“Pay-to-play” corruption must be addressed in VT

VPIRG is urging all candidates for public office in Vermont to support a ban on so-called pay-to-play activity related to state contracts. Recent controversies over related practices have involved members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott recently announced that he would sell his portion of his construction business if he is elected governor, so that the business might still compete for state contracts without the cloud of conflict that would have resulted from his maintaining ownership.

Last year, Attorney General Bill Sorrell was investigated for hiring a Texas law firm to assist in a state case after members of the firm gave him $10,000 in political donations.

“Vermont needs ethics reform legislation that includes a prohibition on pay-to-play politics,” said Paul Burns, Executive Director of VPIRG.

“It’s no secret that citizens detest the notion that a wealthy individual or corporation can game the system by making a generous campaign contribution or providing gifts to state decision makers. Pay-to-play equals corruption, or at the very least the appearance of it, and it’s time for Vermont to do something about it.”

Earlier this year, the Vermont Senate passed a watered down version of ethics reform legislation (S.184) that never made it to the floor of the House for a vote. During the debate over that bill, legislators considered a ban on pay-to-play.

The basic idea is to prevent a person or corporation from giving a gift or political contribution to a candidate for office who is then in a position to reward that same person or business with a valuable state contract.

“Now that the Lieutenant Governor has announced that he’ll sell his share of his business if elected, VPIRG urges the candidates to focus on the much broader problem of pay-to-play,” said Burns. “In order to avoid any hint of corruption, let’s make things simple. If you want to be eligible to win a sizable contract with the state, don’t give a contribution to anyone running for office who would be in a position to give you that contract.”

“The issue has always been much bigger than Phil Scott’s business,” concluded Burns. “Now the question is, will candidates commit to doing something about pay-to-play corruption in 2017 if they are elected?”

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