- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014
Group seeks end of Minnesota campaign giving cap

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A group challenging a Minnesota campaign finance law asked a federal judge Monday to suspend a cap on some campaign contributions.

The Minnesota branch of the Institute for Justice contends that “special source” limits on how much a candidate can take from lobbyists, wealthy donors and political funds have a chilling effect on free speech.

Currently, state law limits the total amount Minnesota candidates can take from certain types of contributors. The two donors and two candidates who filed the challenge, contend the law sets up a first-come, first-serve system and infringes on the right of donors to give more. The law was designed to prevent candidates from focusing too much on big-dollar donors.

For example, Minnesota House candidates can take up to $1,000 from contributors. But once they hit $12,500 in donations from those “special sources” who give between $500 and $1,000, everyone who contributes to the campaign after that can only give $500, Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1ivlYAi) reported.

“The government can’t say that only the first 12 people in line get to contribute $1,000 to a candidate, while everyone else only gets to contribute half that,” Institute for Justice attorney Anthony Sanders said.

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Dayton: Lottery needs time to end online games

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday it would be “pointless” for him to veto a bill stripping the Minnesota Lottery’s ability to sell tickets online if the Legislature votes convincingly for the restriction.

Dayton told The Associated Press that he hopes lawmakers at least give the lottery adequate time to end its Internet games and minimize breached contracts. The Senate voted overwhelmingly last week for an immediate online lottery prohibition. A House vote could come soon.

The Democratic governor didn’t commit to signing the bill, but said a lopsided House vote would make a veto futile. He could also let it become law without his signature.

Dayton, who has expressed concern that profit motive by lottery competitors could be driving the clampdown, said he asked House Speaker Paul Thissen to build in a grace period for the lottery. Dayton said the lottery has commitments to vendors and to players who have purchased tickets on a subscription basis for Powerball, Mega Millions and other drawings months into the future.

“Like many things in this session it’s being rushed through without the forethought it deserves,” Dayton said of the bill.

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Closings set for Minnesota man who killed teens

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota man charged with fatally shooting two teenagers who broke into his home on Thanksgiving Day in 2012 chose not to testify in his own behalf Monday, and his defense rested after calling three character witnesses and a private detective who sought to bolster the homeowner’s claim of self-defense.

Byron Smith, 65, of Little Falls, told Morrison County District Judge Douglas Anderson he understood his rights. He’s charged with first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady. The retired U.S. State Department security officer told investigators he was defending himself when he shot the two cousins in his basement because he feared for his life after several break-ins.

The case has fueled debate over how far people can go in defending themselves in their homes. Smith sat downstairs and waited for the two cousins. Prosecutors argue that he went too far when he continued to shoot the unarmed teens even after they posed no danger. Smith also waited a day to report the killings to police. The defense says Smith was fearful in part because some of his guns were stolen in earlier burglaries.

Anderson set closing arguments for Tuesday morning.

The judge told the jury that Minnesota law allows people to use deadly force in self-defense if they fear death or great bodily harm, or to prevent a felony from being committed in one’s dwelling. He said a defendant has no duty to retreat, but that a defendant’s actions must have been “reasonable under the circumstances.” He also told them to follow the law as he explained it, “even if you believe the law is or should be different.”

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Judge halts Minnesota online voter signup system

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s new online voter registration system must be shut down because it was improperly established, a judge ordered Monday. But the Legislature could quickly turn it back on.

Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann said in his ruling that Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was wrong to set it up without legislative permission. He ruled that Ritchie must close the system down by midnight Tuesday. Any registrations previously made through the site will be valid.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit brought by two conservative groups and a collection of Republican legislators, who said they deserved a chance to help shape the portal.

Mindful of the possible ruling, the Legislature has been considering bills this session to allow online registration to continue by putting in place security standards and anti-fraud provisions.

“If the Legislature believed that the existing online voter registration tool was already legally authorized, there would be no need for new legislation,” Guthmann wrote in his order.