State should revive tax program for small donations
Tucked into the resignation letter Republican State Chairman Tony Sutton issued on Dec. 2 was an acknowledgement that a GOP-backed tax law change has contributed to the financial trouble that beset his party on his watch.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2009 unallotment and the Legislature’s subsequent defunding of refunds for small donors to candidates and political parties — a change long sought by Republicans — pinched the Grand Old Party hard.
It eliminated matching refunds of up to $50 per year for individuals and $100 for couples, saving the state a projected $11.8 million in the 2012-13 biennium.
The Political Contribution Refund, or PCR, was more advantageous to the GOP than to any other party since its 1990 inception, though donations to the DFL, Independence and Green parties and to those parties’ candidates for state office were also eligible for refunds.
Anyone tempted to chortle at the GOP’s self-inflicted financial wound should stifle the impulse. The loss of the PCR has also hit the DFL Party hard. DFL State Chair Ken Martin estimated that small donations to the party are down by at least half since the PCR was suspended.
The loss of the PCR shifts political clout away from people of modest means and toward well-heeled corporate interests.
It coincided with the opening of campaign finance floodgates by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2010 ruling permitting corporate and union funding of political advertising.
The upshot: Just as special interests were handed a megaphone, Minnesotans who can afford only a loan, not a gift, to parties and candidates were muzzled.
Fortunately, the PCR is dormant, not dead. Thanks to its rescue from elimination by Gov. Mark Dayton earlier this year, it still exists in state law, ready for revival as soon as July 1, 2013. We’re rooting for its return.
Its revival would help Minnesota maintain a tradition of broadly inclusive self-governance that has served it well, at a time when that tradition is under assault.
The departing Republican chair’s accounting of the high cost of the PCR’s elimination ought to inspire second thoughts among the refund’s critics.
— Star Tribune of Minneapolis