Court rejects state disclosure law

In a split decision, a federal court ruled today that a Minnesota law requiring disclosure of independent corporate political donations and spending is likely unconstitutional.

The ruling from the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier decision from a three-judge panel and backed the challenge filed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and a travel agency. The court endorsed the groups’ argument that the state law inhibits freedom of speech. James Bopp, a lawyer representing the groups, said it was a good decision.

“They’ve recognized that requiring a group to do it’s political speech through a political fund, what most people think of as a PAC, is burdensome,” Bopp said. “And they have struck down that burden.”

The Minnesota law followed the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case known as Citizens United, which opened the door for unrestricted independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. State Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, the chief author of the law, said he thinks today’s appeals court ruling went too far.

“When corporations spend money on elections, they’ll have no disclosure obligations to the public,” Winkler said. “I think it’s really a shame that the 8th Circuit decided to go even further than the Citizens United. I think they’re wrong as a matter of constitutional law, and I think over time this decision will be overturned one way or another.”

The appeals court ordered the case sent back to a lower court for further proceedings.

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