Bipartisan group of lawmakers want to raise limits on political giving

Some state lawmakers from both parties say they hope to raise the limit on the amount of money a candidate for state office can raise and spend.

Gov. Dayton earlier this month urged lawmakers to raise the contribution limit. He made the comments on the day his campaign finance report showed him with $94,000 in the bank at the end of 2012.

He isn’t alone.

The chairs of the House and Senate Election Committees both say they want to increase the limits. The top Republican on the House Elections Committee also says he’s likely to back the plan as well.

The reason is simple. Political candidates feel like they’re being dwarfed by spending from outside interest groups. Candidates for statewide office can raise $500 in the years they’re not on the ballot. They can raise $2,000 in election years. Legislative candidates can raise $100 in non-election years and $500 in the years that they’re on the ballot.

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, said those limits are too low.

“We should increase both the contribution and the spending limits so that we can better equalize the size of megaphones and those who are trying to help or hurt them in elections,” Simon said. “The outside interests have a huge megaphone now as compared to the actual candidates running for office.”

Simon, who chairs the House Elections Committee, noted that outside interest groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on any race.

He is holding a hearing today on a proposal by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board that calls for hiking the contribution and spending limits. Update: The committee held a hearing on a different Campaign Finance Board proposal.

Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, the top Republican on the House Elections Committee, also says it’s likely he’ll support some sort of increase. Sanders said there hasn’t been an agreement between committee members as to what the new limits should be. He said, however, that increasing the limits will make races more competitive.

“It always struck me as incumbent protection,” Sanders said, referring to the low contribution limits.

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, also wants to hike the limits. Sieben, who chairs the Senate Elections Committee, said she’s heard from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who expressed concern about the level of outside spending on legislative races in 2012. GOP Senate Minority Leader David Hann said his caucus hasn’t discussed the idea but said he thinks there is support for it.

A proposal to increase political contributions will likely be included in a broader elections bill. Gov. Dayton has said he won’t support any elections bill unless it has broad, bipartisan support.

  • Nicole Frethem

    This is written in a way that may be confusing. The amounts listed are maximum individual contribution limits. A candidate can only accept $100 per individual in a non-election year or $500 per individual in an election year. The total amount they can raise and spend is much higher.