As you know, there was a period of six days during which Montana had no campaign finance laws on the books, because they were invalidated by a right-wing federal judge and then reinstated a week or so later by a federal appeals court.
During the window, the GOP worked hard raise and spend unlimited money, its favorite activity. Less than 24 hours after the ruling, Rick Hill had already reeled in a $500,000 contribution to his campaign. It was probably the biggest donation to any campaign in America in 2012. When our laws were reinstated by the federal appeals court, Hill claimed that since he’d raised the money when the laws were suspended, he need not return it.
A state judge now thinks otherwise. Yesterday, Judge Katherine Seeley stopped Hill in his tracks, issuing a restraining order [PDF] against him which requires him to cease spending the money and to recover whatever funds he has already spent. Judge Seeley even directed TV stations in Montana not to air Hill’s campaign ads with the tainted money.
Hill tried telling Seeley that he’s already spent the money, and thus there’s nothing that can be done. He pulled his pockets out of his pants, and said, “See?”
That didn’t seem to work, at least not for now. There is a full hearing on the matter scheduled for October 29.
In the meantime, this is a devastating state of affairs for Hill. It could finish him off, in fact. For starters, there’s going to be a photo of Hill’s mug on the front of every newspaper in Montana tomorrow, with a story about a restraining order against him. Not what a candidate wants two weeks before election day.
Second, Hill will not be able to play any of his wonderful TV ads, talking about “less spending” and “less regulation,” or whatever other high intellectual content we usually see from him. Meanwhile, there are some devastating negative ads running against him, mostly about the fact that he supports a sales tax, a fact he’s been trying to hide. He will be unable to respond.
Worse, attorney’s for Hill’s opponent, Steve Bullock, said yesterday that if Hill wins the election by breaking campaign finance laws, he could be subject to a recall.
Montana’s donation limits were passed by a citizens initiative many years ago and are a source of pride for all Montanans who appreciate the meaning of the word Democracy. So Rick Hill thumbed his nose at Montanans by rushing to gulp down $500,000 in one dose, based on a crackpot ruling by a right-wing federal judge which Hill probably knew would be overturned in short order.
Hungry Hill acted like a dog whose owners leave the house and forget to lock the cupboard where the food is kept. Now he’s in the dog house.