As we’ve learned, the IRS under the Obama Administration has been weaponized against conservative non-profits in an effort to stifle opposition speech, but that’s not the only avenue of attack. A partisan bill was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature, but ultimately defeated last year that would impose onerous new regulations on grassroots organizations like Minnesota Majority, Tea Party groups and numerous other non-profits
It’s back this year and it contains all manner of vague, subjective language (like “clearly;” “reasonable;” and “biased,”) that will allow a small 6-member board, appointed by the governor to determine who has violated the proposed new campaign finance laws and who has not. “Bias” is often in the eye of the beholder. In this case, it’s entirely up to the governor to determine who the “beholders” are.
The bill proposes to make identical messages which are constitutionally protected free speech during some of the year into regulated speech during another part of the year, having the effect of chilling grassroots speech and preventing voters from access to perspectives and information that may differ from the mainstream press (which is specifically exempted from the new regulations).
For example, the bill would still “allow” Minnesota Majority’s annual scorecard to be produced and distributed, as long as we keep a lid on it when it’s close to election time. If we don’t, the state would consider information about how legislators voted to be “electioneering,” subject to new campaign finance regulations as if we were a candidate campaign committee.
Simply using the name of a legislator in a communication providing information about an important public policy issue, voting records, or even mentioning who authored a particular piece of legislation would subject non-profit organizations like Minnesota Majority or Tea Party groups to additional hurdles. These regulations would not affect mainstream press, big unions, or the ultra-rich who can fund their own messaging.
If a legislator’s voting record is so atrocious as to constitute an ad against his or her reelection, that’s on the legislator, not the organization who’s simply providing the information to the public.
Just like in the IRS scandal, the “little guy” is the target of this legislation. It’s the poor or middle-class, rank-and-file voter who has to band together with other like-minded people through non-profit associations in order to compete in the information arena who will be stifled by this legislation.
The House and Senate versions of this bill have just passed their respective chambers’ Elections Committees on party-line votes with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.
Last year, Governor Dayton pledged not to sign any elections bill that didn’t have “strong bipartisan support” and legislators mostly seemed to respect that, but this year, it looks like Democrat leaders want to test the waters and pass bills that will alter our election laws on a purely partisan basis in hopes that the governor will break his pledge and sign them into law.
Use the Take Action Button below to contact your state Senator, Representative and the Governor about this legislation.