Appeals court rules disclosure law likely unconstitutionalby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — In a split decision, a federal court ruled today that a Minnesota law requiring disclosure of independent corporate political donations and spending is likely unconstitutional.
The ruling from the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier decision from a three-judge panel and backed the challenge filed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and a travel agency. The court endorsed the groups' argument that the state law inhibits freedom of speech.
James Bopp, a lawyer representing the groups, said it was a good decision.
"They've recognized that requiring a group to do its political speech through a political fund, what most people think of as a PAC, is burdensome. And they have struck down that burden," Bopp said.
The appeals court ordered the case sent back to a lower court for further consideration.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, the chief author of the law, said he thinks the appeals court went too far.
"When corporations spend money on elections, they'll have no disclosure obligations to the public," Winkler said. "I think it's really a shame that the 8th Circuit decided to go even further than the Citizens United. I think they're wrong as a matter of constitutional law, and I think over time this decision will be overturned one way or another."
Winkler issued a statement to say that the courts eliminated rules that provide "accountability for politicians and sunlight for the political spending of the richest and most powerful people and organizations in the country."