for neither election nor appointment.
(2) Percentage limitations applicable to subsection (1) are as follows:
(a) for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, 2%;
(b) for the offices of attorney general, supreme court justice, chief justice, superintendent of public instruction, state auditor, secretary of state, and clerk of the supreme court, 3%;
(c) for the offices of public service commissioner, district court judge, state senator, and state representative, 5%.
NEW SECTION. Section 6. Aggregate expenditure limits included in declaration of nomination. The secretary of state shall include the aggregate expenditure limits set forth in [section 3] in the declaration of nomination forms provided pursuant to 13-10-201.
Section 7. Section 13-35-107, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-35-107. Voiding election. (1) If a court finds that the violation of any provision of this title by any person probably
affected the outcome of
any an election, the result of that election may be held void and a special election may be held
within not less than 75 days or more than 90 days from the date of that finding. If the violation occurred during a primary
election, the court may direct the selection of a new candidate according to the provisions of state law relating to the filling
of vacancies on the general election ballot. Except as provided in subsection (2), an action to void an election shall must be
commenced within 1 year of the date of the election in question.
(2) An action to void a bond election
shall must be commenced within 60 days of the date of the election in question."
Section 8. Section 13-37-126, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-37-126. Names not to be printed on ballot. (1) The name of a candidate may not be printed on the official ballot for an election if the candidate or a political treasurer for a candidate fails to file any statement or report as required by this chapter or if the candidate is subject to the penalty pursuant to [section 5(1)(b)(i)].
(2) A vacancy on an official ballot under this section may be filled in the manner provided by law, but not by the name of the same candidate.
(3) In carrying out the mandate of this section, the commissioner shall, by a written statement, notify the secretary of state or the election administrator that a candidate or a candidate's treasurer has not complied with the provisions of this chapter, as described in subsection (1), and that a candidate's name should not be printed on the official ballot. The commissioner shall provide this notification by the ballot certification deadline provided in 13-10-208 for primary elections and by no later than 7 days before the ballot certification deadline provided in 13-12-201 for general elections."
Section 9. Section 13-37-127, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-37-127. Withholding of certificates of nomination or election. (1) A certificate of election
shall may not be
granted to any candidate until he or his the candidate or the candidate's political treasurer has filed the reports and
statements that must be filed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. No A candidate for an elective office may not
assume the powers and duties of that office until he the candidate has received a certificate of election as provided by law.
A certificate of election shall may only be issued by the public official responsible for issuing a certificate or commission of
(2) A certificate of election may not be granted to a candidate who is subject to the penalty pursuant to [section 5(1)(b)(ii)].
(2)(3) In carrying out the mandate of this section, the commissioner must shall, by written statement, notify the public
official responsible for issuing a certificate of nomination or election that a candidate or his the candidate's treasurer has
complied with the provisions of this chapter as described in subsection (1) and that a certificate of nomination or election
may be issued."
NEW SECTION. Section 10. Severability. If a part of [this act] is invalid, all valid parts that are severable from the invalid part remain in effect. If a part of [this act] is invalid in one or more of its applications, the part remains in effect in all valid applications that are severable from the invalid applications.
NEW SECTION. Section 11. Codification instruction. [Sections 1 through 6] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 13, chapter 37, and the provisions of Title 13, chapter 37, apply to [sections 1 through 6].
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Latest Version of HB 451 (HB0451.01)
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