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Campaign Finance

February 07, 2014

On Trip to Vegas, Shumlin Met With Potential DGA Donors

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Shumlin and Health Commissioner Harry Chen spoke at a Burlington press conference Friday

Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday that while in Las Vegas this week, he "made a couple of fundraising visits" to potential donors to the Democratic Governors Association. But he would not say whether he raised any gold for his own reelection campaign while on his trip to the Silver State.

Shumlin traveled to Vegas on Wednesday to attend the National Association of Home Builders' annual meeting and trade show, at which the gov said he "spoke with the home builders about jobs and the work we're doing in Vermont to try to boost housing." The two-day trip was paid for by the DGA, a partisan electoral organization of which he is chairman. 

As Seven Days reported this week, the organization's nonprofit advocacy arm and its super PAC raised $28 million last year. Most of that came from five- and six-figure contributions from special interest groups, including labor unions and the pharmaceutical, insurance, telecom and tech industries.

Neither the DGA nor the governor's office responded to questions posed by Seven Days over the past week about whether Shumlin would be taking part in any fundraising activities while out-of-state. But Shumlin confirmed at a Friday press conference at Burlington's Community Health Center that he had.

Continue reading "On Trip to Vegas, Shumlin Met With Potential DGA Donors" »

February 06, 2014

Media Note: With Campaign Finance Database, VTDigger Puts the State to Shame

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 1.35.41 PM

Who donated the most money to State Treasurer Beth Pearce's first bid for public office in 2012? Which Vermont politicians took campaign cash from tobacco giant Philip Morris during the last election cycle? How much money did renewable energy entrepreneur David Blittersdorf pump into Vermont politics in 2012?

Before this week, those questions were pretty tough to answer.*

To arrive at the first, you'd have to sift through seven PDFs (from seven reporting deadlines) of often handwritten disclosure forms, some as much as 12 pages long. To answer the second, you'd have to do the same as the first for each of the 205 candidates who reported fundraising activities last election. And to answer the third, you'd have to do the same as the second, but you'd also have to keep an eye out for all the entities through which Blittersdorf makes campaign contributions.

Now you don't. And that's thanks to nonprofit news organization VTDigger — not the state of Vermont.

Continue reading "Media Note: With Campaign Finance Database, VTDigger Puts the State to Shame" »

This Week's Issue: A Neighborly Noise Feud in Burlington, 'Border' Security and Maple Saplings

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Find these news and politics stories in this week's Seven Days...

February 03, 2014

Amidst Talk of Presidential Run, Sanders Ramped up Political Fundraising in 2013

BernieSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ramped up his political fundraising last year as he hinted at a possible 2016 run for president, according to new documents filed late last week.

In the second half of 2013, Sanders raised nearly $327,000 for Progressive Voters of America, a "leadership political action committee" he recently revived. The second-term senator, who does not face reelection until 2018, raised an additional $15,000 for his traditional campaign account in the final three months of the year.

Year-end fundraising and spending reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Committee show that all three members of Vermont's congressional delegation — Sanders, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) — have come to rely upon so-called leadership PACs to conduct political business. In addition to their traditional campaign accounts, members of Congress can establish such entities to raise money and spend it for political purposes, though not explicitly on their own reelection campaigns.

Before last year, Leahy led the way in steering support to a leadership PAC; his is called Green Mountain PAC. But in March, Welch filed paperwork to establish his own, called Maple PAC. And in July, Sanders announced to his email list that he would focus on building up Progressive Voters of America, a leadership PAC he founded in 2004, but which never previously raised more than $51,000 per quarter. Sanders said at the time he hoped to use the group to "create a strong grass-roots movement in all 50 states, and work hard to elect progressive candidates at the local, state and national level."

Continue reading "Amidst Talk of Presidential Run, Sanders Ramped up Political Fundraising in 2013" »

January 23, 2014

Shumlin (Quietly) Signs Campaign Finance Bill into Law

Just a BillRemember that campaign finance bill? The one that increases the amount of money statewide politicians, parties and political action committees can raise? (We wrote about it here, here, here and here.)

Whelp, a bill it is no longer. Asked Thursday afternoon when it would be signed into law, Gov. Peter Shumlin's spokeswoman Sue Allen said the deed's already been done.

"The Governor signed the campaign finance bill earlier today," she said in an email.

