Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MCCL sues state for violating first amendment rights

The following is a press release from the law firm of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom, issued last Thursday, July 8.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, Inc., The Taxpayers League of Minnesota, and Coastal Travel Enterprises, LLC want to be able to make contributions to political parties and/or candidates, and also produce political ads supporting the candidates they like. The First Amendment says they have the right to do these things. But Minnesota law forbids it.

Minnesota says that corporations may only make political ads if they pay for them from what the State calls a "political fund." These political funds have lots of burdensome registration, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. But the Supreme Court recently ruled in a case called Citizens United that corporations have a First Amendment right to make political ads from their own money, without having to submit to burdensome registration, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. So Minnesota requires the very thing the Supreme Court said is unconstitutional.

Minnesota also bans political contributions from corporations, unless they are made through a "conduit fund" that has these same type of burdensome requirements. Even then, corporations do not get to decide which candidate the money in their conduit fund should be contributed to. Instead, whoever donates to the fund gets to decide. But every other type of association— including unincorporated labor unions—get to decide which candidates the money in their funds should be contributed to. This treats corporations differently than everybody else, and prevents them from making contributions they want to make.

As a result, MCCL, Taxpayers League and Coastal Travel filed suit in federal court yesterday, asking the Judge to strike these unconstitutional laws.

James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the Corporations, stated, "The Supreme Court was clear when it said in Citizens United that corporations have free-speech rights. Minnesota's attempt to subvert the Supreme Court is blatantly unconstitutional. And, the reasoning of Citizens means that corporations should also be able to make their own contributions, without having to use a special 'fund.' Regardless, the Constitution forbids government treating similar groups differently, as Minnesota does to corporations and every other type of association."

The case is before the Honorable Donovan Frank, District Judge in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. The case number is 10-CV-2938 DWF/JSM, and is known as MCCL v. Swanson. The complaint may be viewed at www.jamesmadisoncenter.org.