Transparency takes a blow in favor of free speech in a case that came out of the 8th Circuit on Wednesday. In a 6-5 ruling, the appeals court temporarily blocked a Minnesota law requiring companies to keep track of and disclose the money they spend on political campaigns, and sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.
The law burdens companies’ First Amendment rights to free speech, the court ruled, violating the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. "After Citizens United, it is clear Minnesota may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker's corporate identity," the court wrote. The dissent felt the public’s right to know the source of political money trumped that argument.
Coastal Travel Enterprises, along with the non-profits Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Inc. and the Taxpayers League of Minnesota challenged the law, which requires companies and organizations to create a political fund if they spend more than $100 per year on political activity. Failure to do so could result in fines or imprisonment.
While both the district court and a smaller panel of the 8th Circuit initially rejected the plaintiffs’ request to temporarily block the law from being enforced, this larger 8th Circuit panel reversed that decision. However, it did refuse to block part of the law that forbids companies to donate directly to political candidates.
Read more at Thomson Reuters.
For more InsideCounsel stories about corporate political spending, see below: