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No Limits: New Vt. Campaign Finance Law Defers To Supreme Court

Kheng ho Toh
Vermont law has no aggregate limits governing the total amount an individual can spend on political contributions.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission struck down aggregate limits on political contributions in federal elections, but it also had an effect on Vermont's months-old campaign finance law.

As the Burlington Free Press reports, the new law specifically names the case as a legal trigger for a provision that would have limited the total amount any single donor could give to candidates or Political Action Committees (PACs) in a given election cycle. These "aggregate limits" differ from "base limits," which govern the maximum a donor is allowed to give to any single candidate.

The Vermont law states that the section governing aggregate limits "shall not take effect at all" if the McCutcheon decision "holds that aggregate limits on contributions from a single source are unconstitutional."

So while the Supreme Court's decision does not inherently govern Vermont's campaign finance limits for state elections, state legislators inserted that trigger so that state law would automatically defer to the federal standard.

Had the Supreme Court ruled aggregate limits constitutional, donors in Vermont elections would not have been allowed to give more than $40,000 to candidates and $40,000 to PACs in a single election cycle.

All other limits defined in Vermont's new law remain. In a given (two-year) election cycle:

  • For statewide office, candidates cannot accept more than $4,000 from a single private donor, PAC or political party.
  • For state senate, candidates cannot accept more than $1,500 from a single private donor or PAC, but can accept unlimited funds from a political party.
  • For state representative or local office, candidates cannot accept more than $1,000 from a private donor or PAC, but can accept unlimited funds from a political party.
  • Political parties themselves are allowed to receive up to $10,000 from private donors or PACs and up to $60,000 from political parties (such as a party's national counterpart).
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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