Friday, October 14, 2011

Power Grab by Minnesota Campaign Finance Board

Here's a great article highlighting efforts by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board to rewrite state law on ballot question disclosure, circumventing the state legislature.

It points out opponents of the Board's actions aren't opposed to disclosure.
Nobody disagrees that voters are entitled to know who contributes to the marriage campaign. But the changes the Campaign Finance Board proposes are not authorized by law and would mislead the public, resulting in the disclosure of people who did not contribute to the campaign.

Nonprofit organizations, including churches, raise money from supporters who agree with their missions. If "Sally," a member of Meadowside Church, contributes money to support the work of her church, and Meadowside Church decides to contribute to the marriage-amendment campaign, it is wrong to claim that Sally has contributed to the marriage campaign. She has not; Meadowside Church has. The church's contribution should be disclosed, but it should not be attributed to Sally or any other individual church member. How the board is changing the rules of game midstream, after they failed to obtain legislative changes in the law.

For at least the past 15 years, this is how Minnesota law was regulated by the Campaign Finance Board, and it was the regulatory scheme in place for several other past constitutional amendments. Now that the marriage amendment has qualified or the ballot, the board is suddenly trying to change the rules, despite the fact at there has been no change in state disclosure laws....

An additional issue regarding the Campaign Finance Board's new regulations is that the board simply does not have the legal authority to arbitrarily change Minnesota campaign reporting laws. That is the job of the Legislature.

For almost a decade, the board has been asking the Legislature to expand or change the definition of "association" to be able to regulate nonprofit corporations in this manner, and the Legislature refused to grant it. The board has acted illegally in claiming legal authority it does not possess.How outlandish and intrusive their demands for disclosure have become.
Let's look at this issue a different way. The Star Tribune published the editorial I'm writing about. The paper has hundreds of employees, paid through a revenue stream from thousands of subscribers and advertisers. Isn't it enough that the public knows the Star Tribune has spoken out about this issue, or should the Star Tribune be forced to disclose which of its employees wrote the editorial and which of its advertisers' revenue paid for the publishing of the editorial?
The consequences of the sort of disclosure the Board is expecting.
Not only is the public misled when it is reported that Sally has contributed to the marriage campaign, but we know from experience that Sally will very likely be subjected to harassment as a result of the erroneous claim that she contributed to the campaign. The Heritage Foundation produced a report documenting the extensive harassment that supporters of California's marriage amendment (Proposition 8) faced, including loss of employment, death threats and property destruction. Regrettably, some gay-marriage activists have seen that intimidation can be an effective campaign tactic, and it has become standard fare in any marriage campaign.

The group "" has published private information about traditional marriage supporters in numerous states and advocated that they be confronted with "uncomfortable conversations." In California, the group "" published Google maps showing the home addresses, donation amounts and employers of contributors to Proposition 8 -- all of which they obtained from campaign finance reports. Evidence in various court proceedings document case after case of harassment -- phone calls at home and work, calls and e-mails to employers, boycotts of someone's employer, calls to clients, etc.
Not only are the Board's actions outside the scope of their legal authority but are also likely violations of the US Constitution.

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