Court rules in favor of Pollina’s campaign contributions

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(Host) A federal court has ruled that Anthony Pollina’s fundraising did not violate Vermont’s campaign finance law.

The independent gubernatorial candidate says the decision is a big boost to his candidacy in the final weeks before the election. And he says he feels vindicated by the ruling.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel has more:

(Kinzel) Judge William Sessions ruled that it’s legal for Pollina to keep money that he raised this summer as a Progressive candidate even though Pollina later decided to run as an Independent.

It’s an issue because state law allows major party gubernatorial candidates to raise more money from an individual donor because the candidate could face a primary election. That’s not the case with an independent candidate.

Pollina wanted to keep the money in question but Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and the Attorney General’s office said he couldn’t. That prompted some of his supporters to take the case to court.

Pollina says he feels vindicated by the ruling because he says the original charges hurt his campaign:

(Pollina) "I think it’s perfectly reasonable to presume that when people see media stories attacking your credibility or suggesting that you violated some rules that it is going to raise doubts in people’s minds. And I think, frankly, that’s why the Secretary of State handled it they way she did. Because she wanted to raise those doubts in people’s minds."

(Kinzel) Markowitz denies that her action had any political motivation, and she says she’s surprised by the judge’s ruling.

(Markowitz) "I’m actually really proud about the non-partisan job our office does in running elections in Vermont. …I was actually surprised by his new interpretation of what it means to stand for an election."

(Kinzel) Pollina says the court’s decision is already having a positive effect on his campaign.

(Pollina) "It will open the door to people who want to come in and make contributions. And we’ve already seen that happen over the last 24 hours, frankly, and we’ve seen more people coming in to volunteer so it gives us a boost."

(Kinzel) Will this decision have a major impact on the dynamics of the governor’s race? Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis doesn’t think so.

(Davis) "This will help Pollina at the margin in terms of fundraising….Pollina may end up with a few thousand dollars more as a result of this decision that might enable him to run a little bit more television and radio advertising than he had originally planned."

(Kinzel) Television ads are definitely on Pollina’s mind. He plans to shoot some commercials this weekend and he hopes to have them on the air early next week.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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