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MFC - Complaint

MFC - Complaint

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Published by Mike Dean

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Published by: Mike Dean on Feb 22, 2012
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05/25/2012

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COMPLAINTFORVIOLATIONOFCAMPAIGNFINANCEANDPUBLICDISCLOSUREACTSUBMITTEDBYCOMMONCAUSEMINNESOTA
MinnesotaFamilyCouncil
CommonCauseMinnesota("CommonCause")isanonprofit,nonpartisanorganizationdedicatedtoimprovingthewaystategovernmentoperates.CommonCausebelievesthatcompleteandfulldisclosureasallowedundertheConstitutionisessentialtoensureafair,open,andtransparentpublicdebateontheproposedConstitutionalAmendmenttobansame-sexmarriageinMinnesota("MarriageAmendment").Onthecriticalimportanceofdisclosureandtransparencyinanyelection,CommonCause,theUnitedStatesSupremeCourt,andFederalCourtsinterpretingMinnesota'sdisclosurelawsagree:"transparencyenablestheelectoratetomakeinformeddecisionsandgiveproperweighttodifferentspeakersandmessages."
Minn.CitizensConcernedforLife,Inc.v.Swanson,
741F.Supp.2d1115,1129
(D.
Minn.2010)(citing
CitizensUnitedv.FEC,
130S.Ct.876,916(2010)),
aff'd,
640F.3d304(8thCir.2011)(upholdingMinnesota'sdisclosure,reportingandrecordkeepinglawsapplicabletocorporateindependentexpenditures).CommonCausefilesthiscomplaintagainsttheMinnesotaFamilyCouncil("MFC")forviolatingMinn.Stat.
§§
10A.14and10A.20.Uponinformationandbelief,MFChasa"majorpurpose"ofpromotingtheMarriageAmendmentandisthereforesubjecttoreportinganddisclosurerequirementsasa"politicalcommittee"underChapterlOA.IfMFCisapoliticalcommittee-andpubliclyavailablefactsdemonstratethatitis-thenMFChasviolatedMinnesotalawbyfailingtoregisterasapoliticalcommittee,andbynotcomplyingwithcampaignreportinganddisclosurerequirementthatapplytopoliticalcommittees.Formanymonths,MFChasexpresseddisagreementwithMinnesota'sdisclosurelawsandtheBoard'seffortstoimplementthoselawsinthecontextofballotquestioncampaigns.Butdisagreementisnoexcusefornoncompliance.TheLegislatureauthorizedtheBoardtoinvestigateandholdMFCaccountableforfailingtoregisterasapoliticalcommitteeanddiscloseinformationaboutitscontributors.GoodpublicpolicyrequirestheBoardtodoexactlythat.RelevantDocumentsAttachedtoThisComplaint
1.
AttachmentA-MFCForm-990filedforthe2009-2010fiscalyear.2.AttachmentB-ReportofReceiptsandExpendituresfiledbytheMinnesotaFamilyCouncilProtectionFund("MFCPoliticalFund")onJanuary31,2012,asamendedonFebruary1,2012,whichwasobtainedfromtheBoard'swebsite.Thisreportincludes
 
the2011DisclosureStatementforCorporationsandotherUnregisteredAssociationsContributedtoIndependentExpenditureCommitteesandFundspreparedbyMFC.3.AttachmentC-StarTribuneguestcommentaryfromJohnHeimberger(Oct.13,2011),chairmanandtreasurerofMFM,andtreasurerofbothMFCandtheMFCPoliticalFund.4.AttachmentD-MFCblogpost(Oct.26,2011).FactualBackground1.MFC's2011expendituresinconnectionwiththeMarriageAmendmentdwarfitstotalexpendituresinallofthe2009-2010fiscalyear.MFCisataxexempt,nonprofitcorporationorganizedundersection501(c)(4)oftheInternalRevenueCode.MFCregisteredtheMFCPoliticalFundwiththeBoard,butMFCitselfisnotregisteredasapoliticalcommittee.OnMay15,2011,MFCfileditsForm-990withtheInternalRevenueService,reportingitsreceiptsandexpendituresforthefiscalyearbeginningOctober1,2009andendingSeptember30,2010(the"MFC-990").
See
AttachmentA.1TheMFC-990indicatesthatMFChadgrossreceiptsof$219,973andtotalexpendituresof$126,523duringthe2009-2010fiscalyear.
Id.
at1.
2
OnJanuary31andFebruary2,2011,theMFCPoliticalFundfiledaReportandanAmendedReportofReceiptsandExpendituresforBallotQuestionCommitteesandFundsfor2011(collectively,the"MFCReport").
See
AttachmentB.BecausetheMarriageAmendmentwasnotplacedontheballotuntillateMay2011,theMFCReportprovidesinformationonslightlymorethansevenmonthsofactivityduringthe2011calendaryear.Duringthosesevenmonths,theMFCReportindicatesthatMFC:Loaned$134,570.60totheMFCPoliticalFund(AttachmentBat3);andContributed$212.423.45totheMFCPoliticalFund
(ld.
at9).TOTAL:$346,994.05Aboveallelse,theMFCReportdemonstratesthatMFC'sexpendituresskyrocketedin2011.Infact,MFC'stotalexpendituresinconnectionwiththeMarriageAmendmentduringthelast1ThisisthemostrecentlyavailableForm-990filedbyMFC.
2
MFC'stotalexpendituresduringthe2009-2010fiscalyear($126,523)wereapproximately$30,000lessthanitstotalexpendituresduringthepriorfiscalyear($159,184).
Id.
-2-
 
