AG Dismisses Democrats' Complaint Against Campaign For Vermont
Well, that was fast.
A week after the Vermont Democratic Party filed a complaint alleging election law violations by the Campaign for Vermont, Attorney General Bill Sorrell (pictured in this 2010 photo) dimissed it. The Campaign for Vermont, a right-leaning advocacy group, was founded by Shelburne resident and retired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman.
Democratic Party executive director Jesse Bragg accused Campaign for Vermont of violating state election law by running a radio ad critical of Gov. Peter Shumlin's position on education funding. Bragg said the February 6 ad crossed the line from issue advocacy into electioneering. As such, Bragg said Campaign for Vermont was in violation of campaign law and a recent court ruling prohibiting groups from spending more than $500 without registering as a political committee.
"The attorney general's office concluded that the ad addressed a policy issue that is currently pending in the Vermont Legislature and did not demonstrate that its purpose was to support or oppose a candidate for Vermont office," a press release said.
Campaign for Vermont has been critical of key parts of Shumlin's agenda such as a statewide health insurance exchange and renewable energy goals, and has spent tens of thousands of dollars — and possibly several times that amount — broadcasting its message in radio advertisements across the state. Because it's registered as a 501(c)4 and not a political committee, Campaign for Vermont doesn't have to disclose how much it's spending, or where its funding comes from, although Lisman told Seven Days he's the sole contributor so far. (All that was the subject of this week's Fair Game column.)
Sorrell's decision is a victory for Lisman and Campaign for Vermont, and a setback for Democrats, who fear that Lisman may be using the group and his deep pockets as a launching pad to run for governor, Senate or Congress this fall — something Lisman has repeatedly denied.