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S.16

AN ACT RELATING TO CAMPAIGN FINANCE

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  17 V.S.A. § 2801 is amended to read:

§ 2801.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter:

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(4)  “Political committee” or “political action committee” means any formal or informal committee of two or more individuals, or a corporation, labor organization, public interest group, or other entity, not including a political party, which receives contributions or of more than $500.00 and makes expenditures of more than $500.00 in any one calendar year for the purpose of supporting or opposing one or more candidates, influencing an election, or advocating a position on a public question, in any election or affecting the outcome of an election. 

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(9)  “Two-year general election cycle” means the 24-month period that begins the day 38 days after a general election.  Expenditures related to a previous campaign and contributions to retire a debt of a previous campaign shall be attributed to the earlier campaign cycle.

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(11)  “Telephone bank” means more than 500 telephone calls of an identical or substantially similar nature that are made to the general public within any 30-day period.

Sec. 2.  17 V.S.A. § 2801a is added to read:

§ 2801a.  EXCEPTIONS

The definitions of “contribution”, “expenditure” and “electioneering communication” shall not apply to any news story, commentary or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication which has not been paid for, or such facilities are not owned or controlled, by any political party, committee or candidate.

Sec. 3.  17 V.S.A. § 2802 is amended to read:

§ 2802.  CHECKING ACCOUNT; TREASURER

Candidates who have made expenditures or received contributions of $500.00 or more and political committees shall be subject to the following requirements:

(1)  All expenditures shall be paid by either a credit card, or a debit card, check or other electronic transfer from a single checking account in a single bank publicly designated by the candidate or political committee.

(2)  Each candidate and each political committee shall name a treasurer, who may be the candidate or spouse, who is responsible for maintaining the checking account.

Sec. 4.  17 V.S.A. § 2803 is amended to read:

§ 2803.  CAMPAIGN REPORTS; FORMS; FILING

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(b)  The form shall require the reporting of all contributions and expenditures accepted or spent during the reporting period and during the campaign to date and shall require full disclosure of the manner in which any indebtedness is discharged or forgiven.  Contributions and expenditures for the reporting period and for the campaign to date also shall be totalled in an appropriate place on the form.  The total of contributions shall include a subtotal of nonmonetary contributions and a subtotal of all monetary contributions.  The form shall contain a list of the required filing times so that the person filing may designate for which time period the filing is made.  Contributions and expenditures received or spent during the 48 hour period after 5 p.m. on the third day prior to the filing deadline shall be reported on the next report.

(c)  The form described in this section shall contain language of certification of the truth of the statements and places for the signature of the candidate and his treasurer or the treasurer of the campaign.

(d)  All reports filed under this section shall be retained in an indexed file by the official with whom the report is filed and shall be subject to the examination of any person.

(e)  Disclosure shall be limited to the information required by this section to administer this chapter.

Sec. 5.  17 V.S.A. § 2804 is amended to read:

§ 2804.  SURPLUS CAMPAIGN FUNDS

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(c)  Surplus funds in a political committee’s or candidate’s account after payment of all campaign debts may be contributed to other candidates, political parties, or political committees subject to the contribution limits set forth in this chapter or may be contributed to a charity.

(d)  The “final report” of a candidate shall indicate the amount of the surplus and how it has been or is to be liquidated.

Sec. 6.  17 V.S.A. § 2805(d) and (e) are amended to read:

(d)  A candidate shall not accept a monetary contribution in excess of $50.00 unless made by check, credit or debit card, or other electronic transfer.

(e)  A candidate, political party, or political committee shall not knowingly accept a contribution which is not directly from the contributor, but was transferred to the contributor by another person for the purpose of transferring the same to the candidate, or otherwise circumventing the provisions of this chapter.  It shall be a violation of this chapter for a person to make a contribution with the explicit or implicit understanding that the contribution will be transferred in violation of this subsection.

Sec. 7.  17 V.S.A. § 2805a(e) is added to read:

(e)  The expenditure limitations contained in this section shall be adjusted for inflation by increasing them based on the Consumer Price Index.  Increases shall be rounded up to the nearest $100.00.  Increases shall be effective for the first campaign cycle beginning after the general election held on November 2, 2004.  The adjustments shall be calculated retroactively to January 1, 2001.  On or before July 1, 2005, the secretary of state shall calculate and publish the amount of each limitation that will apply to the election cycle in which July 1, 2005 falls.  On July 1 of each subsequent odd‑numbered year the secretary shall publish the amount of each limitation for the election cycle in which that publication falls.  

