The tone of advertisements this campaign season isn't the only thing people are complaining about. Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell has filed two lawsuits saying some of those ads violate campaign finance laws.
One lawsuit involves a series of ads sponsored by the Republican Governor's Association, including one called "Vision for Vermont." The AG's office contends the RGA is a political action committee which means it needs to register with the Secretary of State's office and adhere to certain rules.
A search of campaign finance filings reveals the Democratic Governor's Association has registered, but the Republican Governor's Association has not.
"Well this is sort of a repeat of what we did back in 2004 when we felt that they were a political action committee and had expended monies such that they had to register in Vermont as a political action committee and file disclosures of their expenditures," Sorrell said.
The state won that 2004 case and the RGA was forced to pull its ads from the air.
The RGA's spokesman, Chris Schrimpf, issued the following statement late Tuesday: "For a candidate on Peter Shumlin's slate to misuse the legal system to demand RGA's future advertising is beyond the pale. The federal courts have repeatedly reminded the attorney general that the First Amendment applies in Vermont, and we expect they will again."
The RGA has filed its own federal suit against Bill Sorrell. That suit contends the RGA discusses public policy matters and does not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. It also asks the court to prevent the Attorney General from investigating the RGA any further. "They have a right to file. They're entitled to their opinion as to whether this is partisan politics or just a bi-partisan, non-partisan attempt to enforce the laws," Sorrell said.
Sorrell's office has also filed a suit against Green Mountain Future. The group formed just a few weeks ago as a 527 federally-registered non-profit and began running ads about Brian Dubie's position on Vermont Yankee. Sorrell says it too is a political action committee advocating against Brian Dubie and needs to register as such.
"We're not interested in disparaging Brian Dubie or talking about his character, we want to talk about the issue of Vermont Yankee, the dangers that plant poses to Vermont, and how to replace it safely in the next couple years," said Drew Hudson with Green Mountain Future. Even though the group's ads say Brian Dubie is wrong on Vermont Yankee, Hudson says his group is not advocating for or against his election and that they are trying to comply with the law as they understand it.
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