Minnesota state political candidates and donors are free to raise and give money unencumbered by the state’s special sources limits, after U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in a case challenging the campaign finance law Monday.
Frank wrote that the plaintiffs had “alleged a concrete injury, that is fairly traceable to the challenged statute, and that is likely to be redressed by a ruling on the constitutionality of the special sources limit as it pertains to large contributors.”
Frank did not, however, let the issue pass without intimating that he does not necessarily agree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the subject, despite his obligation to follow precedent. Frank quoted U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty, who wrote “today’s reality is that the voices of ‘we the people’ are too often drowned out by the few who have great resources.”
The case came before Frank after two donors and two political candidates filed suit to challenge the law in the wake of McCutcheon v. FEC, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a federal campaign finance law with aggregate donation limits. A lawyer for the Institute for Justice, which represents the plaintiffs, had argued that the law chilled the First Amendment speech of the donors and candidates who were unable to give and receive freely under the maximum allowable donation: up to $1,000 per donor to each state House candidate and up to $4,000 per donor to a gubernatorial candidate. Under the special sources law, after a candidate for the House had received $12,500 in donations, she could only accept individual donations of $500 or less; for gubernatorial candidates, the maximum donation dropped to $2,000 after $730,200 has been raised.
In analyzing whether to grant the injunction, the court considered the likelihood of success on the merits of the plaintiffs claim and found that the special sources law seems “to be directed at leveling the political playing field and reducing the amount of money in politics.” As such, the statute does not appear to have been enacted to combat quid pro quo corruption and the plaintiffs likely would be successful in their claim, Frank wrote.
Read the full order here.