The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 state election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend endless amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of these states is doing to respond to the highly-contested ruling. Today we’re featuring Minnesota, the fourth state in our series:
Bill: SB 2471
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, Minnesota repealed laws it had on the books prohibiting independent expenditures by corporations. And in an effort to force disclosure and enhance transparency, the state is forcing any corporation that wishes to make independent expenditures to create a committee and register. All independent expenditures have to be funneled through these committees or they can’t be made.
The purpose of this new type of committee is to give the state a clear cut place to collect information about money used to influence elections. Jeff Sigurdson, the Assistant Executive Director at the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, calls them a “reporting mechanism,” that the state didn’t have before.
In addition to knowing who an ad was paid for by and how much was spent, Minnesota is also requiring organizations that receive funding from donors – such as nonprofits — to disclose who those funders are if they want to make independent expenditures. Disclosing funders goes a step further than some states, where only the name of the organization and the amount is required to be disclosed.
All disclosures can be found online, but not in real time. Minnesota has a schedule setup for reporting and no immediate disclosure provision was included in the new law.