S.51 AN ACT RELATING TO THE PERSONS AUTHORIZED TO MAKE CONTRIBUTIONS TO CANDIDATES AND POLITICAL PARTIES AND TO POLITICAL COMMITTEE NAMES
in the State Senate
on March 24, 2021, by a vote of
Purpose: To update Vermont’s political campaign finance laws, with a specific focus on reducing the ability of corporations to contribute anonymously, directly or indirectly, to political campaigns.
Analysis: This bill overhauls Vermont’s campaign finance law.
The most controversial change would require that all Political Action Committees (PAC) include “connected organizations,” such as a corporation, when they register with Vermont's Secretary of State.
The bill also creates a Public Campaign Finance Study Committee to “study and make recommendations regarding Vermont’s current public campaign finance” system by December 2021. Two alternative systems are named. First, the “Seattle Democracy Voucher Program” in which all Seattle, Washington residents over the age of 18 receive $100 in “Democracy Vouchers” to give to their local candidates’ campaign(s). Second, the “Maine Clean Election Act” in which qualified political candidates may choose to rely on most of their funding from a taxpayer-financed fund at the beginning of their campaign.
Study Committee members would receive taxpayer-funded hourly compensation.
Some of those voting YES don’t have a problem with corporate contributions, but support the bill’s efforts to make those donations more public. Others voting YES dislike the idea of corporations donating to campaigns and at all, and believe this bill will decrease the practice.
Those voting NO see laws attempting to limit political participation by anyone in elections as inherently problematic. No problem exists regarding corporate contributions in Vermont that needs to be fixed, so is no need to fix a system that isn’t broken.
As Recorded in the Senate Journal, Wednesday, March 24, 2021: "An act relating to the persons authorized to make contributions to candidates and political parties and to political committee names. Was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 22, Nays 8." (Read the Journal, p. 333 – 334).
Watch the committee discussion and floor debate.
How They Voted
Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) – NO
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – NO
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – YES
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – YES
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) –YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – NO
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – NO
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – YES
Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland) – NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – NO
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – YES
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