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Attorney General Candidate Fox Returns $32K GOP Donation
Democratic opponent Pam Bucy filed lawsuit
HELENA – Attorney general candidate Tim Fox on Thursday returned a $32,000 donation to his campaign from the Montana Republican Party as his Democratic opponent filed a lawsuit over the contribution.

The donation came after a federal judge ruled Montana's campaign contribution limits unconstitutional on Oct. 3. Six days later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the limits.

Fox on Thursday morning returned the party donation and $12,000 from individual donors that exceeded the reinstated limits because he'd had enough of the "political pingpong the courts are playing with this issue," spokesman Tyler Matthews said in a written statement.

Matthews was referring to a legal battle unfolding in the governor's race over a GOP contribution made to Rick Hill. Democrat Steve Bullock filed a lawsuit seeking to force Hill to return the money, and a state judge on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order barring Hill from spending the $500,000 contribution before a court hearing Monday.

Fox had decided to hold on to his contributions until a final court ruling provided clear direction, but "Tim made the decision this morning that he'd had enough of this political gamesmanship in our courtroom, so he refunded all these contributions," Matthews said.

Fox's Democratic opponent, Pam Bucy, filed a lawsuit in state court Thursday afternoon seeking to force Fox to return the donations. Her lawsuit is styled on Bullock's complaint against Hill, to the point that her attorney, Lawrence Anderson, mistakenly names Hill's treasurer in the complaint and also switches the contribution limits for gubernatorial candidates with those for attorney general candidates.

Candidates for attorney general can receive up to $8,150 from all political parties combined and up to $310 from an individual donor. Candidates for governor can receive up to $22,600 from political parties and $630 per individual donor.

The Montana Democratic Party released copies of Bucy's lawsuit. Upon learning that Fox returned the donations, party spokesman Mike Wessler said he hopes Fox advises Hill to return his money, too.

"It's unfortunate that we have to file lawsuits against Tim Fox to protect the integrity of our elections," Wessler said in a statement. "Fox made it clear last week that he didn't share Pam Bucy's commitment to following Montana's campaign finance laws. When Pam Bucy asked him to return the illegal contributions, he called it a 'desperate political stunt.'"

The Fox campaign called Bucy's complaint "a desperate, last-minute lawsuit."
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