Douglas vetoes campaign finance reform bill

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas has vetoed a campaign finance reform bill passed by the Legislature this session.

This means the lawmakers will have two bills to consider during a special veto session scheduled for July 11th because the Governor also has said that he’ll veto the global warming bill.

The campaign finance bill places limits on contributions by political parties to individual candidates and it places a cap on overall contributions by a single individual.

The legislation also sets different contribution limits for Vermont’s statewide candidates.

Douglas says he’s concerned by all of these provisions of the bill:

(Douglas) “I had hoped to sign into law a campaign finance reform measure that would provide reasonable limits, transparency, appropriate safeguards for our democratic ideals. But S 164 is not such a bill. And I’ve sent a veto message to the secretary of the senate.”

(Host) The U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned the provisions of Vermont’s previous law that limited expenditures by candidates.

Douglas says he has similar concerns about the constitutionality of this bill:

(Douglas) “Those who prevailed in the most recent lawsuit through the federal judiciary that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court have made it very clear that they will take the state of Vermont back to court if this becomes law. Vermonters have already spent perhaps up a million and a half dollars in lawyer’s fees and that’s not even our own costs. That’s for the other side that beat us. So I don’t think it’s fair to expose Vermonters to that kind of litigation expense when we have alternatives.”

(Host) Paul Burns is the executive director of Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Burns says he was astonished by the governor’s veto and doubts that the bill is vulnerable to a court challenge.

(Burns) “This bill is nothing like the law that was overturned by the Supreme Court last year. The bill that was just passed by the Legislature, by contrast, doesn’t have the lowest limits in the country on any one of the areas where limits are put in place — that is to say, on individual contributions to candidates, on political party contributions to candidates, on what PACs can give to candidates. The fact is this law isn’t in any way as vulnerable as the last law to a legal challenge. I think that was just the attorney, who is representing clients who don’t want any limits at all, kind of rattling his saber.”

(Host) It will take a two thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate to overturn the governor’s veto.

Note: VPR’s Ben Embry contributed to this story.

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