The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website], sitting en banc on Wednesday, ruled [opinion, PDF] that Minnesota's disclosure requirement law for political contributions is unconstitutional, reversing an earlier decision [JURIST report] by a three-judge panel. The law reaches nearly all associations and requires that all donations for political purposes require record-keeping and disclosure. The court found, "under Minnesota's regulatory regime, an association is compelled to decide whether exercising its constitutional right is worth the time and expense of entering a long-term morass of regulatory red tape." The court went on to state:
Minnesota's law hinders associations from participating in the political debate and limits their access to the citizenry and the government. The law manifestly discourages associations, particularly small associations with limited resources, from engaging in protected political speech. ... In short, the collective burdens associated with Minnesota's independent expenditure law chill political speech.The opinion was decided by a narrow 6-5 margin. The full panel did uphold a Minnesota law that prohibited corporations from making political contribution directly to political candidates.
Campaign finance laws have been a contentious issue recently. In June the US Supreme Court struck down a Montana campaign finance law that restricted the amount of money corporations can spend on campaigns, holding that Citizens United [JURIST reports] invalidated the Montana law. That decision, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] reversed a decision by the Montana Supreme Court upholding the law [JURIST report]. Also in June the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit cited Citizens United and ruled [JURIST report] that a district court erred in holding that corporations can contribute directly to political campaigns. In February the Supreme Court blocked enforcement [JURIST report] of the Montana Supreme Court ruling.