Common Cause of Minnesota has filed two complaints with the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure board alleging that proponents of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage have flouted state disclosure laws.
The complaints, filed against Minnesota for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council are the latest move in a developing skirmish over fundraising and disclosure as same-sex marriage activists on both sides gear up for a hard-fought, expensive campaign heading into November.
The complaint against Minnesota for Marriage says that group did not disclose the name of donors who contributed more than $100 to its efforts. In its latest disclosure forms, the group revealed the names of just seven donors. Common Cause notes amendment opponents disclosure more than 770 names.
“Although it is possible that one side’s grassroots support is much stronger than the other’s,” the Common Cause statement says, “it stretches all credibility that grassroots support for the Marriage Amendment is less than one percent of its opposition.”
Minnesota for Marriage in the past has balked and fought against disclosure of donors in its effort to pass a same-sex marriage constitutional amendment. Specifically, the group has argued that only contributions offered to specifically support the campaign for the ballot measure need to be disclosed, a distinction the state’s Campaign Finance Board has upheld in issued guidance, but many critics decry as a loophole.
A second complaint against the Minnesota Family Council argues that the group has failed to register as a political committee. In the past, the council has not registered because state law requires registration only if a group’s “major purpose” is to campaign for or against a given ballot initiative. The council has said that, because of its varied activities, it doesn’t need to register.
As a matter of policy, the Campaign Finance Board doesn’t discuss or confirm the existence of inquiries into potential violations of campaign finance guidelines. In the past, those bringing complaints have released letters from the board confirming investigations, but no official comment is made public until any findings are issued.
The pushback from same-sex marriage opponents against stricter campaign finance disclosure in Minnesota has already been particularly fierce, dating back to last year. Meanwhile, Common Cause has been frequently criticizing those efforts.
In other states though, it often takes longer than the campaign itself for such issues to be worked out by courts or in state law, and some observers have said any resulting fines or sanctions are taken simply as a cost of campaigning.