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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

State Revising, Raising Campaign Finance Limits

Lawmakers have reached a deal that would raise campaign contribution limits to statewide political candidates and allow unlimited contributions from political parties to candidates.

Under proposed campaign finance legislation, all candidates would face increased reporting requirements for their campaign funds, but some would be able to collect more money from individual sources.

Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham, who helped draft the new legislation, said the rationale for allowing political parties to give unlimited amounts of money to candidates was to prevent the parties from being drowned out by Independent Expenditure Political Action Committees, better known as Super PACs. Under federal law, contributions to Super PACs cannot be limited.

The new bill would also impose a limit on total campaign expenditures to all candidates and parties by individuals and businesses.

The new bill would make the following changes to Vermont’s campaign finance law (all limits apply to a 2-year election cycle):

  • Candidates for the Vermont House of Representatives or local office would be allowed to accept $1,000 from a single source other than a party. Currently, PACs are allowed to give $3,000 to candidates.
  • Candidates for Vermont Senate or county-wide races would be able to accept $1,500 from a single source other than a party. This would be a reduction for PACs, which can currently contribute $3,000, and an increase for individuals and businesses, which can currently contribute $1,500.
  • Statewide candidates may receive $4,000 from a single source other than a party, up from the current limits of $1,000 for individuals and businesses and $3,000 for PACs.

White, as well as her counterparts in the House of Representatives, say the changes make the limits proportional to the money needed for a race at the various levels while also taking inflation into consideration.
Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D – Washington), said in a committee meeting that he thought the new contribution limits were too high. Other critics have said the unlimited contributions from political parties will make it easy for donors to funnel up to $10,000 (the limit on contributions to parties by individuals) to a candidate through the party.

The new limits would not go into effect until after the 2014 elections.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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