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Disclosure guidelines may affect marriage battle

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June 17, 2011

Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board met on Tuesday, June 14 to consider significant modifications to the state's disclosure guidelines. Under the disciplinary agency's current guidlines, corporations may donate to ballot measure campaigns without disclosing their own donors. In the case of the Same-Sex Marriage Amendment, organizations like Human Rights Campaign (against) and the National Organization for Marriage (for) are not required to reveal their donors when they contribute to ballot measure campaigns in Minnesota.[1]

Notable proponents of the marriage amendment, the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage, oppose the reversal, saying that it could open donors to intimidation and chill free speech. Counsel for the NOM, Josiah Neeley, argued that donations to ballot measures are distinct from other political contributions since, unlike politicians, they cannot be bribed or bought off.[1]

Proponents of the change, like Common Cause Minnesota, argue that ballot initiative campaigns can affect broader political campaigns and that the public has a "right to know" the funding sources of political speech. Ultimately, the advisory opinions of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board are not legally binding, but are seen as the Board's interpretation of existing law and do effect Board's disclosure guidelines. The Board has, on several occasions, asked the Legislature to clarify the statute.[1]

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