Costly campaign messaging could get influx of cash

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Candidates for state office may be allowed to use more funds to get their campaign messages across to the public.

Passed by the House 85-49 and the Senate 47-15 Monday, HF863/ SF661* would increase campaign spending and contribution limits for various state offices. The limits would also be divided in two-year election and non-election segments. The bill now awaits gubernatorial action.

Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), who sponsors the bill with Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), said the original intent was to loosen donation restrictions while increasing disclosure requirements. Although some of the original disclosure provisions were not included, he said the bill was still a step in the right direction.

Proposed campaign spending increases include:

  • Representatives: From $34,300 within an election year to $60,000 for an election segment;
  • Senator: From $68,100 within an election year to $90,000 in an election segment and $30,000 for a non-election segment;
  • Governor/Lieutenant Governor: From about $2.6 million within an election year to $3.5 million for the election segment and $1.5 million in the non-election segment;
  • Attorney General: From $429,600 in an election year to $600,000 in the election segment and $200,000 in an non-election segment; and
  • Secretary of State and state auditor each: From $214,800 in an election year to $400,000 in the election segment and $100,000 in a non-election section.

Proposed contribution increases include:

  • Representatives: From $600 over two years to $1,000 for an election segment;
  • Senators: From $600 over four years to $1,000 in the election segment and $1,000 in non-election segment;
  • Governor/Lieutenant Governor: From $2,500 over four years to $4,000 in an election segment to $2,000 in a non-election segment;
  • Attorney General: From $1,200 over four years to $2,500 in election segment and $1,500 non-election segment;
  • Secretary of State and state auditor each: From $1,200 over four years to $2,000 in an election segment and $1,000 in non-election segment; and
  • Judicial office: From $2,000 in an election year and $500 in other years to $2,500 in an election segment to $1,000 in a non-election segment.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), who voted against the bill, said she had concerns about a provision that would allow meals to be provided to legislators at events, under certain conditions. “This is about people buying an audience with us,” she said.

Rep. Barb Yarusso (DFL-Shoreview) agreed. “The fact that it’s an open invitation is not sufficient to guarantee that people are truly all going to be there, particularly if you hold it in some remote location.”

Other provisions in the bill would expand the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s jurisdiction to recover campaign contributions used for impermissible purposes and provide that a matter under the board’s jurisdiction could lead to criminal prosecution.