The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today released an opinion in FLINT v. DENNISON, No. 05-35441, a civil rights appeal. The panel consisted of Susan P. Graber, Richard A. Paez, and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.
BEA, Circuit Judge:
We are called upon to decide whether the University of Montana may impose a dollar limit on what a student may spend on his campaign for student office. The University’s limit did not affect how the money could be spent; rather, it directly told a student how much he could spend to get elected. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 could not tell James Buckley how much of his money he could spend to be elected a United States Senator. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 51-54 (1976) (per curiam). Why, then, may a state university tell students how much they may spend to be elected to student office? Because, unlike the exercise of state-wide political self-determination at a national level at issue in Buckley, the student election at issue here occurred in a limited public forum, that is, a forum opened by the University to serve viewpoint neutral educational interests but closed to all save enrolled students who carried a minimum course load and maintained a minimum grade-point average. These educational interests outweigh the free speech interests of the students who campaigned within that limited public forum. When Aaron Flint was a student at the University of Montana, he twice exceeded the $100 campaign expenditure limit imposed on student candidates for positions in the Associated Students of the University of Montana (”ASUM”). Following the second violation, Flint was denied a seat as ASUM Senator. Flint sued ASUM, the University, and ASUM officers, claiming the spending limit, as applied, violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Flint now appeals the district court’s order of summary judgment in favor of defendants. The precise question before us is this: Does the Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibit a public university from imposing a $100 expenditure limit on candidates running for a position in student government? U.S. Const. amend. I (”Congress shall make no . . .