Pushing to ban members-only private club for lobbyists, lawmakers win bipartisan backing

The move to ban the creation of a private, membership-based club for lawmakers and lobbyists has won bipartisan support.

A budget bill moving forward in the GOP-led Senate includes a provision that would bar lobbyists and other political groups from making contributions for a private club membership during the legislative session to meet with lawmakers. Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, is the author of the state government budget bill.

A House DFL lawmaker also drafted legislation to ban such a club, overcoming some opposition from the GOP. Republicans feared it would ensnare lawmakers meeting with their constituents.

The legislation, however, specifies that these meetings would not be affected.

Last year, the Senate Victory Fund sought an advisory opinion from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on the legality of a private club for lobbyists. In October, the board said a club would be acceptable as long as contributions were received before or after the legislative session.

After the Reformer reported that it was the Senate GOP campaign arm that sought the opinionSenate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said his caucus had no intention of creating such a club.

The arrangement described in the notice has been criticized by advocates of government transparency who said it would give powerful and wealthy interests undue influence over lawmakers during the legislative session.

Lawmakers are currently on a 10-day break and will return with just weeks before adjourning the 2022 legislative session.

It’s unclear whether the divided legislature will be able to compromise on its budget bills, in part because it has no legal obligation to amend the state budget after approving a new state budget. two years last year.