Campaigns, National News Outlets React to Hill-Bullock Battle Over Donation

By Beacon Staff

The legal and political battle over a $500,000 donation given by the Montana Republican Party to GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill’s campaign has dominated state headlines in recent days. And now, it’s starting to garner a little national attention as well.

Hill accepted the donation during a six-day period earlier this month in which Montana’s campaign contribution limits were suspended. Now that the limits have been reinstated, Hill’s opponent, Democrat Steve Bullock, has argued that keeping the money is illegal and sued Hill over the matter, which brings us to where we are today: with a temporary restraining order in place and oral arguments scheduled before District Judge Kathy Seeley of Helena on Monday at 9 a.m.

Seeley issued the restraining order, in a move that gave an initial victory to Bullock, on Wednesday requesting Hill to stop spending the money. Hill’s attorney says Seeley’s order has “effectively shut down” his campaign and is requesting a federal court to stop her order.

Virginia-based Politico wrote a blog post about the legal wrangling over the donation entitled “A game-changer in Montana governor’s race.” The National Journal had a blog post as well, and newspapers around the country have picked up Associated Press stories. The Washington Post calls it a “contentious and very odd campaign finance situation.”

What this all means for the outcome of a very close race is unclear, but it has certainly added a new wrinkle to Montana’s election season.

While news stories have referenced responses from the two campaigns, I thought I would use this blog space to offer the statements in their entirety.

Here’s what Bullock campaign spokesman Kevin O’Brien said after the issue was moved from federal to state court yesterday:

“While Congressman Hill is attempting to put our elections up for sale, Steve’s fighting to protect their integrity. We’re happy that this case is back in state court and we’re confident that Congressman Hill will have to do what he should have done all along – return this illegal contribution.”

Here’s what Hill’s campaign spokesman Brock Lowrance said after Seeley issued the restraining order on Wednesday:

“This is an unprecedented action taken by a partisan judge. There was no hearing, no briefs, no arguments, no notice, just an abusive order that will benefit Steve Bullock’s campaign. This is the kind of abuse that Rick has been describing to Montanans that is damaging our reputation and our economy. It is this kind of abuse that Montanans need to challenge. We are taking steps this evening to comply with this order until we are able to present our case before the courts.”

And from Hill:

“We will fight this injustice, we will have the resources to win this campaign. We will seek justice through every avenue available. This election should be decided by the voters, not the courts. We remain confident that Judge Lovell’s decision was correct and the contribution is legal, we will succeed when we are before an impartial tribunal.”