Third parties left out if bill passes

A Senate bill would prevent parties from receiving public funds until after elections.

The Democratic and Republican bullies of the State Capitol are at it again, this time forcing through a bill that would change rules in public-party financing and severely hamper third parties such as the Independence and Green parties. The bill, approved by the Senate Elections Committee last week, is clearly an attempt to quash third-party influence and muscle out third-party candidates.

The bill would prevent parties from receiving public financing until after the November election. Currently, parties get their money in September after the primaries. The change would pose a major hurdle to third parties by forcing them to campaign without any state financial support against financially secure Republicans and Democrats. Without the September infusion of funds, third parties would be forced to play financial catch-up.

Another provision in the bill would require parties to meet a 5 percent threshold in each statewide election. This would mean the Green and Independence parties would be forced to run presidential candidates this fall. This provision is particularly preposterous considering the Independence Party focuses only on Minnesota and is not associated with a national party.

The bill’s chief author, Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, claims the bill would prevent taxpayer money from being wasted. This is a doughnut argument. There is a giant hole in it; the rule changes would not save taxpayers money. Rather, they would work to funnel money slated for qualified third parties to the Democratic or Republican parties.

Higgins argues she does not want to fund candidates that “aren’t really viable;” this is another doughnut argument. The Green and Independence parties are viable, as evidenced by the thousands of votes they garnered in the last election and gubernatorial showings. Higgins’ bill would only sabotage viable Independence and Green candidates by making them financially unviable.

Doughnut arguments aside, a classic rule applies in this case. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The campaign finance rules should remain as they are. Clearly, the bullies of the State Capitol are doing some misguided tinkering.