The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Thursday ruled that corporate donations to groups advocating for or against a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage must be disclosed.
The measure has been opposed by groups such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Minnesota Family Council (MFC), who claim that their supporters would be subjected to harassment and violence if they are forced to disclose their donor information.
“Disclosure is essential to ensure a fair and open public debate on the marriage amendment,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. “The adopted rules will allow the public to know who is truly behind the political ads.”
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A coalition that included Common Cause Minnesota, the League of Women Voters and the Brennen Center for Justice advocated in support of the disclosure requirement, and sent a letter to the board on Thursday morning arguing that full disclosure would ensure that voters have the best available information when they go to the polls.
“Knowing the author and funder of an ad campaign can help voters evaluate the credibility of the messenger, especially in the absence of active media scrutiny of the issue,” the letter said.
“Voters would like to know: Is the majority of the money coming from out of state? Is the support from a large base of supporters or a few wealthy individuals? What interests do those contributing individuals represent? Knowing who is likely to benefit, or lose, from the outcome of a ballot question will help voters to evaluate both sides of a ballot initiative debate.”
The ruling will now require non-profit corporations that contribute to a ballot question fund to disclose the source of those contributions. This requirement will prevent a money shell game, which political organizations use at the federal level to transfer money between groups to avoid having to disclosure the source of the funds.
NOM has attempted to shield its donors from disclosure requirements in many states including Maine, California, New York, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Iowa.