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NRA Loses Challenge to Minnesota Law

October 11, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Rifle Association, for the second time in two years, lost a Supreme Court challenge to a Minnesota law that required it to disclose the names of over 20,000 NRA members.

The court, without comment, refused to hear arguments that the Minnesota controversy never should have landed in federal court.

The justices in 1986 let stand, again without comment, rulings that the Minnesota Ethics in Government Act does not violate the free-speech or associational rights of NRA members.

The law requires lobbying groups to register with the state, and disclose the names, addresses and places of employment of all those who contributed more than $50.

The Minnesota Ethical Practices Board, which enforces the law, said the NRA is a lobbying group because, in part, it spent thousands of dollars on mailings attacking former State Attorney General Warren Spannaus in his 1982 gubernatorial campaign.

Spannaus lost the Democratic primary to Rudy Perpich, who was later elected governor.

U.S. District Judge Miles Lord upheld the law in a May 2, 1984, ruling. Subsequent NRA appeals to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court failed.

The association in late 1984 complied with the law - supplying the board with the names, addresses and places of employment of more than 20,000 Minnesota members to whom letters had been sent in connection with the 1982 elections.

Records show that $23,256 was spent in connection with the mailings.

In its 1986 appeal, the NRA contended that no group should be held accountable to government regulation because it communicates with its members concerning candidates for state office.

But in the appeal acted on today, the NRA argued that Lord lacked the authority to rule in the case because the state agency’s lawsuit was based on alleged state law violations.

The lawsuit had been filed in a state court but the NRA had the case switched to federal court.

The case is NRA vs. Minnesota Ethical Practices Board, 88-300.

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