Minn. To Keep Enforcing Campaign Disclosure Law
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s top campaign regulator said Monday the state will continue requiring political groups to disclose campaign fundraising and spending this fall despite a federal appeals court ruling last week that found part of the law “most likely unconstitutional.”
Interpreting the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling ultimately lands with U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, whose ruling was overturned in part by the appeals court.
Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board director Gary Goldsmith said the ruling doesn’t immediately change reporting requirements for associations that raise or spend more than $100 to influence the election.
But the board is making one change stemming from the ruling by dropping a requirement that inactive groups file one-page reports. The 8th Circuit found that requirement “onerous.”
Jim Bopp Jr., the lead attorney for opponents of the law, said the state should immediately stop enforcing registration and disclosure requirements for even active associations and corporations. Bopp represents Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and a travel agency that together sued to overturn the law.
“That is what the court ruled unconstitutional — to require a group to do its independent speech through a political action committee,” Bopp said.
The next round of reports is due Sept. 25.
“There will be no less disclosure as a result of this order,” Goldsmith said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Goldsmith said the board is notifying several hundred political funds that they must file a spending and receipts report 42 days before the general election, covering activity between July 23 and Sept. 18. Another report is due in late October. And starting Oct. 23, the funds have 24 hours to report any donations of $1,000 or more.
Bopp said he intends to ask Frank for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the law in the coming days. He said his clients would go back to the 8th Circuit if they’re not satisfied with his interpretation of the appeals court’s ruling.
Goldsmith said the ruling focused more narrowly on the ongoing reporting requirement for inactive funds. He said he would expect Frank to take testimony on the burden of complying with the state requirements before issuing a decision on the law’s other requirements.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is still reviewing the ruling, spokesman Ben Wogsland said.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who sponsored the 2010 disclosure law after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the way for unfettered corporate spending on elections, said Frank’s interpretation of the 8th Circuit ruling will determine whether disclosure of campaign activity by associations and corporations continues through the 2012 election. Winkler said lawmakers are likely to address the issues raised by the decision in a future session, next year at the earliest.
“Judge Frank will have the last word in this election cycle,” Winkler said.
The challenged law applies to corporations and associations that spend some of their money on elections but have a broader purpose beyond the election — such as MCCL, the state’s main anti-abortion group. The ruling doesn’t affect disclosure requirements for political committees set up primarily to influence elections.
The Sept. 25 reports will offer the first detailed look at spending on legislative races and ballot questions since the Aug. 14 primary.
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