Lawmaker vows to close loophole allowing private GOP club for lobbyists

By: - November 18, 2021 6:10 am

Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, and Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, on the Senate Floor on May 6, 2021. Photo by A.J. Olmscheid/Minnesota Senate Media Services

A state senator said she plans to introduce legislation banning a private members-only club for lawmakers and lobbyists. 

The Reformer last week reported that the Senate Victory Fund, the Senate GOP campaign arm, earlier this year requested an advisory opinion on a proposal to lease and open a private meeting space for lawmakers and dues-paying members. 

The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board (CFB) issued the opinion on Oct. 6. It said such a club would be permissible so long as dues were reported as campaign contributions and not made during the legislative session, to avoid running afoul of state law banning campaign contributions while lawmakers are in session. 

State Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, confirmed Wednesday that she would meet with Senate counsel to draft a bill banning the plan outlined in the CFB opinion.

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, this week distanced his caucus from the plan. “I have not seen the Campaign Finance Board advisory opinion,” he wrote in an email to the Reformer. “I’m not aware of any plans for the Senate Victory Fund to open a member lobbyist club.”

Miller, who was elected caucus leader just the month before, did not answer follow-up questions about the advisory opinion.

Port elaborated on her opposition to the idea: “The intent is to ban clubs like this that create loopholes in our campaign finance law that disallows contributions from lobbyists during session and creates an explicit two-tier system for access to legislators,” she said. 

Jeff Sigurdson, executive director of the Campaign Finance Board, said in an email that lawmakers are free to change state law in response to the advisory opinion. 

“There have been at least a couple of occasions when legislation was passed to specifically counter a Board’s advisory opinion,” he wrote. “Perhaps that will happen in this case as well.”

The Campaign Finance Board has six members who are appointed by the governor and serve staggered four-year terms. The appointments must be confirmed by a three-fifths vote of the members of each chamber of the Legislature.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez was a senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.