Vermont Officials Criticize Federal Ruling On Campaign Finance

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Secretary of State Jim Condos says a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance reform is a disaster for democracy in small states like Vermont.

The Court’s ruling essentially overturns a Montana law that placed limits on contributions to independent political organizations.

By a five to four decision, the Court said its ruling in a 2010 case known as Citizens United, applies at the state and local level. That decision equates campaign spending with free speech and it allows unlimited spending by individuals, corporations and labor unions as long as the expenditures are made independent of a campaign.

Secretary of State Jim Condos is very disappointed by the new ruling.

"Initially it goes after states’ rights and the ability to govern itself," said Condos. "I think that this has terrible consequences towards transparency and accountability and it doesn’t help any state from eliminating corruption from its elections process."

And Condos says he disagrees with the basic concept of the Citizens United decision.

"A handful of people or corporations are poised to use their vast wealth to determine an election under the guise of free speech and essentially they’re saying money equals free speech and the little guy has no chance."

Senator Patrick Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee. He says the ruling shows that a majority of justices on the Supreme Court don’t understand how the political system really works.

"Basically what they said was we’re not going to bother to have a hearing. Montana we don’t care what you’re trying to do, we know better," said Leahy. "Five of us know better we want corporate financing of campaigns. It just makes no sense at all and you have to be in an awfully political ivory tower to come out with something like that."

And Leahy says he’s very concerned that the decision will affect local legislative races in Vermont.

"If corporations want to take over they can just come in and wipe away anybody. Look at our Legislature we have a very honest Legislature they spend very little to get elected probably one of the reasons why it is so honest, somebody can come in, a corporation, and just overwhelm them."

Leahy says it will be very difficult to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision because backers of this approach don’t have nearly enough votes to begin this process in Congress.

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