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Campaign Reforms - Defending Minnesota's Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform

In an amicus brief filed on March 25, NVRI jumped to the defense of a Minnesota law that enhances the impact of small donations while restricting large ones, and that allows regulation of groups organized to further a candidate's nomination, even though they do not expressly advocate for candidates.

In the early 1990s, revelations of special interest influence on the Minnesota legislature caused public confidence in that state's political system to plummet. In response, the state enacted a series of campaign finance measures designed to combat the reality and perception of unfair influence by the largest donors and to restore public trust. Many of those measures are challenged in a lawsuit pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, Inc. v. Kelley, in which NVRI has filed an amicus brief in support of the reforms. The lower court upheld nearly all of the challenged measures.

The Institute's amicus brief focuses on two issues of broad significance. First, the plaintiffs challenge the state's ability to regulate a group as a "political committee" if the group's major purpose is merely to further the nomination or election of a candidate, arguing that the state may only regulate such a group if, in addition, it is shown to be engaging in express candidate advocacy. However, since the seminal Buckley v. Valeo decision, courts have affirmed the government's ability to regulate such "major purpose" groups without regard to whether their communications are express candidate advocacy.

Second, the plaintiffs challenge a provision limiting how much money a candidate may accept from all political committees, lobbyists, and other large donors combined. By limiting candidate reliance on the largest donors and special interests, this contribution cap addresses the threat of corruption. At the same time, it enhances the ability of ordinary citizens to participate meaningfully in politics.

To read more about this case, visit our legal library.