Campaign Finance Reform // Money in Politics / The recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. the FEC has permitted corporations to make unlimited independent expenditures, rendering the voices of individuals silent in their relative lack of capital in fighting wealthy special interests.
Minnesota has failed to adopt federal precedent in eliminating soft-money contributions. Soft money is cash that political parties can raise in unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations, PACs and other sources and is not allowed for advocating for or against the election or defeat of a candidate, in political campaigns. This has helped quiet the voice of millions of everyday Minnesotans, while political contributions by wealthy individuals continue to grow.
"There is a very radical measure which would, I believe, work a substantial improvement in our system of conducting a campaign, although I am well aware that it will take some time for people so to familiarize themselves with such a proposal as to be willing to consider its adoption. The need for collecting large campaign funds would vanish if Congress provided an appropriation for the proper and legitimate expenses of each of the great national parties, an appropriation ample enough to meet the necessity for thorough organization and machinery, which requires a large expenditure of money. Then the stipulation should be made that no party receiving campaign funds from the Treasury should accept more than a fixed amount from any individual subscriber or donor; and the necessary publicity for receipts and expenditures could without difficulty be provided."
1907 State of the Union Address
Why do we need
- Corporations are not people. With the occurrence of the most recent Citizen’s United v FEC, an increasing number of loopholes have opened, effectively giving corporations more rights than people in their political activity.
- Unlimited political expenditures from corporations drowns out the voice of the people in the democratic process, diminishing the power of concerned individuals and organizations like MPIRG.
- Advocacy organizations will lose influence in the political system. Before this power becomes fully realized by corporations, advocacy organizations need to use the power they have to pass reforms blocking the influence of corporations on elections whereby we can continue to effectively advocate for change on many social, economic, and environmental justice issues.
- Influence in legislation. The current ruling encourages lawmakers to legislate what's best for corporations instead of their constituents.
- Fair elections. Gives special interests leverage to spend millions on advertising during the election season.
Concrete Steps to Move MN Towards Reform //
- Require full disclosure of both campaign expenditures and contributions donated within a 48-hour time frame to increase transparency.
- Require disclaimer language, in all forms of political advertisements, allowing voters the opportunity to assess the potential motives behind it.
Tax all independent expenditures and fund Fair and Clean Elections in Minnesota.
- Require any foreign or non-Minnesota based corporations to register as such, making them potentially subject to our state taxes.
- Require that all shareholders are notified of the corporation’s political donations or expenditures, allowing them the opportunity to withdraw their assets if they disapprove.
- Require that all shareholders must approve of the political investment prior to any expenditure being made.
Proposed State Policies
In Both House and
Bill Number: HF 3368
Authors: Winkler; Simon; Brown; Loeffler; Murphy, M; Kalin; Greiling; Hansen; Paymar; Kahn; Slocum
Bill Number: SF 3293
Summary of Both Bills: Campaign finance additional disclosure required in certain circumstances, disclaimer required on certain campaign materials, contribution and expenditure limits and amount increased to be designated by certain taxpayers for payment to the state elections campaign fund, and allotment restored for political contribution refunds.
Ways YOU Can Help! //
Contact your elected official and let them know you support strong Campaign Finance Reform!
- By phone: 1-800-657-3550
- By e-mail: www.leg.state.mn.us
Encourage your State Representative or Senator to be a champion in addressing the need of accountability and transparency of corporate funds in politics.
Become a contributing member of MPIRG and allow us to carry your voice and vote to Minnesota’s State Capitol as we fight for strong Campaign Finance Reform.
Better Democratic Systems // Instant Runoff Voting / Ranked Choice Voting
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also known as Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), is a ranked ballot method of voting that always results in winners chosen by a majority of the voters. On the ballot, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. Each voter has one vote which counts for the highest preferred candidate that can use it. Votes for defeated candidates are transferred to other candidates still in the race for each round of counting. It’s just like a series of runoff elections except that it is accomplished on one ballot – hence the term, “Instant Runoff Voting”. MPIRG has a long-standing history of working to promote and improve participation in the democratic process. We believe that IRV or RCV provides the opportunity for citizens to vote their hopes, not their worst fears.
Ranked Choice Voting in Minneapolis // Ranked Choice Voting was adopted by Minneapolis voters in 2006, winning with 65 percent of the vote, and will be used for the first time on November 3, 2009 municipal elections. MPIRG was active in the campaign to bring RCV to Minneapolis. Now, as we approach the first election where Minneapolis voters will get to use the new system, its time to learn how it will work.
The Problem with the Current Primary System
Most cities now use a two-round voting system where two winners emerge from primaries for a general election face-off. This supposedly ensures majority (50% + 1) winners, but it doesn't always work out that way. The problem is few voters show up for Round One, the Primary – undermining the majority-winner requirement. The primary can weed out candidates who could win in a high-turnout general election. The narrower candidate field limits post-primary political debate and causes some losing candidate supporters to sit out the general election.
The current two-round system also leads to negative campaigning, split votes amongst like-minded constituents, and disproportionate representation of voters.
Finally, the current system is costly and inconvenient – cities must administer two elections, candidates run for two elections, and voters go to the polls twice.
Why is Instant Runoff better than our current voting system?
In general, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is a better voting method than the current two-round – primary and general election – system in that it seeks to:
- maximize voter participation and available choices of candidates
IRV eliminates low-turnout primaries and brings the most voters together with the most candidates to choose from at the same election. It also ensures that candidates will not be disqualified in primary elections who may otherwise win in a high turnout general election.
- assure fairer and more accurate representation of the voters
IRV provides results that better reflect the voters’ intent. It also empowers voters to vote sincerely without being concerned about wasting their vote and, in turn, allows candidates to run on their issues and get an accurate tally of support.
- eliminate the cost of the Primary and reduce the cost of campaigns
The city spends less money with only one election to administer and candidates spend less money with only one election to campaign for.
- lead to more informative and positive campaigns
IRV invigorates campaigns and reduces polarization by bringing multiple viewpoints into the debate and it promotes positive, issue based campaigns.
For a concise summary discussion of the pros and cons of various voting systems, please review the Minnesota League of Women Voters Study on voting methods (PDF).
Information courtesy of FairVote Minnesota