Can local businesses put up political campaign signs? It depends.
With Election Day less than two months away, it should come as no surprise that political campaign signs are popping up all over town.
While the First Amendment clearly backs an individual's right to show off their support for a specific candidate, the question as to whether a business can do the same is a bit more convoluted under Minnesota law.
According to state statute, corporations, LLCs and nonprofits are prohibited from making contributions to political campaigns. That includes providing space for candidates to put up signs on their properties.
However, there are some exceptions to the law.
"Not all businesses are corporations or LLCs," said Ryan Furlong, communications director for the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, in an email to the Med City Beat. "So a sole proprietorship or a partnership can make a contribution because they are essentially individuals."
Additionally, if a campaign rents the space for a fair market value, that is not a violation — even if the landowner is a corporation or LLC. It is also legal for these types of businesses to "post notices on their public premises promoting participation in the precinct caucuses, voter registration or voting, provided these messages are not controlled or operated for the advantage of any candidate, political party or committee," according to state law.
The laws regarding contributions in local elections are enforced by the county attorney after a complaint is filed with and resolved by the Office of Administrative Hearing, said Furlong.
Here is the form for filing a complaint with the OAH. The penalties for violating the provisions range from a petty misdemeanor to a $10,000 fine.
Candidates running for office should consult the state's Campaign Finance Manual for additional information.
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(Cover photo: The Med City Beat)