In the ongoing saga of attacks on campaign finance laws this election year – there are new developments in MCCL v. Swanson (for background on this issue, see my prior post here). On October 12, 2012, the US District Court for the District of Minnesota issued a ruling in response to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (in the second hearing – an en banc opinion) reversal of a prior decision to deny a preliminary injunction. The full order can be found here, or see below for a summary of the opinion.
Based on the 8th Circuit Court of appeals decision, the plaintiffs in the case were pushing to have a preliminary injunction issued against all of Minnesota’s independent expenditure fund laws. They argued that the 8th Circuit intended the whole of the law to be enjoined, and the fact that the Court did not address whether or not certain provisions could be severed (in order to keep other provisions in effect) also points to that reading of the 8th Circuit opinion. The majority in that opinion stated: “[W]e reverse the district court’s denial of the appellants’ motion for a preliminary injunction to the extent it requires ongoing reporting requirements from associations not otherwise qualifying as PAC’s under Minnesota law.” The District Court found that statement (along with other statements in the 8th Circuit opinion) to clearly say that the 8th Circuit only intended require a temporary injunction be issued as it applies to the ongoing reporting requirements for existing, but inactive, political funds.
I think the District Court made the right decision here. As noted in the order, it is in accordance with the limited injunction requested by the defendants in response to the 8th Circuit’s decision. The provision that is now enjoined is Minn. Stat. § 10A.20, subd. 7. This subdivision imposes a requirement that political committees, political funds, principal campaign committees, and party units must file a statement of inactivity with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board if the committee/fund/campaign/party does not have any receipts or expenditures during a reporting period. The injunction only applies to temporarily except political funds from this requirement.
If ongoing reporting by inactive funds is all Minnesota loses out of its current statute once the dust all settles on this case, I think we will have fared pretty well. In fact, I am almost sold on the argument that this is a good change.
More to come as this case develops…