State of Play in Vermont

Does Vermont have a campaign finance law?  It’s not a new question to those who have followed the law there and is making news because of comments by a high-ranking official.

The top Democrat in the Vermont Senate is facing criticism for comments he made this week that Gov. Jim Douglas’ vetoes of campaign finance bills two years in a row left Vermont without any campaign finance law.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin was responding Wednesday to comments from Jason Gibbs, spokesman for Gov. Jim Douglas. Gibbs had charged that lawmakers had decided not to hold a special session to try to override any gubernatorial vetoes to leave House Speaker Gaye Symington free to solicit lobbyists for contributions to support her still unannounced gubernatorial campaign.

Vermont law prohibits lawmakers from soliciting or accepting gifts from lobbyists during a legislative session. If lawmakers, who finished their business for the year May 3, had decided to return as originally planned for the veto session June 26, the ban on lobbyists’ gifts would have remained in effect until that date.

In an Associated Press interview on Wednesday, Shumlin, D-Windham, replied to Gibbs’ remarks by pointing to the fact that Douglas had vetoed legislation in 2007 and again this year that would have tightened the limits on contributions to political campaigns. He said three times in the interview that Vermont currently has no law controlling campaign contributions, and that Symington could not have been motivated to forgo the veto session by that law.

“Why would we do anything based around a campaign finance law that doesn’t exist?” Shumlin asked.

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