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Planned Parenthood Action Fund Pac Settles with the State in Campaign Finance Law Matter

CONTACT: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828-3173, Eve Jacobs-Carnahan, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3176, ,

November 19, 2013

The State of Vermont has reached a settlement with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Action Fund (“PPNNE Action Fund”) after investigating a campaign finance complaint regarding its activities in the 2010 general election cycle. PPPNNE Action Fund will pay a penalty of $30,000.

The investigation focused on allegations by Let Vermont Vote that PPNNE Action Fund had failed to comply with political committee reporting requirements and other campaign finance laws. During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, PPNNE Action Fund spent about $119,000 on political advertisements advocating against Brian Dubie and received contributions from individual donors in amounts greater than $2,000. Thus, it qualified as a political committee. PPNNE Action Fund should have registered and filed reports of its campaign finances with the Secretary of State. In addition, as a PAC, it could not accept contributions in excess of $2,000 from any one donor.

In response to the investigation, PPNNE Action Fund claimed it was an independent-expenditure-only PAC and should be exempt from contribution limits under the Attorney General’s enforcement policy announced in July 2012. Independent expenditures are ones that are not made directly to candidates or coordinated with them.

In considering a possible contribution limit violation, the State did not find any evidence that PPNNE Action Fund coordinated campaign advertising with the Shumlin campaign. However, Planned Parenthood operated a PAC called PPNNE VT-PAC, which has made direct contributions to candidates in other elections. The State contended that a full examination of the operations of PPNNE Action Fund and PPNNE VT-PAC would reveal significant overlap in their planning, activities, and finances, which would establish that PPNNE Action Fund did not make only independent political expenditures. PPNNE disputed the State’s contention. To avoid the burden and expense of an examination of its operations, PPNNE Action Fund chose to settle this matter.

“All PACs must file campaign finance reports, and donors may not give a PAC more than $2,000 in contributions. Only independent-expenditure PACs are currently excused from this contribution limit,” said Attorney General William Sorrell. “A PAC must demonstrate that it makes only independent expenditures in order to qualify for this exception. Otherwise, the PAC will continue to be subject to Vermont’s contribution limits,” explained Attorney General Sorrell.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.