The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the Green Party of Minnesota to have its minor party status restored. That means donors to the party won’t be eligible for the state’s political contribution refund program.
The Supreme Court didn’t rule on the merits of the Green Party’s case, which was handled by St. Paul attorney Andy Dawkins and Hamline University law professor David Schultz. Instead the justices ruled that they didn’t have jurisdiction to decide the matter.
“We recognize that the Green Party’s change in status may result in financial consequences to the Party,” the opinion notes. “And we acknowledge that campaign finance can be an issue of statewide importance, particularly for Minnesota taxpayers who subsidize these programs. But the essential basis for the Green Party’s petition is an effort to restore its status in Minnesota for purposes of participating in publicly subsidized campaign finance programs. Because the Green Party’s petition does not seek a ballot correction, and decertification as a minor political party does not directly interfere with the Green Party’s right to present candidates for office in future elections, we hold that we do not have jurisdiction under [state law].”
The Green Party initially lost its minor party status when it failed to file the proper paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office by the end of 2012. Party officials were under the assumption that it would retain minor party status for two consecutive election cycles because it had fulfilled the requirements in 2010. Because of that failure, the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board notified the party in April that it was now deemed a “political committee.” The Supreme Court petition sought to reverse that decision.
“The bottom line is at this point the Green Party won’t be eligible now for the income tax rebate,” Schultz said. “That’s huge in terms of how it affects the Green Party.”
The decision marks a steep decline for the Green Party. Back in 2000, it earned major party status on the strength of Ralph Nader‘s presidential campaign, which garnered more than 5 percent of the vote. But it was dropped to minor party status in 2004, after none of its statewide candidates reached the 5 percent threshold in two consecutive election cycles.
The Green Party appears to have little immediate recourse. There is a means by which a political committee can petition the state for political party status, but according to Green Party activist Jim Ivey, the process is confusing and complicated.
“It’s frustrating because it seems like the law is being interpreted very explicitly in a way that hurts freedom of speech, freedom of association,” Ivey said.