Carlson, Marty plan bill to limit Citizens United decision

Arne Carlson
JonathunderArne Carlson

Even with a nod to strange bed fellows, this team is unusual.

Former GOP Gov. Arne Carlson and his DFL opponent for that office in 1994, state Sen. John Marty, are collaborating on campaign finance reform.

A bill that Marty intends to introduce this session with support from Carlson would require that the board of directors or executive councils of a corporation or union — not just a CEO or president — approve any political contribution. It also would prohibit political contributions by a corporation in which a foreign national has more than 20 percent ownership.

The bill is the result of Carlson’s and Marty’s dismay over the repercussions of the Citizens United decision,  the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited corporate and union money for independent political expenditures funneled into what are called Super  PACs.

“You could see these Super PACs coming,” Carlson said. “They’ve become infinitely more powerful players than any candidate.”

According to OpenSecrets.org, as of this week, 342 Super PACs have reported total receipts of $130,334,342 and independent expenditures of $61,418,351 in the 2012 election cycle

Although dealing with the effects of the Citizens United decision unites Carlson and Marty, they differ on their approaches.

For Marty, corporate contributions are the wrong way to support political campaigns.

“The way I frame it, we have all of these problems, health care, education, and the Supreme Court found a new one – not enough corporate money in politics,” he said. Marty’s “clean money” agenda would ban PAC, lobbyist and large money contributions. 

Carlson’s take on dealing with the Citizens United decision centers more on corporate governance.

“For a long time I have felt that a manager, that is, the CEO of a company, ought not to have unilateral authority to donate to candidates and causes,” he said. “The reality is that the shareholder owns the company and is represented by the board of directors. So any decision should come from the board of directors. That should be the same for all business decisions.”

John Marty
John Marty

He said the same should apply to labor organizations: the decision to donate to a campaign should be made by the structure that governs the union. 

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was Carlson’s first call to air his concerns, and Ritchie referred him to Marty. The former governor was familiar with Marty’s expertise on campaign finance. In the 1994 legislative session, just before Carlson’s reelection, Carlson vetoed a Marty bill that lowered contributions to gubernatorial campaigns to $2,000 per individual. The bill was later modified, and the limit became law.

Today, they shrug off the old battles. “I appreciate he feels comfortable calling me,” Marty said. “He has some good, legitimate concerns.”

The bill has no Republican authors, and Marty hesitates when asked if he thinks the bill will get a committee hearing this session. Still, he’s convinced that the timing is right.

“There’s a growing sense we are going to have to push back. The Supreme Court blew it,” he said. “Corporations are not people, money is not speech.”

Carlson predicts that some conservatives will support his proposal. “I take some issue that political reform emanates from the left,” he said. “The Tea Party opened the whole debate. They are the ones who took tremendous umbrage at Wall Street. The Tea Party would be supportive.”

While Carlson and Marty still don’t see eye-to-eye on much in politics, they share what they say is a broader goal of restoring the individuals’ control over government.

“I’ve never had any objection to individuals petitioning or paying someone to lobby, but people who are paid to influence are also the biggest campaign contributors,” Marty said.  

Carlson said: “Part of the campaign discussion should be about what is the role of we the people. It’s not enough just to vote. We must know what’s going and hold public servants accountable.”

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 02/28/2012 - 10:01 am.

    Hey, if they are classified as a “person”, require them to:

    1. Produce a certificate of live birth and/or a long-form birth certificate,
    2. Get all the preschool shots,
    3. Attend school from age 5-16+,
    4. Register for the draft (are they male or female? How does one tell the difference?),
    5. No marriage (mergers) until 18+,
    6. Limit ONE marriage (merger) per business–and NO divorce,
    7. Pay individual income taxes.

    Let’s see how long the corporate “person” lasts with the above “personal” requirements.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/28/2012 - 12:12 pm.

      Excellent, but there is more…

      …which should include:

      8. No exemptions for a corporation from any of the ordinary operations of civil or criminal law that would apply to a person. To simplify the execution of this sweeping change, make this rule apply to all executive officers and all board members.

      8a. E.g., “Personal” criminal culpability, extending to all executive offices and all board members – you know, just like a person.

