Campaign Finance Board dismisses complaint against Catholic DVD

Archbishop John Nienstedt
Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt, who leads the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to be put before Minnesota voters in a video message sent to Catholics around the state in October 2010.
Courtesy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Minnesota's Campaign Finance Board has thrown out a complaint against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for a DVD mailed to 400,000 Catholics before the 2010 election.

The packet included a recorded statement from Archbishop John Nienstedt saying "The time has come for voters to be presented directly with an amendment to the state constitution to preserve our historic understanding of marriage."

One of the recipients of the DVD, Kurt Anderson an attorney from Minneapolis, filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance Board alleging the Archdiocese failed to register as a lobbyist, political fund or a principal.

The Archdiocese told the Campaign Finance Board the mailing was not directed to lawmakers or the general public, but instead, "a message from the Archbishop to church members about an important matter of public concern."

In a ruling released Friday, the board found that since the marriage issue was neither on the ballot at the time of the mailing, nor an issue before the Legislature, the packet failed to trigger reporting requirements.

"There is a sufficient basis on which to reasonably conclude that the Archdiocese's communications were for a purpose other than to influence legislative action," wrote the board in its findings.

Anderson said he was disappointed by the decision.

"The decision ignores the plain language of Minnesota Statutes, requiring financial disclosure reports in relation to promoting a general election ballot question, including efforts to qualify the question for inclusion on the ballot," Anderson wrote in an email to MPR News.

"Unfortunately Catholics such as myself, who are sitting in the pews every Sunday when the collection baskets come around, have no accounting for this expenditure; and Minnesotans generally have been subjected to a large and potentially corrupting dose of hidden political money."

In May, the Legislature voted to add a constitutional amendment to the ballot in November 2012 that would limit marriage to one man and one woman, consistent with current Minnesota law.

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