MONTPELIER - A federal judge has ruled that Vermont can impose contribution limits on a political action committee, dismissing a constitutional challenge of provisions of Vermont's campaign finance laws from the Vermont Right to Life Committee and a related PAC and ruling in favor of the state.
The Vermont Right to Life Committee had filed a lawsuit saying Vermont's campaign finance registration, reporting and disclosure requirements for political action committees were too broad and unconstitutional. And a subcommittee created by the Vermont Right to Life Committee, called the Vermont Right to Life Committee-Fund for Independent Political Expenditures, argued that it should not be subject to Vermont's $2,000 limit on contributions to PACs because it said it did not give money directly to candidates and makes only independent expenditures.
But U.S. District Court Judge Williams Sessions rejected the arguments on Thursday, saying there was no clear accounting between the FIPE and the Vermont Right to Life Committee, Inc. Political Committee which makes direct contributions to anti-abortion candidates. Therefore, Vermont is permitted to impose a $2,000 limit on contributions FIPE may accept from individual sources, he said.
"Otherwise, funds raised in unlimited quantities by FIPE may support coordinated spending or candidate contributions. Thus, PC would be able to circumvent limits on contributions to it to support its activities.
Attorney General William Sorrell said the state is pleased that Sessions recognized the factual record in the case, which he said contradicted FIPE's claims about the nature of its political activities and involvement.
"The court's ruling provides resounding confirmation of the validity of Vermont's campaign finance disclosure laws and the state's ability to address Vermonter's concerns about the influence of money in politics," said Sorrell.
Secretary of State Jim Condos, Vermont's chief election official, applauded the ruling.
"This decision is a breath of fresh air in this time of increased out of state spending in Vermont campaigns, and in particular, the use of 'independent expenditures' as a way to circumvent the law," he said.
The Vermont Right to Life Committee will appeal the ruling, said James Bopp, Jr., a lawyer representing the group.