May 19: Federal judge puts Minnesota campaign rule on hold

  • Associated Press
  • May 24, 2014 - 9:04 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's law limiting the amount of money candidates can take from lobbyists, political funds and big donors is on hold after a ruling Monday by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank suspended the law while a lawsuit challenging it plays out. The law in question says that candidates can only accept 20 percent of their donations money from certain types of donors and then must abide by lower limits after that.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports ( ) the judge based his ruling on the recent U.S. Supreme Court case — known as McCutcheon v. FEC — that struck down donor caps affecting federal candidates.

"While the court may not agree with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment in this regard, and echoes the concerns of other courts that have addressed similar issues in light of McCutcheon, the court is nonetheless bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court," Frank wrote.

Frank's temporary injunction means campaign regulators can't enforce the limits while the case is pending.

The Minnesota branch of the Institute for Justice argued on behalf of two donors and two candidates that the state's limits on "special source" donations prevent free speech.

"It's a great victory because the current law rations First Amendment rights on a first-come, first-serve basis," said Lee McGrath, the institute's executive director.

The suspension allows candidates to take more money overall from more people, but Minneapolis campaign finance lawyer John Knapp doesn't expect to see most candidates benefit.

"Some candidates may get more than 20 percent, some candidates have never come close to getting that 20 percent," said Knapp, who is an attorney with Winthrop & Weinstein. "It's going to vary from candidate to candidate."

Gary Goldsmith, executive director of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure board, said the agency was braced for such a ruling.

"The board and the staff and the attorneys knew that the McCutcheon case on which the decision is based provided a strong incentive for the court to issue the injunction," he said.

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