Gavel Grab

'Citizens United' Spurs Legal Action, Protest

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is asking a federal judge to clarify the rights of corporations to play an active role in state elections, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision.

In contrast, activists unhappy with the Supreme Court ruling held a protest outside the state capitol in neighboring Wisconsin. The widespread extent of voter unhappiness over the ruling was reflected in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, showing 80 percent of respondents disagreeing with the ruling.

The  Minnesota case  seeks a declaratory judgment about what constitutes legal conduct for corporations, according to an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and it signals the intention of the business community in Minnesota to exercise rights gained as a result of the decision.

“We’re just seeking to clarify what our rights are,” said Mike Franklin, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Chamber. “For a long time, we’ve had a whole regulatory and statutory scheme telling us we can’t” endorse  or air commercials  to support candidates.

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure board hopes to “eventually issue a document that political committees can use,” said Jeff Sigurdson of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. He acknowledged agreement that Minnesota’s prohibition on corporate participation in elections is past.

In Madison, Wisc., activists met to protest the Citizens United ruling, according to Channel 3000 News. Event sponsors included The Center for Democracy and Media and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a partner group of Justice at Stake.

You can learn more about Citizens United, a landmark ruling that cleared the way for corporations to spend freely to support or oppose political candidates, in Gavel Grab.

At the national level, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed eight in 10 people who responded to the survey opposed the Jan. 21 ruling, and 72 percent of respondents favored congressional action to restore limits, according to the Washington Post.

The survey suggests bipartisan support for President Obama and congressional Democrats in their effort to shape legislation. Among Democrats, 85 percent opposed the ruling, and among Republicans, 76 percent.

A New York Times editorial called a legislative package of responses to Citizens United, recently outlined by Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a “welcome, if partial, fix” although it lacks an important requirement for shareholders to approve of a corporation’s political spending.  The editorial concluded about the Schumer-Van Hollen proposal:

“It could help keep special interest money in check until the real solution comes: a Supreme Court ruling reversing the deeply antidemocratic Citizens United decision.”

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2 Comments so far

  1. […] political expenditures–meaning they are not coordinated with candidates up for election. (See Gavel Grab for an earlier report on the poll, by Washington Post-ABC […]

  2. […] The state’s restrictions on  on independent political expenditures by corporations are unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled, according to an Associated Press article. The decision is available here. The Chamber had asked for a declaratory ruling in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision (see Gavel Grab). […]

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