ST. PAUL, MN – Sen. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights) and Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) were joined by representatives from the Minnesota League of Women Voters, Minnesota Citizens for Clean Elections, and Common Cause at a press conference Wednesday morning to show a united front against the elimination of Minnesota’s long-standing campaign finance reforms. The two senators have been vocal supporters of the spending limits, as well as other reforms that were enacted in response to the Watergate scandal 40 years ago.
In 2016, virtually all candidates for legislature and constitutional offices agreed to abide by the spending limits in exchange for partial public funding. Senators Laine and Marty point out that repeal of these reforms will undermine Minnesota’s history of free and fair elections. The campaign finance reforms are scheduled for repeal in the Omnibus State Government Budget Bill.
“Candidate spending limits keep our campaigns sane. Both candidates agree to the limits, which then make it an even playing field. This allows newcomers and the ordinary citizen to run for office,” said Sen. Laine. “If this respected program is repealed, it’ll only take a couple of elections before the race to spend more and more to overpower your opponent drowns out the potential candidates who aren’t wealthy or connected to special interests. Who then will be representing us in our state government? I so value our clean and fair campaign finance program that keeps our government truly representative and accessible,” Laine said.
“We need to strengthen Minnesota’s campaign finance and government ethics reforms, not weaken them. Minnesota is one of a handful of states that fought to protect open and fair elections,” according to Sen. Marty.
“For four decades, members of the public along with government reform groups have been working to establish these limits. Now, all of those efforts would be repealed through a small provision buried in an appropriations bill. Powerful interest groups have already succeeded in corrupting our democracy through court rulings such as the Citizens United one. Big money already has too much clout at the capitol. With this repeal, Minnesota will be making an unconditional surrender to special interests. Without these limits, campaign spending will increase sharply, candidates who reject special interest money will have little chance of winning, and our political system will become even more beholden to the interests of the wealthy donors,” said Sen. Marty.
Terry Kalil, president of the League of Women Voters Minnesota, asks, “Why would the Minnesota legislature repeal effective programs that have made Minnesota a beacon of a strong democracy? Instead, we urge all citizens to sound the alarm and stop the rollbacks of the very programs that make our elections accessible. If we remain silent, democracy in Minnesota will suffer, resulting in “pay to play” politics.”