Minneapolis Fed may be violating federal law by advocating change to Minnesota Constitution

The center's letter claims that such activity violates the Federal Reserve's code of conduct and, potentially, the Anti-Lobbying Act.

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis/Facebook

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (the Minneapolis Fed) is accused of violating federal lobbying law because of its advocacy for a change to the Minnesota Constitution.

On Tuesday the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative think tank based in Golden Valley, sent Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell a letter drawing attention to the Minneapolis Fed’s political activity under its president, Neel Kashkari.

According to the letter, the Minneapolis Fed is “using the bank’s resources to fund classic grassroots lobbying activities” on behalf of the proposed “Page Amendment” to the Minnesota Constitution.

The Page Amendment, named after former NFL player and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, would constitutionally guarantee a “quality education” for all children in the state. The stated goal, according to a Star Tribune op-ed written by Page and Kashkari, is to close the “educational gap” of minority and low-income children.

“The [Minneapolis Fed’s] official website includes a web page devoted to the amendment, which is regularly updated and prominently advertised on the home page,” said Bill Walsh, director of communications for the Center of the American Experiment. “The bank is also holding a series of ‘community conversations’ across the state where they ask people to call their legislator and ask them to support the amendment.”

The center’s letter claims that such activity violates the Federal Reserve’s code of conduct and, potentially, the Anti-Lobbying Act.

“Congress enacted the Anti-Lobbying Act in 1919 to prohibit federal employees from using federal appropriations to lobby Congress,” the letter says. “Most pertinent to Mr. Kashkari and his staff, the prohibition now extends to lobbying with the purpose of influencing any government policy at every level of government, not just members of Congress. Therefore, federal law now prohibits lobbying to influence state legislators and citizen votes on a ballot measure.”

In addition to these violations, the Minneapolis Fed’s lobbying “upsets the Constitution’s separation of powers between the states and federal government” and “undermines the credibility and independence of the entire Federal Reserve System.”

“To protect the state of Minnesota from improper federal influence and to protect the political independence of the Federal Reserve System, we ask that you exercise your general powers of supervision over the Minneapolis Fed to stop this unlawful grassroots lobbying campaign,” the letter says.