sevenmonthsof2011($346,994.05inloansandcontributionstoMFM)areapproximately2.75timesitstotalexpendituresinthe2009-2010fiscalyear($126,523),andmorethan1.5timesitstotalreceiptsduringthatfiscalyear($219,973).2.MFCiswellawareoftheregistrationandreportingrequirementsthatapplytopoliticalcommitteesandfundsandhasopposedtheBoard'seffortstoenforcedisclosurelaws.MFChasbeenavocalopponentofMinnesota'sballotquestiondisclosurelawsandtheBoard'srecentguidanceinthisarea.InconnectionwiththeBoard'ssummerandfallmeetings,forexample,MFCoritsrepresentativesrepeatedlyobjectedandspokeoutagainstBoardeffortstoenforceMinnesotalawsthatrequireindividualcontributorandoriginalsourcedisclosure.InanOctober2011guestcommentarypublishedintheStarTribune,Mr.Heimberger,whoactsasthetreasurerofbothMFCandtheMFCPoliticalFund,expressedthecontinuingdisdainheandpro-MarriageAmendmentsupportershaveforMinnesota'sdisclosurerules.
See
Attachment
C.
Similarly,inablogpostavailableonitswebsite,MFChasgonesofarastostatethat"[vloters...havenomorerighttoknowwhoisfinanciallybackingspeechaboutthe[MarriageAmendment]thantheyhavearighttoknowwhichwayanyonewillvoteonit."AttachmentD.
VIOLATIONSOFMINNESOTALAW
TheBoardistheagencyresponsibleforenforcingChapterlOAandforinvestigatinginstancesofsuspectednoncompliance.Thedeterminationofwhetheranassociationisapoliticalcommitteerequiresacase-by-caseanalysisthatcanbemadethroughtheBoard'sinvestigatoryprocess.BoardA.O.405at5(June2,2009).BecauseMFC'sfinancialreportsanddisclosuresestablishaprimafaciecasethatMFC's"majorpurpose"istopromotetheMarriageAmendment,theBoardshouldinvestigateMFCanddeterminewhetherMFCislegallyobligatedtoregisterandreportasapoliticalcommittee.TotheextentMFCdeniespoliticalcommitteestatus,itsdenialsarenotcontrolling,particularlygiventheobjectiveevidenceofitsfinancialsupportfortheMarriageAmendmentduringthelastsevenmonthsof2011.Indeed,asnotedabove,MFCrecentlyreportedtotheBoardthatitspent$346,994.05insupportoftheMarriageAmendmentduringthelastsevenmonthsof2011,throughloansanddonationstoMFM.Thisamount-spentinjustsevenmonths-isnearly2.75timesMFM'stotalspendinginthe2009-2010fiscalyear.Surely,anorganizationthatspendsanamounttoinfluenceaballotquestioninsevenmonthsthatnearlytriplesthetotalamountspentonallofitsactivitiesintheprioryearhasa"majorpurpose"ofpromotingtheballotquestion.Inotherwords,MFC'sownfilingsdemonstratethatitnowhasamajorpurposeofinfluencingtheMarriageAmendmentelection,whichmakesMFCaballotquestioncommitteeandsubjectsMFCtoregistrationunderMinn.Stat.
§
10A.14andreportingrequirementsunderMinn.Stat.
§
-3-

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