Don't Let Corporate Interests Weaken MN Democracy

With spring fully and finally here, things are busy on my farm, but I wanted to take a moment to write to you about an issue moving forward at the Minnesota Capitol that goes against some of the most important principles and values I have. And I want to ask you to take action with me.

Minnesotans value a vibrant democratic process and we won’t let it be undermined to serve corporate interests. We know that this process includes respect for free speech and dissent, which has been critical to achieving progress towards justice in our state. Critical farm policy reforms such as the 1986 statewide legislation that included mandatory mediation before a farm could be foreclosed upon, as well as an interest buy-down on farm loans, resulted from farm- and rural-led dissent and protest. I was a part of those protests and know firsthand that they saved many farms from foreclosure.

Today, rural people and farmers are standing up against unneeded and unwanted oil pipelines proposed to stretch across rural communities in our state as well as others. Leading this movement are Native Americans who have reminded us all that truly “Water is Life.” These powerful people have led winning movements opposing the gas and oil industry’s greed. Because of this, corporate interests and their legislative allies are pushing “Guilty by Association” legislation that could impose harsh penalties on people and organizations that encourage dissent.

That is why the Land Stewardship Project opposes the proposed “Guilty by Association” bills that seek to discourage people-led dissent and protest in favor of corporate interests. These proposed bills are:

  • Senate File 3463, authored by Sens. Paul Utke, Thomas Bakk, Bruce Anderson, David Tomassoni and Justin Eichorn.
  • House File 3693, authored by Reps. Dennis Smith, Dan Fabian, Marion O'Neill, Nick Zerwas, Bob Loonan, Tim Miller, Eric Lucero, Pat Garofalo, Jeff Howe, Cindy Pugh, Dale Lueck, Kathy Lohmer and Josh Heintzeman.

This legislation applies an absurd “Guilty by Association” standard when damage or trespass to a pipeline or other defined “critical infrastructure” happens. This could allow organizations and people who did not trespass or do any damage to such infrastructure to be charged with a crime if they promoted or supported an event at which this happens. In fact, they could be charged even if they were not at the event. To be clear, trespassing on and damage to property are already illegal and should remain so. However, this bill unreasonably expands who can be charged in order to chill dissent.

This proposal comes directly from the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC works to advance large corporate interests at the expense of the public good and democratic values. This bill was modeled after a bill passed in Oklahoma and its approach is openly promoted on ALEC’s website here. Outside corporate interests should not be driving policy in our state.

Please, join with me in taking action now. Corporate interests are pushing hard to pass this legislation. If we don't speak up now, it could become law. We need to stand together for these cherished democratic principles that are at the core of our democracy. We need you to call on your state legislators and Governor Mark Dayton to reject this proposal.

LSP organizer Paul Sobocinski farms near Wabasso in southwestern Minnesota.