The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled last week that the Minnesota Family Council, an anti-LGBT group spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of a state marriage inequality constitutional amendment, need not disclose its donors because its “major purpose” does not qualify it as a “political committee.”
In their ruling dismissing a complaint by Common Cause Minnesota, the board said:
Minnesota statutes allow the association to allocate the amount of general treasury money used to promote or defeat a ballot question among donors to the association’s general treasury. The association is required to itemize only those donors who, based on the allocation, contributed $1,000 or more of the general treasury money used to promote or defeat a ballot question. The allocation and itemization threshold provisions used together provide a means by which an association may limit or, in some cases, entirely avoid itemized donor disclosure.
This loophole means that proponents of ballot initiatives can legally launder money through non-profit groups, as long as the non-profit group does other things beyond just fighting for that particular ballot initiative. Because the Minnesota Family Council has taken other right-wing positions over the years — including opposing anti-bullying protections for LGBT students and regulation of pre-school programs — it can raise and spend as much money as it wants to this year to support the amendment and voters will have no opportunity to know who is paying for their advertising and other campaign efforts.
While Minnesotans United for All Families, the pro-equality group fighting against the amendment, released a lengthy list of its scores of individual donors, the anti-equality forces disclosed just seven donors whose contributions accounted for less than three percent of their funding — instead relying on contributions from groups like the Minnesota Family Council who do not disclose donors.
This sort of loophole is not particular to Minnesota and shows the major problem with the post-Citizens United campaign finance universe. While Justice Anthony Kennedy defended unlimited spending in elections saying “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,” right now voters have neither.