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Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

MN Campaign Finance Board gets report about holes in disclosure law

Freedom Club State PAC, which supports conservative candidates and issues, spent more than $1 million to run a political ad 885 times on network TV last year without disclosing the spending as an independent expenditure, according to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.  

Because of the ambiguous wording of the state's campaign disclosure statute, however, the group's decision not to disclose the spending as an independent expenditure was perfectly legal, said Jeff Sigurdson, assistant director, in a memo and presentation to the board Tuesday.

Sigurdson said the cost of the ad appeared to be disclosed as a general expenditure made by the Freedom Club committee, though if the group had used its nonprofit corporation to spend the money it could have avoided even that level of disclosure.

Many election observers believe that recent federal court cases partially strking down campaign finance laws have led to significant sums spent without disclosure, including millions last year in Minnesota alone. 

An independent expenditure must be declared if it expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate, but Minnesota law isn't clear on what that means. A prior U.S. Supreme Court ruling provided eight words that show express advocacy, including elect, support, cast your ballot for, Smith for Congress, vote against, defeat and reject. 

The board has previously proposed a statutory change at the Legislature that would more broadly define express advocacy and thereby close the loophole and give Minnesotans more information about where political ads are coming from. The Legislature has declined to take up the language. 

Board member Daniel Rosen said the board could bypass the Legislature and use its rulemaking authority to broaden the definition of express advocacy. 

Rosen also went on to make the case that more political spending is good for American politics and pointed to a "rich history of anonymous speech" back to Revolutionary era pamphleteers in defense of anonymous political spending. 

The board took no action. 

Morning Hot Dish politics newsletter

GOP pulls Tina Smith into Planned Parenthood flap

Good morning. Sun is shining and Michigan blueberries are excellent.

The Mille Lacs walleye working group, including legislators, administration officials and a couple locals meets today at 3. It will be chaired by Rep. Tom Hackbarth and Sen. David Tomassoni. Expect no news. The season ends. More about the working group, plus skepticism from legislators about a special session, and especially the precedent this sets that we go into session every time an industry is in trouble because of some action of state government. Dave Orrick at the PiPress tries to answer what happened to all the walleye

Gov. Mark Dayton will speak at 11 at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, the umbrella group of 70 enviro orgs. University Club, 420 Summit Ave. Expect some news there.

Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board meets today at 9.

This seems worrisome. Last week, the state announced big savings by moving to new managed care contracts for public health enrollees, but that also means 475,000 Minnesotans have to move to a new health plan in 2016. Yikes.

That’s about six times the number of switches with previous contract changes, and has advocates worried enrollees could fall through the cracks. “Any time you’ve got that many people being disrupted, it’s a cause for alarm,” said Ralonda Mason, an attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in St. Cloud.

Flood of 400 new sex abuse claims to Catholic archdiocese before a deadline.

Abeler considers the Petersen Senate seat

Klob and Franken stick with Planned Parenthood, Allison Sherry reports; defunding fails in procedural vote. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith got roped into the story because she was a top person at local PP:

But Smith on Monday defended Planned Parenthood, saying she would never condemn an organization that furnishes affordable health care for millions of women nationwide. “I’m proud of the work they do,” she said. She called the videotapes “secretly recorded and heavily edited,” and characterized them as a political attack.

Obama’s climate change power plan, which is structured as state-based, now goes to be fought over in the states and the courts.

The Strib’s Jim Spencer and Dave Shaffer on the EPA rule, which reduces coal and favors wind, solar and conservation. Minnesota is already well on its way.

Times on the lengthy, strategic plan to defeat the Obama climate plan.

Rubio defends sugar subsidies, because if the sugar industry is wiped out, our entire agricultural industry will be too. The author of the piece linked is skeptical.

Trump-less candidate forum with a weird format, and no one shined.

Gov. Scott Walker appears in a photo he didn’t want to be in.

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