Posted: Oct 30, 2012 7:25 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Oct 30, 2012 7:32 AM
HELENA - Gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill (R) still needs to file more court documents before a judge will decide if a $500,000 donation he received is legal.
Democrat candidate for Governor Steve Bullock is suing Hill for accepting a $500,000 donation from the Montana Republican Party.
Bullock's lawyer Karl Englund argued his case before District Court Judge Kathy Seeley claiming the contribution is illegal because state law only allows political parties to contribute up to $22,600 to a gubernatorial candidate.
Hill's lawyer Cory Swanson claims receiving the money was entirely legal because a federal judge lifted the state's donation limits for six days and the cash was received during that time.
"It's not that they took the money. It's that when the limits came into effect, they were over the aggregate limits," Englund says.
"The acceptance of the contribution is what would trigger a violation. This does not say that they can't hold. It says they cannot accept," Swanson says.
Last week Judge Seeley issued a restraining order stopping Hill from spending the $500,000 until she had a chance to rule on the legality of the donation.
Bullock's campaign called Democratic strategist Raymond Strother as a witness. Strother testified a donation of this size, this late in the game, could cause Bullock to lose the election.
Hill's Campaign Manager Brock Lowrance told the Judge since she issued the restraining order their campaign bank account has been frozen.
"We were forced to pull advertising and portions of our campaign plan that were moving forward: television advertising, radio, including polling and some other things," Lowrance says. "It hasn't stopped the campaign. It hasn't stopped Rick."
Bullock's Spokesperson Kate Downen says this case is about fairness and following the law.
"The intention of going to court is to make sure that one candidate isn't breaking the law while another is abiding by the law," Downen says. "Hill is acting like he is the victim here, like he should be able to spend this illegal money."
Hill's campaign says they will be filing final paperwork within 24 hours and then Judge Seeley says she will have a prompt ruling soon after.