Minnesota lawmakers might soon have to let the public know much more about how they make money, as the state campaign finance agency prepares a major overhaul of the state's economic disclosure laws.

For years, Minnesota, despite its a squeaky clean reputation, has required lawmakers and other public officials to disclose a bare minimum about their sources of income. On Tuesday, as lawmakers rushed back to the Capitol to begin the new session, the state's campaign finance board decided it is time for that to change.

"We are, in fact, weaker than many other states," said Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board executive director Gary Goldsmith.

Under current law, a lawmaker could have a contract with a company that lobbies the Legislature and the public could be kept in the dark and public officials do not have to quickly add any information about their interests if they get a new job.

"It really doesn't say anything," said campaign finance board member Neil Peterson, a former Republican state House member, of the current forms public officials have to disclose.

The board may look at requiring lawmakers with contracting clients to reveal the names of those clients; lawmakers spouses to disclose information about their interests and public officials to keep the information on file updated.

Details of the coming proposal will be revealed next month, which would need legislative approval. Key officials have already said they would welcome a change and are working on their own proposals to strengthen the laws.

A recent study of economic disclosure laws across the nation gave Minnesota a D+ for the quality of its disclosure.

The move comes after years of hand-wringing over the lack of information, including several recent cases of lawmakers having outside interests the could conflict with Capitol work but did not need to be revealed.


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