Hill asks federal judge to let him spend $500,000

2012-10-25T19:37:00Z 2012-11-16T20:08:34Z Hill asks federal judge to let him spend $500,000By CHARLES S. JOHNSON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record
October 25, 2012 7:37 pm  • 

Rick Hill’s governor’s campaign asked a federal court Thursday to stop a state judge from preventing him from spending a disputed $500,000 donation from the Montana Republican Party.

At the same time, Hill’s staff called TV stations Wednesday night and Thursday to cancel ads previously bought with some of $500,000, but not yet aired.

“For all intents and purposes right now, we’re dark now on television,” said Brock Lowrance, Hill’s campaign manager.

He said the campaign is pursing the federal legal case in an attempt to overturn the order from state District Judge Kathy Seeley of Helena, while still complying with her order.

On Wednesday, Seeley issued the order, granted at the request of Hill’s Democratic opponent, Steve Bullock, to temporarily stop Hill’s campaign from spending the $500,000 until she decides its legality. A hearing is set for Monday.

“Rick’s not stopping campaigning,” Lowrance said. “This is matter of just having to switch strategy right now.”

The Nov. 6 election is less than two weeks away. Hill will be taking part in the final two gubernatorial debates in Great Falls on Friday and in Bozeman Saturday.

Documents filed Thursday disclosed that the Republican Governors Association was the source of the money the state GOP gave to Hill.

Meanwhile, Hill said Friday he intended to loan $100,000 of his own money to his campaign to begin buying ads again as he awaits the court decisions.

Hill’s attorney, Matthew Monforton of Bozeman, filed legal papers Thursday asking U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell of Helena to temporarily halt the order issued by Seeley.

“Her order has effectively shut down the Hill campaign with less than two weeks left before Election Day because of actions, when taken by the campaign were perfectly legal, a gross violation of due process,” Monforton wrote.

It was Lovell who issued the order Oct. 3 that struck down’s Montana campaign donations as unconstitutional. On Oct. 9, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Lovell’s decision and reinstated the limits.

Hill received the $500,000 on Oct. 4 from the state Republican Party.

Bullock has called it an illegal donation because state law allows an aggregate donation of $22,600 from a political party to a candidate for governor for an entire campaign.

Hill has defended the donation, saying he received it during the six-day window when Montana had no campaign donation limits.

Bullock’s spokeswoman Kate Downen characterized the legal dispute as “about a difference in character and integrity.”

“Congressman Hill will do anything to get elected -- including breaking Montana law by accepting half-a-million million dollars of illegal, D.C. money -- while Steve has fought for years to make sure our elections can't be bought,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Montana Republican Party criticized Judge Seeley for not stepping down from this case.

It said before she was elected a judge, Seeley made a total of $230 in political donations to five Democratic candidates over the years, $100 total to two nonpartisan judicial candidates and none to Republicans. It cited National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan group based in Helena.

Seeley previously worked in the Montana attorney general’s office. Most of the partisan donations were to people who worked in the office or candidates for attorney general.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. Stan10
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    Stan10 - October 26, 2012 10:15 am
    Did Rick Hill "break the law" when he accepted the donation? No, the Judge had thrown out the law. When the 9th Circuit Court reinstated the law however, the law of the land reverted to a maximum donation amount $22,600 per election cycle. When this man continued to spend the money he had "legally received" he definitely BROKE the law. He needs to take a lesson from both Fox and Bucy and return the money, otherwise he should be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.
  2. skooter
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    skooter - October 26, 2012 9:10 am
    Maybe the next time a guy gets caught robbing one of our endless casinos, he should ask the judge if he can still spend the money too...sleazy and wrong...and I'll say it again, all you righties justifying it because you want you candidate to win should be ashamed of it.
  3. skooter
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    skooter - October 26, 2012 9:06 am
    This comment is a microcosm of why I don't trust many righties collectively. Hypocrisy...This is bad behavior you should NEVER promote, excuse or justify no matter the candidate involved or their political persuasion. This is big outside money suing to remove limits and reporting on campaign financing and then dumping money in the day after the verdict to try and buy and corrupt OUR election process. And Hill is all to happy to take advantage of the DC money from the RGA (did you notice that the MTRepubs tried to hide where the money came from for several day - yeah, that's not shady at all). But I digress, it's not whether it's slightly legal, or not...it's sleazy, wrong and should go against everybody's principals to let candidate corrupt our election process internally and especially with fat outside interest money.

    You shouldn't have to write into the paper to explain why it's ok for any candidate to snake 500K into the race at the last moment. You should have to tell us why its somehow understandable to be sleazy.

    And this argument: that it's Bullock's fault for standing up against campaign finance and corruption (laws mainly written during our checkered robber baron past when our elections were LITERALLY sold to the highest bidders) and therefore he can't be a sleaze and take huge, secret out-of-state money in dubious ways. Really? That's your argument...it's the height of republican 'me first no matter what' hypocrisy.

