As we’ve discussed, last week the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit preliminarily struck down the Minnesota campaign finance laws imposing constitutionally burdensome disclosure obligations on associations who only make independent expenditures, such as Super PACs. But according to recent press reports, the Director of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure states that all but one requirement found likely to be unconstitutional by the appellate court will be enforced. This sets up an interesting clash in the district court before the next filing date, which is two weeks away.
The Eighth Circuit’s decision considered the constitutional challenge in the context of a preliminary injunction, which requires the challenger to show, among other things, that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim. The Eighth Circuit found this requirement to be satisfied and stated that “where we determine the appellants are likely to win on the merits of their First Amendment claim, a preliminary injunction is proper.” But short of directing the federal district court to enter the injunction, the Eighth Circuit simply remanded the case “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
The task at hand now for the district court is to decide how much wiggle room there is in the Eighth Circuit’s decision. The challengers intend to seek an injunction in the next days, so we likely will have a clear window into the district court’s reasoning soon.