Democracy for the People Act

Supporters celebrate the Minnesota Senate's passage of the Democracy for the People Act on April 26, 2023 in St. Paul.

(Photo: Olivia Bergen/Twitter)

Ban on Campaign Spending by Multinational Corporations About to Become Law in Minnesota

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has promised to sign the Democracy for the People Act "to put up a firewall to keep Minnesota's elections safe, free, and fair."

Campaign finance reform advocates on Thursday cheered final passage by legislators in Minnestoa of a bill prohibiting multinational corporations from spending money on state elections.

In a late-night 34-33 vote, the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday approved the Democracy for the People Act, an omnibus democracy bill that will ban companies with at least a 5% ownership stake by multiple foreign owners or a 1% stake by a single foreign owner from making political contributions in Minnesota state and municipal elections. The legislation also prohibits such companies from making "dark money" donations to super PACs.

"If there was a Mount Rushmore for electoral reform bills in the history of Minnesota... this would be on it," said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat.

The measure—which was approved 70-57 along party lines by the state House of Representatives earlier this month—now heads to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat who has promised to sign it into law "to put up a firewall to keep Minnesota's elections safe, free, and fair."

"Multinational corporations are corrupting representative democracy by drowning out the voices of the people," said Alexandra Flores-Quilty, campaign director at Free Speech For People, whose model legislation heavily influenced the bill. "The Democracy for the People Act will help put power back in the hands of citizens."

According to the Center for American Progress (CAP):

This legislation will close a dangerous loophole opened by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and reduce foreign influence in Minnesota's elections. It contains additional important measures to strengthen the freedom to vote and modernize the state's campaign finance system, including establishing automatic voter registration, enabling voters to opt in to automatically receive a mail-in ballot for each election, preregistering 16- and 17-year-olds to vote upon turning 18, prohibiting intimidation and interference with the voting process, and increasing disclosure of secret political spending.

"Today, Minnesota took a giant step forward to strengthening free and fair elections, setting a strong example for the nation," CAP senior fellow Michael Sozan said in a statement following the state Senate vote.

"At a time when many states are passing laws to suppress voters or subvert elections, Minnesota has become a national leader in protecting elections and empowering voters," Sozan added. "The provision to stop political spending by foreign-influenced U.S. corporations will limit the ability of foreign entities to spend money in Minnesota's elections and strengthen the ability of Minnesotans to chart their state's future."

There has been some momentum toward enacting similar legislation at the national level in recent years, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, and Rep. Jamie Raskin's (D-Md.) Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act.

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