Minnesota Upholds Discourse Law

A federal appeals ruling last week upheld a law requiring disclosure of corporate political campaign contributions that embroiled several prominent Minnesota companies in a controversy surrounding the state’s heated campaign for governor.

The issue may become the next corporate governance battle, now that say on pay is a routine advisory vote thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act.

Last year, Minnesota’s state legislature passed a law requiring prompt disclosure of campaign contributions. The law was brought in following a US Supreme Court ruling – known as the Citizens United decision – that had rejected limiting corporations’ ability to engage in political contributions but upheld the importance of disclosure.

A suit seeking to halt implementation of Minnesota’s law during last year’s campaign for governor claimed the reporting requirements interfered with free speech by limiting the support corporations can offer candidates.

The suit was brought by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Coastal Travel Enterprises.

Federal Judge Donovan Frank declined to strike down the law, saying voters have ‘an interest in knowing who is speaking about a candidate on the eve of an election’. Last week, an appeals court upheld Judge Frank’s ruling by a 2-1 vote.

Asked whether they plan to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court, the plaintiffs say they ‘are reviewing the ruling and considering their options at this point. That’s not a definite yes or no.’

Minnesota-based Target Corp, Best Buy and 3M all came in for criticism from gay rights groups when, as a result of the disclosure requirements, it was revealed that they had donated to an organisation supporting Republican lawmaker Tom Emmer’s bid for governor.

Target, in particular, which was known for promoting employee diversity, came in for criticism, including pickets at store openings in San Francisco. At issue was Emmer’s voting record as a state legislator opposing gay rights issues such as same-sex marriage, surrogate parenting and domestic partner benefits for state workers.

[Article by Brad Allen, IR magazine]