Campaign Funds Under Microscope
By Gwen Stanley, Standard Staff
Campaign financing laws have been put in the spotlight as the Nov. 6 election draws close, and numbers are being carefully scrutinized both for individual candidates and political action groups.
Several weeks ago, the deadline was up for reporting state and federal campaign financing numbers.
New on the scene this election is the conservative PAC Vermonters First, who received considerable press for two of their campaign ads.
The Vermont Democratic party claimed the two ads, run online, were illegal as they included an image of the state seal.
In turn, Vermonters First said they were unaware of the Vermont statue, which prohibits use of the state seal where advertisement or endorsement is intended.
Vermonters First reported raising nearly $650,000 in campaign funds — with all but two and a half thousand coming from a single donor in Burlington Lenore Broughton. They reported spending nearly $300,000 on television advertising alone.
On Tuesday, the State Attorney General’s office acknowledged receipt of a letter from Democrats asking for a review of Vermonters First about the group’s alleged campaign violations.
Earlier this week, VPIRG called for closer scrutiny of campaign finances, suggesting that all Super PACS be required to report all contributions within 24 hours of receipt in the final 30 days before an election, list their top contributors in their election material, and if one individual contributor accounts for more than half of the group’s money, that individual would appear in all electronic advertising for the group, as a sponsor.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, an outspoken proponent of campaign finance reform himself who last year introduced legislature that would limit campaign spending, reported nearly $1.2 million in contributions for the 2011-2012 cycle. Sanders said last year when introducing the campaign finance legislature, “There comes a time when an issue is so important that the only way to address it is by a constitutional amendment.”
Governor Peter Shumlin’s campaign numbers show a gap between contributions, which are listed at $1,080,126 and expenditures, which come in at $1,172,373. Shumlin has donated a small bit to some candidates in his party — Beth Pearce, a democrat running for treasurer, received $500, as did Cassandra Gekas, running for lieutenant governor as a Progressive/Democrat.
A notable debt to expenditures is that of Republican candidate for Attorney General Jack McMullen’s campaign, which is at nearly $177,000 in expenditures and reporting $48,000 in contributions.
State treasurer candidate Jeb Spaulding received $950 in contributions during the 2008 campaign and spent $5,680, records show. Spaulding ran against Progressive candidate Don Schramm with no major Republican challenger.
The next contribution and expenditure reports will be filed after the Nov. 6 election. However, the candidates are still required to report media buys — any advertising space or time — within 24 hours of the purchase.