Minnesota Pro-Life Group Sues Over Restrictive Campaign Finance Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 3, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Minnesota Pro-Life Group Sues Over Restrictive Campaign Finance Law

by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
October 3, 2003

St. Paul, MN (LifeNews.com) — Minnesota pro-lifers, concerned about restrictions on their right to freedom of speech, may soon have their day in court.

A hearing is scheduled for October 21 on a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. The hearing, which will be held before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kyle, results from the pro-life group’s challenge to Minnesota’s campaign finance laws.

"We will fight legislatively, administratively and in the courts any and all attempts to limit our freedom of speech," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

"If campaign finance laws silence our participation in the political process, the unborn and their mothers will have no voice. The bottom line on the lawsuit is that we must protect our right to freedom of speech," Fischbach told LifeNews.com

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, who is defending the campaign law, has characterized the suit as the "biggest assault on Minnesota’s campaign finance law" since an overhaul which took place in 1993. Hatch claims that the suit attempts to undermine the state’s ability to limit the power of interest groups, lobbyists, and wealthy donors.

But lawyers representing the Minnesota pro-life group insist that the current law represents an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech.

James Bopp, Jr., an Indiana attorney representing the Minnesota group, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "We have won dozens of these cases around the United States." Bopp noted that such laws represent attempts "by incumbents to drive people out of participating in democracy…Almost any regulation of elections benefits incumbents."

Bopp’s legal team notes there is nothing inherently corrupt about candidates contributing money to each other’s campaigns. Yet, the Minnesota law bans contributions from one candidate’s campaign to another’s. Supporters of the provision, such as Hatch, say that "intercandidate transfers" typically involve contributions from caucus leaders to junior members or challengers, giving too much power to a few key contributors or interest groups.

But attorneys for the Minnesota pro-life group argue that such contributions should be protected as a means of political speech. Bopp and his team also note that certain disclosure requirements, such as those which force some advocacy group donors to supply extensive personal information, have a chilling effect on citizen participation.

"There’s an effort by incumbents to drive people out of participating in democracy," Bopp told the Star Tribune.

Bopp’s involvement in the case is apparently being taken seriously by Minnesota’s Attorney General, who acknowledges the attorney’s success in other states. In addition, Bopp’s firm was involved in a U.S. Supreme Court case which gave Minnesota judicial candidates the right to speak out on legal and political issues, adding to Bopp’s credibility.

One lawyer close to the case says that, while Minnesota officials say they are simply trying to curb the influence of "special interests," "special interests" is a term used to discredit groups of people who are merely trying to get their voices heard in the public arena.

Related web sites:
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life – https://www.mccl.org