Bill increasing contribution and spending limits clears committee

A Minnesota House committee today approved a bill that would allow higher contributions to political candidates running for state offices and the Legislature.

The bill approved by the House Elections Committee would also require additional disclosure from independent groups that spend money to influence elections.

Increasing the campaign contribution limits will help candidates compete with outside groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL- Golden Valley.

“We’re getting to a point where outside interest groups and their agendas are driving our political campaigns rather than candidates and their conversations with voters,” Winkler said.

Winkler’s bill would allow donors to give candidates for governor $6,000 every election cycle. Current law allows gubernatorial candidates to raise $2,000 in an election year and $500 in other years. Candidates for state Senate would be able to raise $3,000 for the cycle instead of $800. House members would be able to raise $1,500 per cycle instead of $600.

Several groups, including Common Cause Minnesota and the League of Women Voters, praised the bill but worried that increasing the donor and spending limits will only give more power to moneyed interests.

The bill would also require all independent groups, including non-profit trade groups, to disclose receipts and expenditures. It would require associations to disclose high-dollar donors. Current law does not require trade groups and other non-profits to disclose their donors. Democrats complained last election that business groups used the issue advocacy loophole as a way to promote and defeat political candidates.

Andrea Rau with the anti-abortion group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, spoke against the bill. It would have a chilling effect on donors to her organization, said Rau.

“Regardless of intent, it does seem that the real effect of these burdensome reporting requirements is less to inform the public and more to deter citizens from publicly engaging in the issues of the day,” Rau said.

The House Elections Committee approved the measure on a divided voice vote. The bill has several more committee stops before it reaches the House floor.

Gov. Dayton has said he will only sign elections bills that have bipartisan support.