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Court Finds Violations Of Vermont’s Campaign Finance Law

CONTACT: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828-3173

June 29, 2011

The Vermont Superior Court, Washington Unit, issued a decision yesterday in favor of the State in its campaign finance law enforcement action brought against Green Mountain Future (“GMF”), an advocacy organization primarily funded by the Democratic Governors Association. The Court found that GMF spent over half-a-million dollars in September and October 2010 on political advertisements attacking candidate Brian Dubie in the gubernatorial race, but did not register with the Secretary of State’s Office or file required disclosure reports, and also failed to include proper identification information on its advertisements.

The Court rejected GMF’s argument that the Vermont statute is unconstitutional, holding that Vermont’s campaign finance disclosure requirements are valid and enforceable under the First Amendment. In addition, the Court dismissed GMF’s contention that its ads could not be regulated because they focused only on issues. The Court ruled that there was no question that the advertisements “were created and broadcast for the purpose of opposing” candidate Dubie. As the Court wrote, “It would require the cheerful credulity of a very young child to conclude” that GMF’s ads “had neither the intention nor the effect of advocating against his election.” Consequently, the Court found GMF was required to register as a political committee and file certain disclosure reports.

“The Court’s decision is consistent with recent case law from the United States Supreme Court emphasizing the importance and legitimacy of disclosure requirements in election law,” said Attorney General William Sorrell. “We remain committed to ensuring that Vermont campaign finance laws are followed by all participants in the electoral process.”

In October 2010, the State filed two similar campaign finance law enforcement actions. The second action, filed against the Republican Governors’ Association, remains pending.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.