Sears Wants Campaign Finance Law In Effect This Year

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(Host) Supporters of a campaign finance reform bill are pushing to have their plan go into effect for the 2010 election.

Governor Jim Douglas says he supports some of the ideas, but he argues the bill shouldn’t apply to this year’s campaign.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation is a direct response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.  That ruling allows corporations and labor unions to spend as much money as they want to influence the outcome of a political campaign, as long as the expenditures are made independent of any specific candidate.

Senate Judiciary chairman Dick Sears is a co-sponsor of a new campaign finance reform bill.

The legislation calls for individual groups to immediately disclose how much money they’re spending on media campaigns and to clearly identify themselves in the ads.

(Kinzel) Sears says the big fight over the future of Vermont Yankee is a clear example of why the bill is needed:

(Sears) "So supposing that Entergy decides that they’re going to come back next year and try to get the Legislature to vote to re-license. Would it then be in their best interest to spend tremendous amounts of money on people that they think will support their position and they can spend it unlimited?"

(Kinzel) Senate Government Operations chairwoman Jeanette White says it’s also important for political action committees to quickly disclose their major sources of funding:

(White) "If you have the Vermonters for Happy Children… who really is Vermonters for Happy Children? It could be anybody – so it doesn’t make a difference if it’s sponsored by Vermonters for Happy Children if you don’t know who they are."

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says that while some of these ideas have merit, he doesn’t want the bill to apply to this year’s campaign:

(Douglas) "This campaign is, unfortunately, well underway and I think it’s good generally traditional not to change rules in an election season. So I think although it may be worth considering some of these ideas that perhaps they should wait for the next cycle."

(Kinzel) Senator Sears strongly disagrees and wants the bill in place for the 2010 campaign:

(Sears) "I think it’s a really important step for Vermonters. We deserve to know who’s paying and particularly with an open seat for governor, open seat for lt. governor – I think it’s important to know where the money is coming from."

(Kinzel) Sears says he hopes to have the bill on the Senate floor for a vote in the next few weeks.

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

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