Sec. 8.  17 V.S.A. § 2806a is added to read:

§ 2806a.  CIVIL INVESTIGATION

(a)  The attorney general or a state’s attorney, whenever he or she has reason to believe any person to be or to have been in violation of this chapter or of any rule or regulation made pursuant to this chapter, may examine or cause to be examined by any agent or representative designated by him or her for that purpose any books, records, papers, memoranda, and physical objects of any nature bearing upon each alleged violation and may demand written responses under oath to questions bearing upon each alleged violation.  The attorney general or state’s attorney may require the attendance of such person or of any other person having knowledge in the premises in the county where such person resides or has a place of business or in Washington County if such person is a nonresident or has no place of business within the state and may take testimony and require proof material for his or her information and may administer oaths or take acknowledgment in respect of any book, record, paper, or memorandum.  The attorney general or a state’s attorney shall serve notice of the time, place, and cause of such examination or attendance or notice of the cause of the demand for written responses personally or by certified mail upon such person at his or her principal place of business, or, if such place is not known, to his or her last known address.  Any book, record, paper, memorandum, or other information produced by any person pursuant to this section shall not, unless otherwise ordered by a court of this state for good cause shown, be disclosed to any person other than the authorized agent or representative of the attorney general or a state’s attorney or another law enforcement officer engaged in legitimate law enforcement activities, unless with the consent of the person producing the same.  This subsection shall not be applicable to any criminal investigation or prosecution brought under the laws of this or any state.

(b)  A person upon whom a notice is served pursuant to the provisions of this section shall comply with the terms thereof unless otherwise provided by the order of a court of this state.  Any person who, with intent to avoid, evade, or prevent compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigation under this section, removes from any place, conceals, withholds, or destroys, mutilates, alters, or by any other means falsifies any documentary material in the possession, custody, or control of any person subject to such notice, or mistakes or conceals any information, shall be fined not more than $5,000.00.

(c)  Whenever any person fails to comply with any notice served upon him or her under this section or whenever satisfactory copying or reproduction of any such material cannot be done and such person refuses to surrender such material, the attorney general or a state’s attorney may file, in the superior court in which such person resides or has his or her principal place of business or in Washington County if such person is a nonresident or has no principal place of business in this state, and serve upon such person a petition for an order of such court for the enforcement of this section.  Whenever any petition is filed under this section, such court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter so presented and to enter such order or orders as may be required to carry into effect the provisions of this section.  Any disobedience of any order entered under this section by any court shall be punished as a contempt thereof.

(d)  Any person aggrieved by a civil investigation conducted under this section may seek relief from Washington Superior Court or the superior court in the county in which the aggrieved person resides.  Except for cases the court considers to be of greater importance, proceedings before superior court as authorized by this section shall take precedence on the docket over all other cases.

Sec. 9.  17 V.S.A. § 2807 is amended to read:

§ 2807.  NEW CAMPAIGN ACCOUNTS

Candidates who choose to open roll over any surplus contributions into a new campaign account for public office may close out their former campaign by filing a final report with the secretary of state converting all debts and assets to the new campaign.  This final report shall disclose all contributions and expenditures and the disposition of all debts and assets attributable to the former campaign as of the date of the filing of the final report.  A candidate shall be required to file a new bank designation form only if there has been a change in the treasurer or the location of the campaign account. 


Sec. 10.  17 V.S.A. § 2811 is amended to read:

§ 2811.  CAMPAIGN REPORTS; CANDIDATES FOR STATE OFFICE,

              THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, POLITICAL COMMITTEES, AND

               POLITICAL PARTIES

(a)  Each candidate for state office, each candidate for the general assembly who has made expenditures or received contributions of $500.00 or more, and each political committee and each political party required to register under section 2831 of this title shall file with the secretary of state campaign finance reports 40 days before the primary election and on the 25th of each month thereafter and continuing to the general election and 10 days after the general election.

