2014 Legislative Priorities: Democracy

Legislature Opens the Door to Big Money in Elections

In a remarkable reversal of past priorities, Vermont legislators opened the 2014 session by voting to allow even more money in state elections.  Gov. Shumlin signed the bill (S.82) into law on Jan. 23rd, despite having heard from over 1,500 VPIRG members urging him to veto it.

Over opposition from Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and Independents, majorities in both the House and Senate decided to give corporations, PACs, and wealthy individuals even more influence over the outcome of elections.  Some legislators suggested that in order to compete with Super PACs, they needed to arm themselves with large donations too.

“At the last minute, legislation that VPIRG had been working to pass for years turned from a genuine campaign finance reform bill to a launch pad for a misguided arms race,” said VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns.

VPIRG was forced to oppose the legislation (S.82) because it would:

  • Double the amount of money that corporations, PACs and wealthy individuals can give to statewide candidates from $2,000 to $4,000
  • Quintuple the amount that PACs, corporations and the rich can give to political parties from $2,000 to $10,000
  • Allow unlimited contributions from political parties to candidates
  • Fail to substantially improve disclosure requirements (adding just two new reports over a two-year period and failing to collect occupation or employer information from donors)
  • Do nothing to stop corporations from giving directly to candidates
  • Fail to require the principal funders of Super PACs to appear in their own ads

“This bill will make it more difficult for average Vermonters to believe that their voices will be heard and their concerns addressed by candidates getting very large contributions from an elite few,” said Burns.  “And that’s bad for our democracy.”

But with the corrupting influence of Super PACs only getting worse, it’s possible that legislators will take some additional action on disclosure this session. VPIRG will continue to press for legislation requiring the biggest Super PAC donors to actually appear in their own advertisements.


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