How is Money Influencing Elections?

Posted at: 11/12/2012 11:01 PM
Updated at: 11/13/2012 2:21 AM
By: Dayna Landgrebe

Elections are over for now, but one group is asking Minnesotans to think about something else: the influence of money in political races.

On Monday, the League of Women voters hosted a forum in Duluth, warning about the possible corruption of state's judicial system.

Nancy Bratrud, who sits on the board of directors for the League, warned that there could be serious ethical ramifications if judges are allowed to campaign with political affiliation instead of as a neutral party. She said its something that could come down to another constitutional amendment for the state.

"It will be something that we live with a long time. The risk has been that one could buy a judge with a lot of money, and it has happened in many many states now around the country," Bratrud said.

Bratrud said Minnesota has remained the lone Midwest state to avoid the politicization of judicial elections, served well by the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct. But the League says the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005, known as the White Decision, scrapped the Minnesota Canon Rule #5, which barred judicial candidates from voicing views about political and controversial issues.

The League said the change allows candidates to make promises and solicit campaign contributions from special interest groups and political parties. Bratrud said states can, however, amend their constitutions to protect the courts from politically influencing a judge's selection and retention.

"People need to know the facts, and understand what conditions might be imposed then if we do put a political aspect to our selection and retention of our judges in this state," she said.

Bratrud said the point of Monday's forum is to make sure people start to think about a change that could be long-lasting ahead of time.