The 2013 Legislature made a number of changes to Minnesota Campaign Finance Law that will impact legislative contributions and lobbying efforts.  It is expected that the legislation, Senate File 661, which was presented to Governor Dayton on May 22nd, will be signed by Friday.  The portions of the law changes described below are effective the day following the governor’s signature.

Lobbyist Gift Ban (Minnesota Statutes, Section 10A.071, subdivision 3)

The law, since Senator John Marty advocated passage of sweeping reforms to lobbying activities in Minnesota, virtually prohibited any opportunity for lobbyists or political organizations to provide or furnish anything of value to a legislator or candidate for elected office.  In 2013, the “gift ban” was relaxed slightly to allow lobbyists and/or organizations to furnish food and beverage at a reception, meal or meeting if all members of the legislature are invited to attend the event at least five (5) days prior to the date of the event.  This does not change the existing law that allows for a lobbyist or organization to pay for meals or beverages for specific legislators if they are invited to make a speech or answer questions as a part of a program.

Reporting (Minnesota Statutes, Section 10A.20, subdivision 3)

Previously, contributions made by an individual were considered anonymous, or did not have to be reported, when in any year the amount contributed was less than or equal to $100.00.  The new law increases the reporting threshold to more than $200.00 for legislative or statewide candidates or more than $500.00 for ballot questions. 

This reporting still follows the annual reporting cycle, and is not impacted by the changes to the definition of “election cycle” or the campaign contributions described below.

Definition of Election Cycle (Minnesota Statutes, Section 10A.01, subdivision 16)

The definition of an election cycle was amended this year to include two separate segments.  An election cycle still runs from January 1 following a general election to December 31 following the next general election for that office. 

However, for the purposes of the senate and constitutional officers, the election cycle is now broken into two (2) segments: the election segment and the non-election segment.  The nonelection segment is the first two (2) years of the election cycle, and the election segment is the final two (2) years leading up to the general election.  Because the house runs on a two-year cycle, it contains only an election segment.

Contribution Limits (Minnesota Statutes, Section 10.27, subdivision 1)

Contribution limits to candidates have been updated to coincide with the new definition of an election cycle.  In all cases, the contribution limits have been significantly increased.

  1. Limits to candidates for governor and lieutenant governor running together are $4,000.00 in the election segment of an election cycle for the office sought and $2,000.00 in the nonelection segment.
  2. Limits to candidates for attorney general are $2,500.00 in the election segment of the election cycle and $2,000.00 in the nonelection segment. 
  3. Limits to candidates for secretary of state or state auditor are $2,000.00 in the election segment of the election cycle and $1,000.00 in the nonelection segment.
  4. Limits to candidates for state senate are $1,000.00 in the election segment of the election cycle and $1,000.00 in the nonelection segment.
  5. Limits to candidates for state house are $1,000.00 in the election segment of the election cycle.
  6. Limits to a candidate for judicial office are $2,500.00 in the election segment of the election cycle and $1,000.00 in the nonelection segment.

Contributions from Certain Contributors (Minnesota Statutes, Section 10A.27, subdivision 10)

Previously, a candidate was not allowed to accept contributions from political committees, political funds, lobbyists, or large contributors in an amount greater than 20 percent of the campaign expenditure limits. 

The 2013 changes leave the threshold at 20 percent but change the limits to include each election segment.  Therefore, the 20 percent threshold applies to each of the election and nonelection segments, rather than the overall election cycle.  This will significantly increase the amount of money a candidate can receive from these types of contributors before being “PACd out”.  This also means that for senate and constitutional officers, they will hit that 20 percent twice in an election cycle, rather than once, so they can PAC out in both an election segment and a nonelection segment.

Campaign Expenditures (Minnesota Statutes, Section 10A.25, subdivision 2)

Below are the campaign expenditure limits and the applied 20 percent threshold for certain contributors. The previous total 20 percent threshold included for comparison.

Click here to view table.