- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Great Falls representative is proposing that candidates for the Montana Legislature be allowed to receive more money from political action committees.

Republican Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick introduced House Bill 502 in the House State Administration Committee Friday.

The bill would increase the amount that state Senate candidates can receive from PACs from $2,150 to $5,500, and the amount that House candidates can receive from $1,300 to $3,300.

Fitzpatrick said the caps need to be raised to reflect the increasing cost of running for office.

“Campaigns are expensive, they cost a lot of money,” Fitzpatrick said. “Every time I have to return a PAC check, that just means it’s more pressure on me to go fundraise and ask people for more money.”

Mary Baker, program supervisor for the commissioner of political practices, said a built-in inflation factor adequately adjusts the cap every year.

“It does seem to help in keeping up with some of the cost increases,” Baker said.

Fitzpatrick said a serious legal issue for Montana’s campaign contribution limits was raised after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that caps on certain individual contributions are unconstitutional. That decision concerned federal elections and gifts from individual people, not state elections or contributions by political action committees.

Rep. Denise Hayman, D-Bozeman, asked Fitzpatrick why he is seeking to increase PAC limits instead of the amount that individual people can contribute.

“I candidly don’t think there’s much interest in the chamber in getting that through,” Fitzpatrick said.

Two bills were proposed last session to abolish PAC limits to legislative campaigns. One was vetoed by the governor and one failed in the House of Representatives.

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