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Campaign finance law: Third time a charm?

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2010/01/03 15:10

Vermonters running for office this year are already raising and spending money, but the rules that try to limit the influence of campaign money on government are murky.

Legislators may – again – pass a bill this year limiting donations from individuals, political action committees and parties. But there will be factors that will complicate that decision.

For one thing, it is an election year, a time when lawmakers have typically stayed away from campaign finance bills. And at least four senators are already running for higher office, as are Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, who presides over the Senate, and Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, the state's chief election officer.

Finally, a new lawsuit, brought by some of the plaintiffs and the lawyer who successfully challenged the state's last set of campaign finance laws before the U.S. Supreme Court, will move forward.

The previous lawsuit by Vermont Right to Life and attorney James Bopp, who frequently challenges states' campaign finance laws, resulted in the country's top court tossing out central parts of Vermont's rules governing money in politics, which were passed in 1998.

Since then, under the advice of Attorney General William Sorrel, the state has operated under the laws that preceded the 1998 changes. Twice lawmakers have passed a bill implementing a new set of campaign finance laws, and twice Gov. James Douglas has vetoed the measure.

Lawmakers have tried to set more stringent limits on contributions from any given donor and especially from PACs and parties. Douglas objects to the way the bills would curb giving by parties.


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