MN: Corporations Appeal Decision Upholding Bans on Their Political Speech

Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom
1 South 6th Street
Terre Haute, IN 47807-3510

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Phone: 812/232-2434; Fax: 812/235-3685;

Corporations Appeal Decision Upholding Bans on Their Political Speech

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, The Taxpayers League of Minnesota, and Coastal Travel Enterprises, LLC filed an appeal yesterday of a federal district court’s decision that upheld bans on their political speech.

Specifically, MCCL and the other corporations want to spend general treasury dollars to run advertisements for candidates they support. But Minnesota law won’t let them. Instead, Minnesota requires them to set up a separate fund to pay for advertisements, and requires that fund to comply with lots of registration, record-keeping, and reporting requirements just to engage in its political speech. But the Supreme Court has said in other cases that corporations have the right to pay for their political speech with general treasury dollars, and they cannot be forced to set up separate funds or to comply with requirements like Minnesota imposes.

The corporations also want to make contributions to the candidates they support. Minnesota law, however, won’t let them. It does, however, provide a way for labor unions to make contributions to candidates. But corporations are not allowed—even though at least one court has said that corporations and labor unions have to be treated equally.

So MCCL, Taxpayers League and Coastal Travel filed a lawsuit challenging the bans on their political speech, and asked the district court to tell Minnesota that it could not enforce the law while their lawsuit was proceeding. The district court, however, refused. So the corporations have asked the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the district court’s decision.

James Bopp, Jr., lead attorney for the corporations, commented that this case is about the First Amendment’s freedom of speech guarantee. “The Supreme Court has said that corporations have the right to use general treasury money to engage in political speech, yet Minnesota won’t let them. We look forward to the Court of Appeals overturning the district court decision.”

The case is MCCL v. Swanson, No. 10-CV-2938 (D. Minn.). Court filings, including the notice of appeal, can be viewed here:

James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is an attorney with Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom and General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech. He is also a former Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.