Public financing is a system where a government provides candidates or political parties with money to help fund their campaigns or operations. It’s designed to help eliminate the negative impact that comes along with private contributions and special interests. It also levels the playing field by giving regular citizens and smaller third parties an opportunity to compete with their more experienced and wealthy counterparts.
Minnesota, which has had such a system since the 1970s, enjoys some of the most progressive and successful public-financing laws in the country. There are two primary sources for public financing in Minnesota, and both allow you, the contributor, to decide where the money goes. These sources are the Political Contribution Refund (PCR) program and the income tax “check-off.”
Political Contribution Refund (PCR) Program
This program allows any registered or eligible voter in Minnesota to give up to $50 a year to qualifying candidates or political parties and then receive a full refund back from the State. Thatâ€™s right, you can make a contribution and get it all back! Married couples can receive up to $100 in refunds per year.
The process is fairly simple.
1. Before you make your donation, make sure that the recipient is eligible. See below.
2. When you make your donation, ask for both the special receipt (Form EP-3) and Form PCR.
3. Send the receipt and completed form to the Department of Revenue. This will be filed on different deadlines from your taxes, so be sure to check with the Department of Revenue for details.
4. Eight weeks from your submission date, you should receive your refund.
Income Tax Check-Off
Minnesota’s individual income tax form (Form M1) has a section where you can direct the state to provide $5 of state money to help candidates pay campaign expenses. Filling in this section is a safe bet since it will not increase your tax or reduce your refund. You can choose one of the major or minor parties, or request that the money go into a general fund for the major partiesonly.
Eligible Candidates and Parties
Candidates who runs for state office, such as governor or state legislator, are eligible to receive public funding, assuming they first sign an agreement limiting how much they can spend on their campaign. Candidates for city, county or federal office are not eligible.
Political parties are eligible for public funding if they qualify as either a major or a minor party under the law. As of 2006, the Green Party is recognized as a minor party. The stateâ€™s three major parties are the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party, the Independence Party and the Republican Party.
MN Dept. of Revenue
MN Campaign Finance Board
800-657-3889 or 651-296-5148
Minnesota Political Party Contacts: