Markowitz urges veto overturn

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(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz is urging lawmakers to overturn Governor Jim Douglas’s veto of a new campaign finance reform law.

Markowitz says the legislation will help reduce overall campaign spending in Vermont, while Douglas maintains it will chiefly benefit special interest groups.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Markowitz says the heart of the bill is a provision that limits contributions by political parties to their candidates.

For instance, in the governor’s race, the new limit would be 30 thousand dollars – in Vermont House races, the limit would be a 1000 dollars.

Markowitz says campaign spending in recent years has been driven largely by very large contributions by the national political parties. In the 2002 gubernatorial race, candidate Jim Douglas received roughly half a million dollars from national Republican organizations.

Markowitz, who’s a Democrat, is urging lawmakers to override the Governor’s veto when they return to the Statehouse for a special veto session in the middle of July.

(Markwoitz) “The law that was put in place is a very conservative law. It doesn’t push the envelope in any way legally. It was designed entirely to address the concerns of the Supreme Court and to close that political party loophole so we can have some control on what campaigns and candidates spend in our elections in Vermont.”

(Kinzel) The governor has a very different point of view about this provision of the bill. He says this limit on political parties gives an unfair advantage to those special interest groups that are allowed to make independent expenditures.

He cites the Swift Boat Veterans TV campaign against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in the 2004 election as an example of his concern. The governor argues that political parties need to have the resources to respond to this kind of attack.

(Douglas) “I really think this bill was written by special interests. I’m told I can’t verify that. But it certainly is weighted towards giving them more of a voice in the political process and I don’t think that’s in the public interest.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz bristles at the governor’s characterization of the bill.

(Markowitz) “He needed to be at the table, because that’s ignorance. The fact is the bill was written by Bill Sorrell, by my office. It was written by legislative counsel. It wasn’t written by special interests. It’s certainly not designed to benefit special interests. In fact we limit special interests. So I think in that regard he’s just dead wrong.”

(Kinzel) The law also sets new limits for individual contributions to statewide and legislative candidates. The governor says he’s troubled that there isn’t a uniform limit for all statewide candidates. And he thinks this provision of the legislation could be unconstitutional.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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