VT Senate approves changes to public financing of campaigns

The Vermont Senate voted 19-6 in favor of S. 220, an act related to the public financing of campaigns, and sent it to the House for consideration. The bill makes improvements in our current law by allowing publicly financed candidates to run more competitive campaigns.

Public financing of campaigns is a crucial step towards countering the influence of big money in politics, but under our current system, candidates who are interested in running a publicly financed campaign must wait until February 15th of the election year to declare their candidacy. In an age where campaigns are starting earlier and earlier (not to mention amassing greater and greater amounts of campaign cash), the late deadline can bar potential candidates from even having a chance at running a competitive campaign against a privately financed opponent.

S. 220 addresses this problem by allowing a publicly financed candidate to declare their candidacy before February 15th if another privately financed candidate for the same office starts campaigning earlier, but no longer than one year before an election. This important change allows publicly financed candidates to get in the race and run a strong campaign without creating campaign seasons that last longer and longer every cycle.

The bill also closes a loophole that allowed publicly financed candidates to raise and spend private money during their qualifying period. It’s an oversight that no one has ever taken advantage of, but the Senate has moved to guarantee that candidates running publicly funded campaigns are fully complying with the spirit of the law.

Publicly financed campaigns allow candidates to spend their campaign talking to all Vermonters, not just wealthy donors. S. 220 makes small changes to the law that will improve Vermont’s public financing program, and ultimately help reduce the influence of big money in politics.

VPIRG stands by S. 220 and will watch the bill closely as it makes its way through the House.