ST. PAUL (AP) -- Minnesota political campaigns have been flooded with special interest money over the past few years, a Hamline University professor found in a study being released today.
David Schultz found that unregulated contributions to parties and House and Senate caucuses totaled nearly $2 million in 1998. Also known as soft money, the contributions come mostly from lobbyists and political action committees.
''This is money that you can't necessarily attribute to your particular representative, but it's clearly money that's influencing the party of your representative, and that party is clearly pressuring your representative to vote in a certain way,'' said Schultz, former president of Common Cause Minnesota, a campaign watchdog group.
Unless changes are made, some lawmakers fear the 2000 elections will be the most expensive in state history.
The report compiled by Schultz looks at some of the top industries spending money to influence Minnesota politics, such as health care, gambling and real estate.
The study could add fuel to those seeking to change the campaign finance system to limit such contributions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that states don't violate free speech rights when they limit individual contributions to campaigns. Minnesota limits contributions to candidates, but not to parties and caucuses.
Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, plans to introduce legislation to stem the use of the contributions by restricting independent expenditures. Parties and caucuses are limited in what they can spend on campaigns in coordination with candidates. But they can spend as much as they want on candidates, provided it's not coordinated with a candidate's campaign.
Republicans control the House, and the GOP generally opposes fund-raising or spending limits.
Entenza's bill would establish a formula.
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