Progressives Ask Judge to Rule on Campaign Finance

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(Host) The Vermont Progressive Party wants a federal judge to rule that political parties can share polling information with candidates who are seeking public financing.

The party requested the ruling in response to an effort by the Democratic Party to make Anthony Pollina ineligible for public funds in the race for lieutenant governor.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) At issue is a provision of Vermont’s campaign finance reform law that prohibits candidates seeking public financing from receiving any gift or services that has a value of more than $500 from a state party before February 15. That’s the date that candidates can begin raising money to qualify for public financing.

The Democrats allege that the Progressive Party shared poll results with Pollina about the lieutenant governor’s race before February 15.

The Secretary of State’s office has issued an opinion that concludes that it is legal for a party to share general information with a candidate, but not detailed information.

Pollina says the Progressives followed the Secretary of State’s advice and that he received only general poll results that showed him leading a three-way race for lieutenant governor:

(Pollina) "That is the law we wrote. Now we are being told that, in fact, that no longer applies ¿ there is another interpretation that none of us were aware of. That’s not hypocritical, that’s something that was not on the table and in fact is contrary to what the secretary of state told us, so that’s hypocritical. What I’m saying is I want to get it resolved."

(Kinzel) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the law is clear on the question of in-kind contributions by political parties and her office responded to an inquiry from the Progressive Party several years ago about this very issue:

(Markowitz) "The real issue is the question of whether or not Mr. Pollina had access and had actual poll results before February 15¿. As I understand it, Mr. Pollina is charging now that’s unconstitutional to set that limit, which is somewhat surprising seeing as how he claims to have helped write the law."

(Kinzel) The federal court has scheduled a preliminary hearing on this case for Friday morning.

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

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