DFL: Minnesota’s constitution needs campaign finance amendment
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota House Democrats will push for a constitutional amendment this year in order to reveal more about who is spending big bucks on Minnesota elections.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota House Democrats will push for a constitutional amendment this year in order to reveal more about who is spending big bucks on Minnesota elections.
“If we can’t do this on our own, then let the people of Minnesota decide,” House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said Thursday.
The proposal from the minority party would put a constitutional amendment before voters asking them to vote whether political groups should have to publicly disclose all of their political spending. Current Minnesota law requires only particular groups to disclose their spending and fundraising, which opponents say allows political nonprofits get away with hiding their influence.
The Minnesota Legislature has long resisted changing the rules to force more disclosure. Three years ago, with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in control of both the House and the Senate and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s support, influential lawmakers tried to force all political groups to reveal their sources of funding and spending.
That effort failed to pass the House in the face of opposition from a bipartisan cohort of legislators. The National Rifle Association, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life also resisted the measures as drafted. Thissen, who was then speaker of the House, did not propose a constitutional amendment in 2013.
DFLers say reaction to what they are calling the Disclose Act will be different because their proposal specifically excludes organizations like the NRA and the MCCL, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, from disclosing anything about their communications with members.
That did not assuage MCCL opposition.
“All Minnesotans should oppose efforts like Disclose that chill free speech of average Minnesotans who want to participate in the political process. Every Minnesotan should be allowed to exercise their civic responsibilities in elections,” MCCL executive director Scott Fischbach said.
The spending the DFLers are going after tends to come from political nonprofits, which must file with the Internal Revenue Service, not state-level political independent-spending groups. In recent years, cash from both types of organizations has turned heated legislative races from low-dollar affairs into nearly $1 million contests.
Many states require political groups to reveal their spending, no matter what kind of organization is making the purchases. Not so Minnesota.
About half of the states require political groups to reveal some version of that type of spending. Last year, Minnesota received a D- for its integrity measures from the Center for Public Integrity, which noted that some independent-spending groups could evade disclosure.
State Rep. Laurie Halverson, an Eagan DFLer who is sponsoring the constitutional amendment, said it is time for that to change.
“I talk to people every single day in my community that are fed up and not just fed up but weary, and that’s what makes me the saddest,” Halverson said. “When people are weary about participating in government, we start to concentrate power into the hands of people who are already powerful.”
Constitutional amendments require support from a majority of lawmakers to get on the ballot and then affirmative voters from a majority of voters in a general election to become part of the state’s constitution.
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.