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Dodging Disclosure

How the fight over Minnesota campaign finance disclosure requirements may shape the fate of the state’s marriage amendment 

by Stephanie Bitto

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s October clarification of Minnesota campaign finance laws may have quite an impact on a hot topic at issue in the 2012 election.

In 2012, Minnesota voters will be asked to approve an amendment to the Minnesota constitution that declares marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman. The Minnesota House and Senate passed a bill in May 2011 proposing the amendment. Governor Dayton issued a symbolic veto of the bill on May 25, 2011, but as constitutional amendment legislation cannot be vetoed, it will be up to the voters to determine the amendment’s fate. Continue reading

MN (campaign finance): A court unites post-Citizens United: the entire Eighth Circuit bench reviews Swanson

by Stephanie Bitto

The full eleven-member bench of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life v. Swanson on September 21st. The case is an appeal of a ruling by a three-judge panel upholding a lower-court decision that refused to grant a preliminary injunction and enjoin Minnesota election laws regarding independent expenditures and corporate contributions to candidates and political parties. In July, the Eighth Circuit granted the petitioners’ request for en banc review and vacated the Court’s previous ruling.

A three-judge panel found that that an injunction was not proper because the plaintiffs, three Minnesota corporations, were unlikely to prevail on the merits of their claims, and Minnesota’s provisions regarding corporate independent expenditures are similar in both purpose and effect to the federal disclosure laws that the Supreme Court upheld in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. There, the Supreme Court found that both corporate and union contributions to independent political committees were constitutionally protected free speech and upheld contribution disclosure requirements. Following Citizens United, The Eighth Circuit panel found that the Swanson plaintiffs would likely not prevail on the claim that the Minnesota laws were not sufficiently tailored or on the claim that the ban on direct corporate contributions is unconstitutional.

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