It’s the political season and you know that means money talks. But you may not know that you can give money to a state-level candidate or party of your choice and be reimbursed by the state. Minnesota’s Political Contribution Refund Program allows eligible U.S. citizens over the age of 18 to recoup up to $50 a year in contributions (and married couples up to $100.)
One catch: contributions must go to eligible state-level political candidates or political parties. This election season, that means anyone running for a Minnesota House of Representatives seat who has agreed to honor state campaign spending limits. It does not include any seats for federal office, such as the U.S Senate or House. Contributions may also be made to a major or minor party in Minnesota, which includes the DFL, Republican, Independence, and Green parties. The program is operated by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, an arm of state government.
Gary Goldsmith, the Campaign Finance Board’s executive director, says almost all candidates have agreed to limit spending, but there are a few exceptions. To participate, ask your candidate if they participate in the program, or check the Campaign Finance Board’s website. Then make a financial contribution to your candidate or party by the end of the year. Have them send you a receipt called an ‘EP-3.’ (According to Goldsmith, most will send it to you automatically.)
Download a reimbursement form from the Minnesota Department of Revenue website, fill it out, attach the receipt, and submit it to the revenue department no later than April 15, 2009. In return, you’ll receive a check or bank deposit.
Why does the program exist? Goldsmith says it’s the way Minnesota, and other states with similar programs, try to keep big money out of state-level politics. In exchange for accepting public campaign subsidies, candidates agree to limit their spending (the limit this year for state house races is $34,600).
Forms and links are available at the Board’s website, www.cfboard.state.mn.us
Paul Purman lives and writes from St. Paul’s Mounds Park neighborhood. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org