House Elections Committee to Consider Campaign Finance Legislation

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The Campaign Finance Policy and Technical Bill (H.F. 863 / S.F. 661) will be heard by the House Committee on Elections on March 7. The bill is an initiative of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (“Board”) and proposes several changes to current campaign finance law. Highlights of the bill include the following:

  • Changing the threshold for registration and reporting by candidates, political committees and ballot question committees ($750 for candidates and political committees; $1,500 for independent expenditures and $5,000 for ballot question committees);
  • Increasing contribution limits to candidates and changing the application of contribution limits from a per-calendar-year basis to an election cycle basis; and
  • Increasing the level of contribution before detailed reporting on individual contributors is required (from $100 to $200).

In addition to these technical adjustments, the bill proposes several policy changes. Specifically, the bill seeks to:

  • Expand the authority of the Board, including the authority to issue advisory opinions for campaign finance provisions in Chapter 211A and 211B, as well as the authority to initiate legal action to collect funds that have been deemed to have been used inappropriately;
  • Broaden the definition of “express advocacy” to include speech that does not include the traditional magic words of “vote for”, “vote against”, “support” or “defeat”;
  • Create a separate category of political speech, referred to as “electioneering communication” which mirrors federal law and requires specific disclaimers, as well as reporting of money that is spent on materials that are distributed to certain members of the public shortly before an election, even if the materials do not constitute an independent expenditure; and
  • Revise the underlying source disclosure rules that apply to associations making independent expenditures and/or electioneering communications.

The Senate companion bill was heard by the Senate Rules and Administration Subcommittee on Elections on February 25. The subcommittee laid the bill on the table for further testimony at an upcoming meeting although no additional hearings have been scheduled. The text of the bill can be found at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S0661.0.html&session=ls88