Bill pushes for greater corporate disclosure

Several state lawmakers and good government groups are pushing for the Minnesota Legislature to pass a bill that requires corporations to disclose independent expenditures.

DFL Representative Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley says he wants corporations to require contributions and political expenditures with 48 hours for all independent expenditures like TV ads. He also wants businesses to disclose that they paid for the campaign materials and require that they notify shareholders of any political spending above ten thousand dollars.

“This bill is what we should be doing at a minimum,” Winkler said. “If we have to take something less at some point along the line here before the end of session in order to provide some disclosure, some transparency, some sunlight into these disclosures, it would probably be better than doing nothing.”

Minnesota law currently bans corporations from spending on Minnesota races but a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling put that law into doubt. The court ruled corporations can spend an unlimited amount of money on issue advocacy. The court continues to allow a ban on direct contributions to candidates.

Here’s what Winkler is calling for (via press release):

-Require disclosure of all contributions and expenditures within 48 hours for all independent expenditure groups. Any entity, including a corporation or a union, would be required to disclose all contributions and expenditures over $5,000 within 48 hours of making it. The information must be posted in real-time so that the public knows who is paying for this political speech as it occurs.

-Regulate issue ads the same way as express advocacy. The state should require disclosure of issue ads if they (1) cost more than $25,000, (2) are made in the year of an election, and (3) identify a candidate running in the election. The disclosure would include: who is paying for the ad, who is contributing to the group running it, how much was spent, what candidate was mentioned, how much was spent on each candidate mentioned, and on what medium (television ads, direct mails, etc.).

-Require the use of a disclaimer on most campaign material in Minnesota. Any campaign material must have a disclaimer statement on it that outlines what candidate or committee paid for the material. There will be an exemption for individuals engaging in campaigning that costs less than $5,000.

-Require that shareholders be notified of corporate political expenditures. The vast majority of publically traded companies make political expenditures in secret. Shareholders have rarely learned about contributions that top executives make to political action committees on behalf of the companies. Shareholders should be notified of any spending on political activities, including in-kind donations as well as contributions, membership dues or other payments to organizations that engage in political activities. The corporation would have to file a report with shareholders and the state campaign finance disclosure board if the aggregate contributions exceed $10,000. These reports must be filed electronically and within 5 business days of incurring the expense.

  • RalfW

    Right on! The answer to corporate speech is more speech — namely, them having to tell on themselves.

    If they would be shamed to have the public know where their dollars are going, then they are probably going places that are shameful. But if corporate leaders really think they’re investing in valuable speech, then they should have no trouble publicly disclosing it.

    Thank you Rep. Winkler!!