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Independence question vexes Minn. campaign board

  • Associated Press
  • November 5, 2013 - 1:10 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota campaign finance regulators wrestled Tuesday with how to maintain adequate separation between candidates and political groups independently spending money on key races.

An attorney for an undisclosed candidate has asked the state campaign finance board whether the candidate could help raise money for an outside group that may spend money later to influence the person's election. The board deferred action on an advisory opinion after some members pushed for stronger language to discourage the appearance of coordinated efforts.

Members voiced concerns that a decision one way would bless forms of cooperation between candidates and groups, and that advice another way could be viewed as infringing on constitutionally protected speech rights.

The ultimate determination could be pivotal given the growing involvement of well-stocked political action committees in state campaigns. While opinions are considered nonbinding, they can provide a road map for future campaign activity.

Board member George Beck said he wants a decision that keeps "a bright line" between activity of outside groups and candidates. But board member John Scanlon said regulators have to deal with the facts they're presented.

Under facts put forward by the candidate requesting the advice, the candidate has been approached by a group of people that intend to form an independent expenditure political committee. The group has asked the candidate to help it raise money and appear as a speaker at its fundraising events. Such committees can raise unlimited money from people and corporations whereas candidates themselves face tighter restrictions.

The board is to resume the debate in December.

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