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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL)

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Getting Dark Money Out of our Politics

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Since the United States Supreme Court ruled on “Citizens United” in 2010 Minnesotans have been inundated with untold amounts of outside spending in campaigns. And many times, voters are not allowed to know who is spending the money nor how much.


I’m sure you have seen it- on your TV screens and in your mailbox. Around elections, I'm sure you get as sick as I do when television screens are lit up with advertisements supporting or opposing the various candidates for President of the United States or when mailboxes are littered with colorful mail pieces either celebrating or decrying candidates. While the pieces will certainly mention candidates by name, Minnesota law currently allows those responsible to hide their identity from the public.


This flood of special-interest "dark money" drowns out the voice of ordinary citizens. It makes people less likely to vote and it distorts our public policy. No wonder people feel like the system is rigged against them. We need to put more power back in the hands of voters.


That’s why I’m excited to support the DISCLOSE Act, which will, through an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, finally provide some transparency for the sources of this dark money. The DISCLOSE Act – which stands for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections – is a simple, but important reform of Minnesota’s campaign finance system which eliminates a loophole that exempts political groups from reporting spending on “issue based” communications, even if they advocate for or against a candidate. The Minnesota constitution already regulates campaign disclosure for candidates - this amendment would just close a loophole. Importantly, this would apply to all spending - Democratic and Republican alike, business and labor alike, everyone.


If a majority of both the House and Senate approve of this measure, the amendment will appear on the ballot for consideration during this November’s general election.


Well-funded special interests and their allies in the Legislature have been able to successfully block these types of reforms every time they have been introduced. If politicians in St. Paul won’t address this issue, then we should turn it over the people to decide. That’s why I am supporting the DISCLOSE Act. Because voters have a right to know whose bank accounts are behind political communications. And I am confident, if given the chance, Minnesotans will choose more transparent and fair election in Minnesota.