LONDONDERRY -- Following an investigation, the Elections & Campaign Finance Division of the Vermont Secretary of State’s office rendered a decision earlier this month that Emmett Dunbar, an independent candidate for state representative in the Bennington-Windham-Windsor-1 district, did not violate campaign finance law.
Dunbar told the Journal on Monday that at no time was he concerned prior to the decision being rendered because he knew there had been no wrongdoing by himself or his campaign.
"I was pleased that they had looked into it and found that there were no violations," said Dunbar. "We can move on now. We can focus on the issue[s]."
Current state representative of the Bennington-Windham-Windsor-1 district Oliver Olsen (R), and the treasurer of independent candidate Charles "Tim" Goodwin’s campaign, questioned whether or not Dunbar -- Goodwin’s opponent -- had violated campaign finance law earlier this month. Nick Charyk, the Executive Director of the Vermont Democratic House Campaign PAC, filed Dunbar’s petition for him. Due to this fact, Olsen said that because Charyk is a paid employee of the Vermont Democratic House Campaign PAC, the lack of disclosure of the coordination between Charyk and Dunbar on the campaign finance reports appeared to violate campaign finance law.
However, Director of Elections and Campaign Finance, Kathleen Scheele, indicated that was not the case.
"I am aware of a number of volunteers that have driven to Montpelier to drop off the petition for a candidate. The definition of ‘contribution’ in the campaign finance law specifically provides: ‘but shall not include services provided without compensation by individuals volunteering their time on behalf [of] a candidate.’ It is our conclusion based on the facts presented that Nick was a volunteer and fits within the exception for the type of volunteering that is normally done by individual volunteers for candidates."
Olsen had also questioned whether a training session that Dunbar attended that was hosted by the Democratic Party for Democratic candidates -- and potential candidates -- and their families was a contribution. However, Scheele stated in her e-mail that she did not consider this to be a contribution.
"Based on the available information, this activity appears to be the type that facilitated the committee’s function and platform promotion contemplated by sec. 2809 and is therefore not presumed to be a ‘related expenditure’ that should be treated as a contribution," Scheele wrote in the e-mail.
Olsen told the Journal on Monday that he was pleased with the recent development.
"This whole thing was less about the issues of campaign finance law and more about whether we are going to stand by and let a pro Act 60 Political Action Committee influence the electoral process in this local race," he said. "I have encouraged both candidates to run local races without the involvement of political organizations from outside the district. I was very concerned after learning of Mr. Charyk’s activities in our district, but I’m happy to hear that he has since decided to stay out of this race. Mr. Charyk is a paid political operative who works for a partisan organization that helps elect proponents of Act 60 and the statewide property tax, so I wasn’t about to stand by and allow his presence to go unchecked. Overall, I think this is a positive development that will help ensure that our electoral process remains a local affair."
Dunbar will be holding a kickoff reception at the West River Trail Depot Building in South Londonderry on Aug. 21 from 4 to 7 p.m.
Dunbar said that while he will be making a statement, the reception will essentially be a time for informal discussion with neighbors and supporters.
"I’m hoping to gain more knowledge about what I need to know to represent my community and in addition to that I’m hoping to gain votes so that I can be the representative for this district," Dunbar said.