Douglas will not call campaign financing session

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he won’t call a special legislative session to deal with campaign financing issues.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Vermont’s limits on contributions are unconstitutional.

Douglas says it’s now clear the state’s previous contribution law will be restored and, as a result, he says there’s no need for a special session.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) House Speaker Gaye Symington and Secretary of State Deb Markowitz had urged the governor to call a special legislative session to help clarify Vermont’s law governing contribution limits in light of the Court’s decision.

The Court ruled that limits on contributions are not illegal but that Vermont’s cap of $400 in the governor’s race was far too low.

Douglas says there’s no need for a special session. The governor says Attorney General Bill Sorrell and Secretary of State Markowitz have reached a consensus that the state’s previous law establishing a contribution limit of $2000 per election cycle, will now be restored. It’s based on a legal principle know as the “law of revival.”

(Douglas) “I don’t see the need at this point to put the people of Vermont through that expense and that uncertainty. Who knows where that might go? When I was a legislator, I remember saying that there are two topics about which every legislator had opinions on which he or she was an expert – fish and game bill and elections. And I don’t know where that might go. I think it could be a lengthy debate and I think it’s unnecessary in light of the attorney general’s statement that he will enforce the prior limits.”

(Kinzel) Secretary of State Markowitz says she’s disappointed by the governor’s position. She’s concerned that someone will file a lawsuit challenging the restoration of the prior contribution limits.

Markowitz says the best way to deal with this situation is to have the Legislature come back to Montpelier in the near future to give its approval to legislation that restores the old limits:

(Markowitz) “It opens up the whole discussion to a court challenge and we want to avoid that this late in the campaign cycle. The goal overall is to have certainty for candidates and campaigns and an equal playing field. And while I think it’s a great thing that candidates can come to agreement with each other about what they may accept and spend for their campaigns, it’s leaving it up to political calculation as opposed to having the same rule apply to everybody in the same situation.”

(Kinzel) Governor Douglas has proposed to his Democratic opponent Scudder Parker that they both abide by the older contribution limits.

Parker says he’s reviewing that offer and will make final decision about it early next week.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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