Commentary:People should vote on ‘dark money’

The Feb. 10 guest editorial published in the West Central Tribune about "dark money" in politics was right, in part. We agree that "Minnesotans deserve to know as much as possible about who is spending how much to influence their vote." However, ...

Rep. Paul Thissen

The Feb. 10 guest editorial published in the West Central Tribune about “dark money” in politics was right, in part.

We agree that “Minnesotans deserve to know as much as possible about who is spending how much to influence their vote.”

However, the guest editorial misses the mark in opposing a constitutional amendment to achieve this common sense goal supported by most Minnesotans.

We absolutely must take steps to get rid of the dark money that is overwhelming our campaigns and distorting our democracy. Anyone who has lived through a recent election, particularly in a competitive legislative seat like Willmar, understands that the oceans of undisclosed spending flooding our mailboxes and airwaves is simply bad for democracy.

It drowns out the voices of ordinary Minnesotans, who don’t know what to believe, don’t know who is behind the spending and the attacks, and they tune out as a result. It’s no wonder voters think our economy is not working as it should be for working families.


The DISCLOSE Act, a constitutional amendment to shed light on dark money in politics, is the right way to achieve this common sense reform for several reasons.

First, the Minnesota State Constitution already regulates the disclosure of campaign spending for candidates and political parties. Article VII, Section 9 of the Minnesota State Constitution states, “The legislature shall provide by law for disclosure of contributions and expenditures made to support or oppose candidates for state elective offices.” Of course, our constitution was written before “Super PACs” and other dark money special interest groups started spending millions of undisclosed dollars in our elections. This constitutional amendment would simply update that provision to account for the new types of spending that have emerged in our current elections.

Second, as much as I’d like it to, this provision does not challenge the Citizens United decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court that has allowed unlimited political contributions in our elections.

Rather, it would simply ensure that anyone spending that money would have to disclose who is paying for it. And there is nothing unconstitutional about that. In fact, every federal court that has looked at the issue has found that requiring disclosure of campaign spending is absolutely consistent with the First Amendment.

The First Amendment argument that opponents make is that a person should be able to say whatever they want and yet hide their identity.I think that is un-American and cowardly.

If you believe in something, you should be willing to stand up and say it publicly.

Finally, the guest editorial criticizes the constitutional amendment because “it’s about politics,” but the reality is a constitutional amendment is necessary to get beyond the politics.

This proposal is overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans in poll after poll.


It would treat all special interest groups the same whether they support Democratic or Republican candidates.

Yet, every attempt to to pass a bill requiring disclosure of this dark money through the Minnesota legislature has been blocked by the Republicans and their special interest allies.

We beleive it’s time to let the people have their chance to decide.

So we ask you the voters, what do you think? The DISCLOSE Act would put this question on the 2016 ballot:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require public disclosure of contributions and expenditures made for communications that expressly advocate for or against a candidate for state elected office, or which could be interpreted by a reasonable person as advocating the election or defeat of a candidate for state elected office?”

We think it’s just common sense to give you the opportunity to decide for yourselves.

Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, represent District 61B and is the Minority Leader in the Minnesota House.

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