If you were waiting for a public signing with a crowd of supporters and plenty of pens to give away, you apparently didn't miss anything. The gov signed the bill into law without any public notice, nor — as of this writing — any public statement. (Updated below with a statement from Shumlin's office)

Continue reading "Shumlin (Quietly) Signs Campaign Finance Bill into Law" »

January 16, 2014

Campaign Finance Bill Passes Senate; Shumlin Expected to Sign It

Galbraith.1.16.14Nearly eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Vermont's campaign fundraising and spending limits, the state is poised to adopt a new set of rules.

By a vote of 20-8, the Vermont Senate on Thursday passed compromise campaign finance legislation approved last week by the House. It now heads to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who "will want to review the language but expects to sign the bill," according to spokeswoman Sue Allen.

The legislation would double to $4,000 the amount individuals and corporations can donate to statewide candidates in a two-year election cycle and would quintuple to $10,000 the amount they can donate to political parties. 

At the same time, it decreases to $1,500 the amount those entities can contribute to Senate candidates;  to $1,000 for House candidates. Those limits currently stand at $2,000.

Continue reading "Campaign Finance Bill Passes Senate; Shumlin Expected to Sign It" »

January 09, 2014

House Overwhelmingly Approves Campaign Finance Compromise

House floor 1.9.14In the seven and a half years since the United States Supreme Court struck down Vermont's restrictive political fundraising rules, lawmakers have struggled in vain to replace them. 

But on Thursday afternoon, after just 25 minutes of debate, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a campaign finance compromise hammered out over the legislative off-season by House and Senate negotiators.

The vote was 124-15.

If passed by the Senate next week and signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, the legislation would double to $4,000 the amount statewide candidates could raise from a single person or corporation. And it would quintuple to $10,000 the amount political parties could raise from the same sources.

Candidates for the House and Senate, both of whom can currently raise $2,000 from such entities, would be restricted to donations of $1,000 and $1,500 respectively. (See this week's Fair Game for more on the bill.)

Continue reading "House Overwhelmingly Approves Campaign Finance Compromise" »

January 06, 2014

Legislature Poised to Raise Campaign Contribution Limits for Candidates, Parties and PACs

One of the Vermont legislature's first acts upon reconvening this week may be to vastly increase the amount of money in state politics. 

After failing to reach compromise last spring over competing campaign finance bills, House and Senate negotiators narrowed their differences during the legislative off-season and are scheduled to sign off on a final bill Tuesday morning. Both houses could pass the new version by the end of the week and send it to Gov. Peter Shumlin.

But despite being referred to as "campaign finance reform," the working compromise would actually increase the amount of money that statewide candidates, political parties and political action committees could raise from individuals and corporations. That has Vermont Public Interest Research Group executive director Paul Burns questioning whether the bill is any better than current law.

"It's a hard case to make to say this is going to offer any significant improvements in the area of money and politics in Vermont," he says. "And coming up on the anniversary of Citizens United, it's certainly a big disappointment to see a state like Vermont not taking more aggressive action in this area."

Continue reading "Legislature Poised to Raise Campaign Contribution Limits for Candidates, Parties and PACs" »

December 12, 2013

Breaking: New Jersey Guy Comes to Vermont and Says Stuff, Sources Say

By now you know that I have absolutely nothing to tell you about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's speech to some 650 Vermont Republicans Wednesday night at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

As has been exhaustively reported by your loyal press corps, the event sold out weeks ago — well before Vermont GOP elders let it be known that reporters would be denied entry. And none of us was smart enough to grab a $50 ticket before the grabbing got done.

What a bummer. 

So all we can offer you, dear reader, are a couple of badly lit photos of the fairgrounds taken by one very cold, and slightly under-dressed reporter. Like this: 

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Continue reading "Breaking: New Jersey Guy Comes to Vermont and Says Stuff, Sources Say" »

December 05, 2013

For $10,000, a Chance to Dine with Gov. Chris Christie in Vermont

Gov. Chris Christie
Photo By Bob Jagendorf from Manalapan, NJ, USA [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wanna break bread with a leading contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination? All it takes is a $10,000 check made out to the Vermont Republican Party.

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie comes to town next Wednesday, he'll speak to nearly 700 of the party faithful at the Vermont GOP's "Welcome Winter Gala." Fifty-dollar tickets to the event at the Robert E. Miller Expo Centre in Essex Junction sold out two weeks ago.

But the real schmoozing will take place ahead of the gala, during two exclusive events featuring heftier price tags and more access to the would-be president. Tickets to a two-hour private reception cost $1000 per couple, while access to a "Policy Roundtable" with the governor costs $10,000 per couple, according to an invitation obtained by Seven Days.

Continue reading "For $10,000, a Chance to Dine with Gov. Chris Christie in Vermont" »

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