      8b. E.g., the death penalty, where it would apply – you know – to a person.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/28/2012 - 11:17 am.

    Not really …

    “The Tea Party opened the whole debate. They are the ones who took tremendous umbrage at Wall Street. The Tea Party would be supportive.”

    Nonsense. The Tea Party’s umbrage at Wall Street is based on government’s crony capitalism via the bank bailouts. The taxpayers are not interested in or required to be the venture capitalists of last resort. Obama stacking his administration with Wall Street executives made it official policy.

    That’s quite a different take than on campaign finance reform. That’s a First Amendment issue. In a free society the government has no right to limit the source and amount of campaign contributions any more than they have a right to limit the number of barrels of ink that can be purchased by the press. Unions and corporations and groups and individuals should all be free to contribute whatever they want to advance the political speech they agree with, without interference from government.

    Arne never was a very good republican.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/28/2012 - 12:20 pm.

      Unions = corporations = groups = individuals

      The Tea Party is a red herring here. The issue is speech.

      If money = speech and a corporation = a person, there is no limit to the corruption of government in our future.

      You’re right, Arne was never a very good Republican, wouldn’t drink the Kool Aid. That’s why many people think he was a pretty effective governor.

  3. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 02/28/2012 - 12:01 pm.

    Sounds great but is it realistic with the present MN politics?

    “I’ve never had any objection to individuals petitioning or paying someone to lobby, but people who are paid to influence are also the biggest campaign contributors,” Marty said.

    Carlson said: “Part of the campaign discussion should be about what is the role of we the people. It’s not enough just to vote. We must know what’s going and hold public servants accountable.”

    Both of these gentlemen are correct but Gov. Carlson’s comments hold the greater truth in todays messed up MN politics. The Minnesota citizenry is “..mad as Hell!…” but we heard them shout out the proverbial windows, in united coherent voices, “…and we are not going to take it anymore!…” Does anyone really know what’s going on in MN Government? Whose accountable for the gallimaufry fracas that exists in the Legislature?

    Besides worrying about campaign donations from the Super Pacs, constituent ignorances and/or biases need to be addressed. Unfortunately, Senator Marty should have gotten this issue out in the open sooner while Gov. Carlson should have been beaten the drums of political unity and cohesive constituent awareness and all long ago. These men have their hearts in the right for Minnesota political integrity but why is this leadership surfacing at the present time?

    As you can see from comments, I am rather discombobulated and angry over the present MN political situation and politics in this state. It’s bad enough that the US Congress, in general, is floundering and flayling in meaningless gridlock. But, must Minnesota do likewise and have a state constituency floundering in its own self-aggrandizements and ignorances?


    I’ve never had any objection to individuals petitioning or paying someone to lobby, but people who are paid to influence are also the biggest campaign contributors,” Marty said.

    Carlson said: “Part of the campaign discussion should be about what is the role of we the people. It’s not enough just to vote. We must know what’s going and hold public servants accountable.”

    The people must try to educate themselves with facts to find out what is happening and hold their elected officials to a higher standard. Meanwhile, campaigns should be financed by the electorate–the people–free from “Big Money” influences or agendas. Our very system of governance with its integrity and transparency is a stake. Unfortunately, there is a problem in the hinterlands with a constituency that is “…mad as Hell!…” but just spins its political wheels to nowhere.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/28/2012 - 01:07 pm.

      Re: “campaigns should be financed by the electorate”

      Nonsense. A political campaign is nothing more than a contest for office between candidates with different ideas and points of view. As in any marketplace, the candidate with the best ideas or more popular point of view should and will receive the most support, both financially and with votes.

      That’s how it works in a democratic society.

      Having the government pay for political campaigns is no different than the government managing any market by attempting to “level the playing field.” Well it’s not the role of government to “level the playing field.” It’s the role of government in a free society to let free people make their choices from those available and let the chips fall where they may.

      Political contributions are political speech because candidates have to buy ads to promote their campaigns.

      • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 02/28/2012 - 07:51 pm.

        So, the doom-sayers exaggerated this time?

      • Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 02/29/2012 - 10:32 am.

        Almost–but not quite….

