HELENA — The Supreme Court refused a request Tuesday to overturn a court order that keeps Montana's campaign contribution limits intact through the election.
American Tradition Partnership and 11 other conservative groups, individuals and businesses seeking to toss out the limits had appealed to Justice Anthony Kennedy, asking him to lift the order by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals keeping them in place.
Kennedy denied the application in a one-sentence statement released by the Supreme Court's public information office.
Montana's individual contribution limits are between $160 and $630, depending on the office the candidate is seeking. The limits for political party committee contributions to a single candidate are between $800 and $22,600.
U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell on Oct. 3 ruled for American Tradition Partnership in a lawsuit by saying the state's limits are too low to allow effective campaigning. Lovell ordered Montana not to enforce the limits.
Six days later, the appellate court blocked Lovell's ruling pending an appeal, keeping the limits in place through the election.
American Tradition Partnership, a nonprofit issue advocacy organization that has filed multiple lawsuits seeking to dismantle Montana's election laws, then applied to Kennedy to vacate the appellate court's ruling.
James Bopp, the attorney for the plaintiffs, did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.
Steve Bullock, a defendant in the lawsuit as the state's attorney general and the Democratic candidate for governor, released a statement that Montana's elections should belong to the people, "not to the corporations hiding behind ATP's cloak."
American Tradition Partnership, as an 501 (c)(4) organization registered with the Internal Revenue Service, is not required to disclose its donors.
"The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling confirms that American Tradition Partnership's latest ploy had no merit, and is a blow to the moneyed interests that want to sway our elections for their own ends," Bullock said in the statement.
During the six-day period between Lovell's ruling and the 9th Circuit's block of it, the Montana Republican Party donated $500,000 to Bullock's opponent in the governor's race, former congressman Rick Hill.
Hill and party leaders have said Lovell's ruling made the donation legal during that time.
Bullock has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force Hill to repay the donation, though Hill has spent most of the money on radio and television ads.
American Tradition Partnership and the other plaintiffs have asked Lovell to order Bullock to drop the lawsuit or else face a fine, and to pay for any ads to restore Hill's damaged reputation resulting from the lawsuit.
Lovell has not ruled on the request.