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Finance board says ‘vague’ political ads not subject to campaign disclosure

The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board has ruled that issue-based political ads run last year during the governor’s race calling for a constitutional amendment on marriage were not subject to campaign disclosure laws.

MPR’s Sasha Aslanian reports that the board dismissed complaints made by Common Cause, which alleged that the two groups behind the ad — the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council — engaged in lobbying and should have registered their activities with the state.

The television ads that run during the gubernatorial campaign said:

“Mark Dayton and Tom Horner want to impose gay marriage with no vote of the people. But Tom Emmer believes marriage is between one man and one woman. And Emmer says let the people the vote.” 

But the board said the ad was “too remote and vague to constitute an attempt to influence legislative action.” The ads also didn’t trigger reporting requirements by using words like “vote for” or “vote against” a particular candidate, the story said.

 Common Cause Executive Director Mike Dean told MPR:

“What these are called are “sham issue ads” so if you don’t say ‘Vote Tom Emmer,’ or ‘Vote Against Tom Emmer,’ you don’t have to disclose that information to the campaign finance disclosure board. I think this ruling will allow more and more secret money to flow into Minnesota politics.”

And the story said that while the commercial said: “paid for by the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage,” the board learned that only the national organization put up any money for the $700,000 ad buy.

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