ACT NO. 64
Campaign Financing; Public Financing Option; Universal Contribution and Expenditure Limitations
This act provides a public financing option for candidates for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, limits campaign contributions and expenditures of all candidates and makes other reforms and revisions to the campaign finance laws.
Major features of the Vermont Campaign Finance Option for candidates for the offices of Governor and Lt. Governor include the following:
(1) Limits Campaign Season: To be eligible for funding, the candidate can not have accepted $500 or more in campaign contributions or made expenditures of $500 or more prior to February 15 of general election year.
(2) Demonstrations of Support of Registered Voters: To be eligible for Vermont campaign finance grants, a candidate for Governor must raise at least $35,000 in contributions of no more than $50 from at least 1,500 registered voters. A candidate for Lt. Governor must raise at least $17,500 in contributions of no more than $50 from at least 750 registered voters.
(3) The major sources of revenue for the public financing program are: 40% of annual report fees paid by domestic business corporations; 33% of annual report fees paid by foreign business corporations; a 5% tax on lobbyists expenditures; and a voluntary Vermont campaign fund add-on to the individual income tax.
The following provisions of the act affect candidates, generally:
(1) All political advertisements must carry the name and address of the person who paid for the ad, and the name of the candidate, party or PAC by or on whose behalf the ad was published or broadcast.
(2) Any person who makes an expenditure of $500 or more for mass media activities within 30 days of a primary or general election must report these expenditures to the secretary of state, and to the candidate whose name or likeness is included in the activity, within 24 hours of making the expenditure. Activities covered by this section include television commercials, radio commercials, mass mailings, literature drops and central telephone banks.
(3) Contribution limitations are established and apply to an entire two-year general electioncycle. These limitations are: state representative or local office, $200 from single source, PACs and parties; state senator or county office, $300 from single source, PACs and parties; statewide office, $400 from single source, PACs and parties; PAC or political party, $2,000 from single source, PACs and parties. In addition, a 25% limitation is imposed on total contributions to candidates, parties and PACS from out-of-state individuals, parties and PACS. Finally, the act retains the "immediate family" exemption from these contribution limitations, but defines "immediate family" as individuals related to the candidate in the first, second or third degree of consanguinity.
(4) Expenditure limitations are established and apply to an entire two-year general election cycle. These limitations are: Governor, $300,000; Lt. Governor, $100,000; other statewide offices, $45,000; state senator, $4,000 plus $2,500 for each additional seat in the district; county office, $4,000; state representative, $2,000/$3,000 for single and two-member districts, respectively. Expenditure limitations do not apply to candidates for local offices.
(5) Expenditures by a person other than the candidate, or the candidates political committee, that are intended to promote the election of a specific candidate or group of candidates, or the defeat of an opposing candidate or group of candidates, that are intentionally facilitated by, solicited by or approved by a candidate or the candidates political committee will be considered a contribution to the candidate and an expenditure by the candidate. An opposing candidate may seek a determination that an expenditure is a related expenditure by filing a petition in superior court. Within 24 hours, the court shall schedule a hearing on the petition and expedite the hearing in all ways.
(6) Campaign finance reports must be filed 40 days before the primary, on the 25th of each month thereafter until general election, and 40 days after the general election.
(7) In addition to other remedies provided in the act, a person who violates any provision of the campaign finance law will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation. If the candidate received campaign finance grants, she or he would be required to refund any unspent balance of the grants.
Effective Dates: July 1, 1997 (various provisions); January 1, 1998 (financing provisions); and the day after the 1998 general election (public financing; contribution and expenditure limitations, reporting provisions)