Free Speech For People and the Minnesota law firm, Lockridge Grindal Nauen, on behalf of Clean Elections Minnesota, filed an amicus brief on Monday, December 4 in federal court in opposition to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s motion for preliminary injunction. The Chamber seeks to block a provision of Minnesota’s landmark democracy bill that would prevent foreign-influenced corporations from spending money in state elections.

The brief disputes main concerns raised by the Chamber regarding the provision’s legality and the suggested burden it places on corporations First, the brief demonstrates that Minnesota has a firmly established “compelling interest in limiting the participation of foreign citizens in activities of American democratic self-government,” and that this interest justifies laws prohibiting any money from foreign nationals entering U.S. elections, even indirectly.

Second, FSFP writes why the law is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, including Citizens United. Citizens United considers corporations as “associations of citizens” with a constitutional right to unlimited political spending. But corporations with foreign shareholders and owners are not “associations of citizens” and have no vested right to influence Minnesota elections.

And third, the brief demonstrates that the law, far from being burdensome, requires corporations only to collect information about their own shareholders to ascertain a corporation’s percentage of foreign ownership–information that corporations have or can easily obtain. Minnesota law requires corporations to keep current lists of shareholder information, and federal law makes this data readily available to the public. Corporations also regularly use transfer agents to pinpoint shareholder identities.

The challenged provision bans corporate political spending from foreign-influenced corporations, defined as those with a foreign individual investor owning 1% of corporate stock or multiple foreign investors holding 5% in aggregate–thresholds at which foreign investors can influence corporate governance and decisions. (Businesses owned by immigrants or non-citizens who live in the United States are not covered). 

In June 2023, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce challenged the law in federal court, and claimed that it infringes upon its members’ constitutionally protected free speech rights, as well as those of the Chamber itself. 

“Minnesota, like any other state, has a right to democratic self-government,” said Courtney Hostetler, Senior Counsel at Free Speech for People. “Minnesota elections should be run for and by the people of Minnesota, and not by foreign-influenced corporations that are allowed to pour unlimited money into state elections.” 

Minnesota became the first state to ban foreign-influenced corporate spending when the Democracy for the People Act was passed in April 2023 and signed by Governor Walz in May.  

Read the full amicus brief here.