Campaign Finance Board oversteps its authority

  • Article by: JOHN HELMBERGER
  • Updated: October 13, 2011 - 6:46 PM

Its ruling on marriage-amendment donors would expose individuals for an organization's action.

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davehougOct. 13, 11 9:22 PM


holt0338Oct. 13, 11 9:22 PM

Sorry Mr.Helmberger, but I do not shed a tear for your argument here. If a person wants to spend money to support a viewpoint in the public sphere, I want to know who that person is. I am entitled to know who is paying for arguments that are made withing the political arena. Your hypothetical situation involving a church shows why it is important to actually have rules like this. If a church is scared to donate to a political cause because people's names who donate to them might be released, then they have several options that they can take. One, they can separate how they raise money and have the collection jar be for operations or for issues. Two, if they don't want names to be known because people are lacking the courage to stand up for their own conviction, then maybe they shouldn't be speaking up. Your argument is a veiled attempt to convince people that full disclosure is a bad thing. It is not. A republic such as our own depends on political discourse. Our political discourse depends on a free media, openness, and freedom of information. If we don't even know who is making an argument, how can we ourselves then take in the information and make informed decisions on our own? What exactly is your side trying to hide? Do your members not have the courage to admit when they pay for political commercials? Are they afraid to say "Yes, I paid for that viewpoint to be advertised"...?

SammyBoyOct. 13, 1110:07 PM

Here's a simple tenant that everyone needs to live by. If you are in a public square and speak your piece to the public, you are asking for reaction and speech in support and disagreement with your stated position. This includes knowingly associating with people who speak for your group (church) in public. It's called being an adult and taking responsibility for your actions and associations. In short, if you are acting in the public square of your own accord, or agree that someone can act for you, you will be treated in the public square by everyone else as they see fit. We already have laws to protect people against harassment that steps beyond a certain point. This does not include disagreeing with the speaker, challenging the speaker, or even calling the speaker names. I'm sorry, but just because some calls you homophobic does not mean you are demeaned to the point of requiring legal recourse. Accept or refute the statement, but you do not have a right to be protected from such a name. You or your group spoke in public, and now the public has a right to react to the speech. Deal with it. Our Supreme Court has not only indicated that money equals speech, they indicated that the best defense against unlimited money is unlimited disclosure of the money sources, and that it would be the preferred course of action to protect and enhance free speech. So Sally, you're SOL. Maybe you should find a church that doesn't spend your money on political causes you don't agree with.

SammyBoyOct. 13, 1110:16 PM

One other point. We have freedom of association and freedom of speech. That is not the same thing, as the author seems to believe, as freedom from responsibility for who you associate with or what you speak about. There is nothing in the Constitution that states freedom equals a complete lack of culpability or ownership of what you say and do. If someone takes issue with you, they are within their right to not only say that, but magnify the message through society to damage you. Boycotts and protests against a private business or individual are not only common, but one could even say that our Founding Fathers set the example that if you don't like something, take action. Since they willingly gave up life and limb for a cause they believed in, it is insulting to imply that being called names or even being held up as an example of bad judgement or behavior by society is in any way analogous. Take your lumps, win or lose. Deal with it. That's life and what it's like to participate in the public square. If you espouse capitalism and the free-market, think of being shouted down or embarrassed after speaking in public as the most personal form of the "invisible hand" made famous by Adam Smith.

tim1310Oct. 13, 1110:37 PM

If there isn't full disclosure then groups will simply filter their donations through other organizations in an effort to remain anonymous to bypass the disclosure law. Many organizations from outside Minnesota will pour money into our state in an attempt to sway voter's opinions. We have a right to know who those people are. Everyone has a right to free speech. However the first amendment does not say that the right to free speech comes consequence free. If you wish to remain anonymous then you can make your opinion heard at the voting booth.

my4centsOct. 14, 11 7:28 AM

holt, Sammy, and tim - I don't disagree with your arguments that full disclosure makes some sense. However, this IS a change that should not take place without the legislature changing the law. This is outside of what the Campaign Finance Board should have authority to change on their own.

In addition, the arguments made in the article by Mr. Helmberger certainly have some merit. If we carry it further on the full disclosure, why should we allow secret ballots when voting? If the public has this inherent right to know who supports an issue financially, why don't they have the right to know who supports it with their vote? Short answer - Individuals should have the freedom to remain anonymous for both.

marathongirlOct. 14, 11 7:40 AM

my4cents - If we were paying to get our votes in, then I'd maybe agree with you, but this isn't the situation. I actually don't see how "Sally" would be disclosed if she was giving to the church but not specifically to that can drop cash into the collection plate and that supports the church, or that's what I have always thought, the church should not be using those funds for something like that. If "Sally" however chose to support the amendment and the church's stance on it, that is her choice and the information about her contribution should be public.

my4centsOct. 14, 11 8:46 AM

marathongirl - Please explain to me why it is that we have a secret ballot? If the public has this "right" to know who supports an issue, the ballot box is a much better place to discover that than a list of donors. Why should my $5 donation be made public but my vote be kept private?

As to how "Sally" would be disclosed: It sounds like any donor who gives more than a small cash donation - donations which are tracked by a church - would have their name revealed if the church then donated to support this or any amendment. What you feel a church should use it's funds for is irrelevant if you are not a member of that church. Even if you are a member, you have only one voice among many.

lorenpillerOct. 14, 11 9:07 AM

What is the origin of the secret ballot? I bet it was started to maintain civility within a group. Maybe there is a point to keeping some form of anonymity to this funding process. I guess we will find out who is civilized and who isn't if the boards actions are not overturned by some court.

holt0338Oct. 14, 11 9:25 AM

my4cents, the answer to the question you are asking is the secret ballot is not free speech. It is a private vote. You are not openly discussing a viewpoint, you are not verbalizing your stance with someone else, it is an entirely different realm of society. This is also why the courts have said that you cannot campaign in and around the ballot box. Free speech is not allowed there, because the process of voting is to be free from disturbance by others. Donations to free speech is supporting free speech, and therefore is a realm that demands openness within society. If you start making the vote process public, then you go down an entirely different route where voter intimidation becomes an issue. Speech does not equate to who you vote for. Speech is the debate. The debate is what our founders highly valued and is what any democracy or republic depend upon. The end result is the vote, which is private.


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