Three Minnesota Corporations Sue State Officials Over Disclosure Requirements That Stifle Free Speech

The Fight for Political Speech and Election Law Continues

The Supreme Court’s decision on January 21, 2010 in the Citizens United v. FEC case rendered 24 state election laws unconstitutional. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, Minnesota repealed laws it had on the books prohibiting independent expenditures by corporations.  However, in an effort to force disclosure and enhance “transparency,” the state legislature passed laws that force corporations that wish to make independent expenditures to create a committee and register. All independent expenditures have to be funneled through these committees.


These new disclosure requirements create excessive burdens on corporate speech—burdens the U.S. Supreme Court clearly recognized in Citizens United.  Therefore, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota along with two other Minnesota corporations sued state officials to overturn the new state laws regulating corporate election spending.   This lawsuit, filed in July in federal court, challenges four provisions to Minnesota campaign finance law related to prohibitions against corporations making independent expenditures and contributions from general treasury funds.


It is the plaintiff’s’ position that Minnesota’s unconstitutional disclosure rules greatly handicap small business’s ability to contribute to campaigns. These small businesses that make up 70% of our employers do not have the resources to meet the extensive reporting requirements enacted by the state and face stiff penalties if the reports are filed incorrectly.  According to Joe LaRue, a lead attorney for the three corporations, “The Taxpayers League of Minnesota decided to act as a plaintiff in this suit because we believe these unconstitutional provisions to Minnesota campaign finance law have taken even more power away from the job creators and business owners by forcing them to use a political fund or conduit fund to engage in political speech.”  LaRue further explained that a “victory will result in greater ease for corporations in Minnesota to participate in the political speech and association that shapes their ability to invest in our economy”


To date, the District Court has denied repeated requests for injunctive relief.  The plaintiffs asked the court for a preliminary injunction so that they may speak in this election with the assurance that these laws would not be enforced against them. In September, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled against the plaintiffs and refused to enjoin the laws regulating corporate speech.  The plaintiffs appealed this ruling, but the

District Court again denied the plaintiffs relief.


Most recently, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the groups’ motion to expedite the case but is taking under advisement their request for an injunction to suspend enforcement of the disclosure law while their challenge is considered.  However, as oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 11, the 8thCircuit effectively denied the request for injunctive relief.  The groups have now asked Justice Alito, the Circuit Justice for the 8thCircuit, for injunctive relief in order to speak during this election.


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