Common Cause Minnesota
League of Women Voters Minnesota
St. Paul, MN—April 28, 2010— Common Cause Minnesota and the League of Women Voters, Minnesota urge legislators to quickly adopt legislation to prevent the chaos that could erupt this election season because of the U.S. Supreme Court's campaign finance decision, Citizen's United v. FEC. The recent Supreme Court decision opens the door to unlimited political expenditures by corporations and unions. If the legislature fails to act this session, we are likely to see a series of lawsuits that will only further confuse Minnesota's campaign finance rules.
With 18 days left in the legislative session, legislators need to act quickly to not only conform state law to the court's decision, but also create rules that require timely disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures, disclaimers on who is paying for the political materials, and closing the issue ad loophole.
"One of the ways that we can prevent corruption and undue influence is to bring campaign contributions into the sunlight," said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. "Without knowledge about who is funding these ads, the public cannot adequately evaluate the information and misinformation about the candidates."
That is why Common Cause Minnesota and the League of Women Voters Minnesota urge the legislature to support Rep. Ryan Winkler's disclosure bill. This legislation will:
Require disclosure of all contributions and expenditures within 48 hours for all independent expenditure groups.
Any entity, including a corporation or a union, would be required to disclose all contributions and expenditures over $5,000 within 48 hours of making it. The information must be posted in real-time so that the public knows who is paying for this political speech as it occurs.
Regulate issue ads the same way as express advocacy.
The state should require disclosure of issue ads if they (1) cost more than $25,000, (2) are made in the year of an election, and (3) identify a candidate running in the election. The disclosure would include: who is paying for the ad, who is contributing to the group running it, how much was spent, what candidate was mentioned, how much was spent on each candidate mentioned, and on what medium (television ads, direct mails, etc.).
Require the use of a disclaimer on most campaign material in Minnesota.
Any campaign material must have a disclaimer statement on it that outlines what candidate or committee paid for the material. There will be an exemption for individuals engaging in campaigning that costs less than $5,000.
Require that shareholders be notified of corporate political expenditures.
The vast majority of publically traded companies make political expenditures in secret. Shareholders have rarely learned about contributions that top executives make to political action committees on behalf of the companies. Shareholders should be notified of any spending on political activities, including in-kind donations as well as contributions, membership dues or other payments to organizations that engage in political activities. The corporation would have to file a report with shareholders and the state campaign finance disclosure board if the aggregate contributions exceed $10,000. These reports must be filed electronically and within 5 business days of incurring the expense.
The Citizens United decision specifically contemplated the kind of disclosure outlined in this bill. Justice Kennedy, in writing for the majority, states, "the First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decision and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."
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Common Cause Minnesota is a nonpartisan government watchdog organization committed to election fairness and transparency.