WASHINGTON – In a 2-1 decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Minnesota campaign finance law that requires extensive disclosure of independent expenditures on behalf of candidates and restricts corporate contributions to state candidates and political parties.
The case, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life vs. Swanson, follows the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2009, which freed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to support and oppose candidates for federal office.
Following that decision, the Legislature passed strict disclosure laws for corporations, which revealed Target’s support for the group MN Forward, which in turn supported Tom Emmer’s campaign for the governor’s office.
MCCL, which opposes abortion, along with the Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota and a travel agency, sued to block the law, arguing that the disclosure laws violated the groups’ free speech rights and created burdensome new rules to adhere to. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the groups are represented by Jim Bopp, who also advised Citizens United.)
The court disagreed with the groups’ arguments, writing, “Minnesota’s provisions collectively impose no materially greater burden on corporations than the disclosure laws at issue in Citizen United.”
MCCL can appeal the circuit court’s decision to the Supreme Court, which recently heard a challenge to Arizona’s campaign finance laws.
The group hasn’t made a public statement about the decision and referred us to their lawyer for comment. I’ve left a message with him and will update this post if he responds with a comment.
The pro-campaign finance group, the Campaign Legal Center, supported the 8th Circuit’s decision.
“This is good news for Minnesota and for the health of campaign finance law in the post-Citizens United era,” said the Center’s associate counsel Tara Malloy. “In light of the many pending challenges [to campaign disclosure laws], we are pleased that the Eighth Circuit has joined the Ninth Circuit and many lower courts in the last year to hold that strong disclosure laws for independent expenditures are constitutional.”
You can read the full 30 page decision here.