Former foes Arne Carlson and John Marty team up against Citizens United ruling

Sen. John Marty: "Corporations are not people, money is not speech."
Sen. John Marty: "Corporations are not people, money is not speech."

In 1994, GOPer Arne Carlson defeated state Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, to remain Minnesota's governor. But now the former political enemies are working together on a bill that would tighten regulations on political campaign contributions in the state.

The legislation would require that the board of directors or executive councils of corporations or unions -- not just a CEO or president -- approve any political contribution. It would also prohibit political contributions by foreign-owned corporations. Marty told MinnPost he plans to introduce the bill this session.

Legislation of this sort is one way states can try and rein in the political free spending allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling.

That ruling held that the First Amendment prohibited the federal government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions. At the time the court issued its opinion, 24 states, including Minnesota, had laws prohibiting or restricting corporate and/or union spending on political campaigns. Two years later, 10 of those states, again including Minnesota, have repealed those legally-vulnerable restrictions either via legislation or a state supreme court ruling.

While the legality of the Marty/Carlson bill is questionable, its goal is not. It strives to make corporations and unions accountable to stockholders and members when making political contributions.

Carlson told MinnPost:

Carlson: "I take some issue that political reform emanates from the left."
Carlson: "I take some issue that political reform emanates from the left."

For a long time I have felt that a manager, that is, the CEO of a company, ought not to have unilateral authority to donate to candidates and causes. The reality is that the shareholder owns the company and is represented by the board of directors. So any decision should come from the board of directors. That should be the same for all business decisions.

Marty said "there's a growing sense that we are going to have to push back," because "the Supreme Court blew it."

"Corporations are not people, money is not speech," he added.

Carlson predicted some conservatives will support the bill, but in this case legislative approval may only be half the battle. With post-Citizens United federal law clearly allowing unfettered contributions to Super PACs, it's hard to imagine how the former foes' well-intentioned proposal could withstand a legal challenge.

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