Eighth Circuit Upholds Corporate Contribution Restriction, Strong Disclosure Requirements


Today, in a 2-1 opinion, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) was unlikely to prevail in its challenge to Minnesota’s comprehensive disclosure requirements for independent expenditures and the state restriction on direct corporate contributions to state candidates and political parties.

“This is good news for Minnesota and for the health of campaign finance law in the post-Citizens United era,” Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel Tara Malloy stated.  “The Minnesota case is but one of the dozens of legal challenges to campaign finance laws that were filed in a wave of litigation from coast to coast following the High Court’s Citizens United decision.  In light of the many pending challenges, we are pleased that the Eighth Circuit has joined the Ninth Circuit and many lower courts in the last year to hold that strong disclosure laws for independent expenditures are constitutional.”

In September 2010, the district court in MCCL v. Swanson denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and plaintiffs appealed this decision in to the Eighth Circuit.  In their challenge, the plaintiffs rely on the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United to attack Minnesota’s restriction on corporate contributions and its state disclosure requirements.

The Eighth Circuit, however, rejected plaintiffs’ argument that Citizens United cast doubt on the constitutionality of restrictions on corporate contributions and the continuing validity of the Supreme Court’s 2003 Beaumont v. FEC decision.  Further, the Court of Appeals also rejected the contention that Minnesota’s disclosure law was a “functional ban on corporate independent expenditures,” noting that the law in no way prevented corporations from using their treasury funds for independent expenditures, but rather simply required some measure of transparency in connection to such spending.

On December 22, 2010, the Campaign Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed an amici brief with the Eighth Circuit.  To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.

To read today’s opinion, click here.