    Have some principals. Stand up for what's right instead of justifying what's wrong so a sleazy candidate might buy his way back into this race.
  4. jkc
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    jkc - October 26, 2012 8:50 am
    Rick Hill led the charge for a 4 percent, $400 million sales tax in Montana as the head lobbyist for Governor Racicot in 1993. As introduced, the sales tax was even applied to real estate sales and utility bills paid by homeowners.

    In June 2011, at a “Hometown Helena” appearance, Hill re-asserted his support for a sales tax in “I have often been an advocate for a sales tax as a substitute tax” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbXfWOcIQOA)

    Hill’s sales tax is regressive. It will hurt middle-class in Montana as they go to buy groceries, trucks, guns, and homes. Hill’s sales tax will significantly shift the tax burden. Out of state corporations like PPL will see significant tax reductions through the reduction of property tax mill levies. The new sales tax revenue would have been paid by individual tax payers through the sales tax. The corporations will not 'leave' the profits in Montana...they are distributed to share holders across the nation...Montana residents will pay more in tax, so those pesky shareholders will be satisfied.

    Hill has proven throughout his political career that he’ll say anything to get elected. But, the fact remains that he has a track record of leading the charge for a sales tax in Montana.

    Say no to sales tax in Montana. Say no to Rick Hill.

  5. Sgravel
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    Sgravel - October 26, 2012 7:44 am
    Egg on the face of the Republicans......a lot of egg and a little slobber.
  6. Slewfoot
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    Slewfoot - October 26, 2012 7:05 am
    I agree that Hill took the money legally. However saying he doesn't support a sales tax is a complete turnaround from past performances. In 1993 Hill lobbied for a sales tax offered by Bruce Crippen and just last year he stated that he has been in favor of a sales tax. If he now has turned against a sales tax he needs to get that out there. Personally I don't believe him.

    Hill has proven throughout his political career that he’ll say anything to get elected. But, the fact remains that he has a track record of leading the charge for a sales tax in Montana.
  7. tiredofthelies
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    tiredofthelies - October 25, 2012 9:58 pm
    Great editorial in the Daily Interlake today. It is below.


    Quote "A person can certainly think it was wrong of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill to keep a $500,000 contribution from the Montana Republican Party, but Democratic candidate Steve Bullock’s claim that it was illegal is obviously wrong.

    U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled on Oct. 3 that Montana’s campaign contribution limits are unconstitutional because they are too low to allow effective campaigning in the face of unlimited spending by political action committees. That ruling, based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, lifted the limits immediately.

    Six days later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the state’s campaign contribution limits until the court had a chance to hear an appeal on the case.

    But in the period between the two rulings, the Montana Republican Party seized the opportunity to make the contribution to Hill’s campaign. At the time it was a legal contribution, and nothing that happened afterwards can make it illegal.

    Arguably, the appellate court could have refused to stay Lovell’s ruling, or the appellate court’s order could have been delayed well beyond six days. But there was no reason for candidates to wait and find out what the law was going to be in the future. At the time the GOP made the contribution to Hill’s campaign, they were both following the law as it existed.

    Upon learning of the contribution on Oct. 17, however, Bullock’s campaign went ballistic, claiming that it was a “criminal violation of Montana law.”

    That’s right, Montana’s top law enforcement officer, Bullock, contended it was a criminal violation. So where’s the attorney general’s prosecution of this supposed crime? It isn’t going to happen, because if a judge throws out a law, you have no obligation to follow it any longer.

    This should be Criminal Law 101, but the Bullock campaign continues to publicly assail Hill for taking an “illegal contribution.” Bullock even filed a civil lawsuit aimed at forcing Hill to return the contribution, and a “Give it Back Rick” campaign was launched.

    Sorry, that isn’t the practice of law — it is politics, plain and simple.

    And while Bullock has mounted a showy legal challenge against Hill, we predict that at the end of the expensive road littered with attorneys’ fees and temporary restraining orders, no court will be able to find Hill guilty of any wrong-doing.

    Again, people surely can think that Hill “should” return the contribution and the situation may indeed even hurt him politically, costing him supporters.

    But Hill’s justification for keeping the money ironically resembles Bullock’s arguments against the $500,000 contribution.

    “I believe Montana’s elections should belong to the people, not to the corporations hiding behind ATP’s cloak,” Bullock said in a press release, referring to the American Tradition Partnership PAC that is suspected of backing the state Republican Party financially.

    At their debate in Kalispell, on the other hand, Hill said the $500,000 contribution will help level the playing field so his campaign can respond to massive PAC advertising against him. That includes wall-to-wall advertising asserting that Hill supports a sales tax, a claim that he constantly and convincingly refutes when he gets the chance.

    It has to be frustrating to be told what your agenda is by your opposition, and then being limited in your ability to communicate your actual agenda to voters. So it is perfectly understandable that Hill took the money.

    Maybe Attorney General Bullock just regrets that his own political agenda made it impossible for him to accept big donations while they were legal, too. But that’s no reason to smear his opponent, and we encourage the attorney general to stop using incendiary language that has no basis in fact." End quote.

    I concur.
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