In order to preserve fair and open elections, Minnesota has laws limiting the amount of money that an individual or organization can contribute to a candidate’s campaign. To prevent people from “maxing out” their contribution to a candidate and then contributing even more to a political party or PAC in order to extend their financial influence in the campaign, there are laws that prohibit “coordination” between political parties and a candidate’s campaign. All of this is intended to put a normal citizen candidate on similar financial footing as a millionaire politician.
Last month, we revealed that the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFB) was investigating the DFL and Governor Dayton’s reelection campaign for suspected campaign finance violations. The original complaint, filed by the GOP, contended that the DFL and Governor Dayton’s campaign coordinated in the production of television ads by sharing video footage for multiple ads. As Chair, I supported the CFB investigation into the claim because it mirrored a complaint that the Independence Party filed against Governor Pawlenty’s campaign and the GOP in 2002. In that claim, the CFB found the GOP and the Pawlenty campaign had indeed violated campaign finance laws.
Today, the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board (CFB) ruled that it is O.K. for Minnesota political parties and campaigns to circumvent fair campaign finance practices and coordinate on expensive campaign resources.
Specifically, CFB ruled that it was perfectly acceptable for the DFL and Governor Dayton’s reelection campaign to share expensive video footage in separate TV ads without having to report the value of the footage as a campaign contribution or campaign expense. Why is this acceptable? Because the Governor’s campaign posted the video to YouTube first. Honestly, that is the CFB ruling in a nutshell. Now, a one hundred thousand dollar video production by a campaign’s supporter can be laundered by posting it to YouTube where the candidate can then copy it and use it without reporting a single dime in campaign contributions or expenses. I am certainly disappointed by this ruling, but not surprised. What is disappointing is that I thought Minnesota was above this. Instead, the CFB just provided more evidence that Minnesota’s campaign finance regulations may be legal, but they certainly are not fair.