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(f)  In addition to any other reports required to be filed under this chapter, a candidate for state office or for the general assembly who receives a monetary contribution in an amount over $2,000.00 within 10 days of a primary or general election shall report the contribution to the secretary of state within 24 hours of receiving the contribution.  The report shall include all information that is required to be disclosed under the provisions of subsections 2803(a) and (b) of this title.

(g)  Each candidate for state office and each candidate for the general assembly who has made expenditures or received contributions of $500.00 or less shall file with the secretary of state, 10 days following the general election, a statement that the candidate has not made expenditures or received contributions of more than $500.00 during the two-year general election cycle.

Sec. 11.  17 V.S.A. § 2831 is amended to read:

§ 2831.  CAMPAIGN REPORTS; POLITICAL COMMITTEES AND

              PARTIES

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(b)  A political committee or political party which has accepted contributions or made expenditures of $500.00, or more, for the purpose of influencing a local election or supporting or opposing one or more candidates in a local election shall, in addition to other filings required by this chapter, file campaign finance reports ten days before and ten days after the local election with the clerk of the municipality in which the election is held and with the secretary of state.

(c)  Any formal or informal committee of two or more individuals, or a corporation, labor organization, public interest group, or other entity, not including a political party, which makes expenditures of more than $500.00 in any one calendar year for the purpose of advocating a position on a public question in any election or affecting the outcome of an election on a public question shall file a report of its expenditures 10 days before and 10 days after the election with the clerk of the municipality in which the election is held and with the secretary of state.

Sec. 12.  17 V.S.A. § 2853(a) is amended to read:

(a)  A person shall not be eligible for Vermont campaign finance grants if, during a two-year general election cycle, he or she becomes a candidate by announcing that he or she seeks an elected position as governor or lieutenant governor, or by accepting contributions totaling $500.00 $2,000.00 or more or by making expenditures totaling $500.00 $2,000.00 or more, prior to February 15 of the general election year.

Sec. 13.  17 V.S.A. chapter 59, subchapter 8 is added to read:

Subchapter 8.  Electioneering Communications

§ 2891.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter, “electioneering communication” means any communication, including communications published in any newspaper or periodical or broadcast on radio or television or over any public address system, placed on any billboards, outdoor facilities, buttons or printed material attached to motor vehicles, window displays, posters, cards, pamphlets, leaflets, flyers, or other circulars, or in any direct mailing, robotic phone calls, or mass e‑mails that refers to a clearly identified candidate for office and that promotes or supports a candidate for that office, or attacks or opposes a candidate for that office, regardless of whether the communication expressly advocates a vote for or against a candidate.

§ 2892.  IDENTIFICATION

All electioneering communications shall contain the name and address of the person, political committee, or campaign who or which paid for the communication.  The communication shall clearly designate the name of the candidate, party, or political committee by or on whose behalf the same is published or broadcast.  The identification requirements of this section shall not apply to lapel stickers or buttons, nor shall they apply to electioneering communications made by a single individual acting alone who spends, in a single two-year general election cycle, a cumulative amount of no more than $150.00 on those electioneering communications. 

§ 2893.  NOTICE OF EXPENDITURE

(a)  For purposes of this section, “mass media activities” includes television commercials, radio commercials, mass mailings, literature drops, newspaper and periodical advertisements, robotic phone calls, and telephone banks which include the name or likeness of a clearly identified candidate for office.

(b)  In addition to any other reports required to be filed under this chapter, a person who makes expenditures for any one mass media activity totaling $500.00 or more within 30 days of a primary or general election shall, for each activity, file a mass media report with the secretary of state and send a copy of the mass media report to each candidate whose name or likeness is included in the activity within 24 hours of the expenditure or activity, whichever occurs first.  For the purposes of this section, a person shall be treated as having made an expenditure if the person has executed a contract to make the expenditure. The report shall identify the person who made the expenditure with the name of the candidate involved in the activity and any other information relating to the expenditure that is required to be disclosed under the provisions of subsections 2803(a) and (b) of this title.

Sec. 14.  REPEAL

17 V.S.A. § 2808 (preparation of list of accumulated campaign expenditures by secretary of state) and 17 V.S.A. chapter 59, subchapter 7 §§ 2881‑2883 (political advertisements) are repealed.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us