        “As in any marketplace, the candidate with the best ideas or more popular point of view should and will receive the most support, both financially and with votes.”

        The “best” idea is not necessarily the “popular” idea. Popularity tends to be based on emotional reaction and not rationed judgment. Which car should a family buy–a hot rod or a minivan? The popular INITIAL choice is the hot rod–but the rational (and FINAL) choice is the minivan. The problem is, most people do not see the consequences of their bad choices until it is too late. They blame ANYTHING ELSE for the failure of their own choices because there is a cognitive disconnect between what they claimed they wanted and what they actually got.

        They elected GWB to protect them in 2000–and the US was successfully attacked THREE times on 9-11-2001. Moussaoui was IN CUSTODY–identified by a FLIGHT SCHOOL instructor. GWB was specifically TOLD there was an extremely high risk of an attack–and what was done to try to stop any such attacks from happening? Yet, when Clinton was President, their #1 priority was to do what? Prevent planes from being hijacked and used as weapons. GWB knew that fact–because he had been the Gov of TX. He was *personally* aware of the risks–how could he NOT know? Wasn’t that part of his JOB–to be on top of that risk and protect the public from it? Yet 9-11 happened. And conservatives still refuse to accept responsibility for THEIR decision.

        Thus, “choices have consquences” is totally appropriate. Those making the choices bear the responsibility of making WRONG choices. The problem is simple–they are NOT held accountable FOR making those wrong choices.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/29/2012 - 01:39 pm.

          So I guess

          you’re for eliminating democracy and instituting a dictatorship. I get it. Choices bad. Dictates good.

          • Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 02/29/2012 - 09:24 pm.

            Nice fake reply…..

            If you want to play dictatorship, then start with the Patriot Act. The use of torture (waterboarding) IS torture–by international definition (even by the US). Dictators use torture. Holding people without charges is *so* “1984” a la “Big Brother”. You know all about it–right?

  4. Submitted by r batnes on 02/28/2012 - 05:03 pm.

    “Arne never was a very good republican.”

    It’s comments like this that illustrate why the current incarnation of what passes for the GOP is considered a punchline.

    • Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 02/28/2012 - 10:48 pm.

      What’s a real Republican in Minnesota?

      “Arne never was a very good republican.” — Ron Barnes.

      Sorry, Ron, but in other states Arne Carlson’s style of GOP politics will pass for modern Republicanism. Carlson’s style is conservative but flexible to viably work in concert with liberal Democratic proposals. His style is not “my way or the highway” style of the MN GOP/Tea Party circus prevalent in this state at present.

      He is fiscally conservative with an an eye for a balanced budget but moderate enough to institute needed change and economic progress. Carlson is very gung-ho for Minnesota and makes no apologies for being such. Also, Carlson seems to like being and doing the job of governor. You haven’t seen him run for President or higher office. I know a few MN Democrats who would vote for Carlson to change this state around.

      Maybe Arne Carlson should run for Governor again. At least he’s true blue Minnesota and has the style to do it right!

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 02/29/2012 - 10:42 am.

        Misdirected

        The original statement that Arne wasn’t a good Republican came from someone else. It’s wrong, of course. Arne actually was a traditional Republican, something that doesn’t exist in Minnesota’s government or the federal government any more. They MIGHT exist in other states, but others that used to have the same kind of Republican ( the kind you describe–flexible and thoughtful) like South Dakota, also have lost that kind of leadership.

  5. Submitted by r batnes on 02/28/2012 - 08:00 pm.

    “As in any marketplace, the candidate with the best ideas or more popular point of view should and will receive the most support, both financially and with votes.”________________That might explain Dancing with the Stars or why Jersey Shore is popular, but it has nothing to do with politics. For you to equate blatant corporate influence with “best ideas or more popular point of view'” is laughable. Nice try though…

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/28/2012 - 09:22 pm.

      Corporate influence?

      No corporation has ever influenced the vote of anyone I know. Granted, the people I know don’t fall for ad campaigns as lame as “Hope and Change.”

  6. Submitted by r batnes on 02/29/2012 - 09:06 am.

    Granted, the people I know don’t fall for ad campaigns as lame a

    Yeah, “Morning in America” was so much snappier.

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