Campaign finances under scrutiny

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LONDONDERRY -- The question of whether Vermont’s Campaign Finance Law has been violated in the race for the Bennington-Windsor-Windham-1 district has been called in question by a local official.

State representative Oliver Olsen (R - Bennington-Windsor-Windham-1) has questioned whether Emmett Dunbar (I) -- a candidate for the seat Olsen currently occupies -- violated campaign finance law by failing to note assistance he received to his campaign in the campaign finance reports.

Dunbar’s petition for state representative was filed by Nick Charyk, the executive director of the Vermont Democratic House Campaign PAC.

"I gave his signatures, drove them up from White River Junction. I was in town for a meeting anyway," said Charyk. "I offered to do it as a favor. I was not getting paid that day."

Due to this fact, Olsen -- who is the treasurer of Tim Goodwin’s (I) campaign, Dunbar’s opponent -- 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 appears to violate campaign finance law.

"It appears that there’s a level of cooperation, which under the law needs to be disclosed in campaign finance reports because Mr. Charyk is a paid employee of this PAC and it appears that this PAC is providing an in-kind contribution to the Dunbar campaign," said Olsen. "The PAC raises money from a number of sources, but a number of contributors to the PAC are advocates for Act 60 and statewide property tax. That money pays for Charyk’s salary and in turn Mr. Charyk looks to assist candidates with their campaigns. If Mr. Dunbar is accepting help from advocates of Act 60 and the statewide property tax, he needs to disclose the value of those in kind contributions."

In a subsequent interview, Olsen said it was a "significant act" when someone else other than the candidate themselves filed a petition on their behalf.

Secretary of State Jim Condos said that the matter was still under investigation and that it was unclear whether the campaign finance law had been violated.

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"We’re waiting to hear back from Nick (Charyk) and we’re waiting to hear back from AG’s (Attorney General’s) office because the laws are not real clear and we want to make sure we have our facts right," said Condos. "We’re trying to look at it and be objective about it to see whether it violates a law or doesn’t violate a law."

Outside of filing Dunbar’s petition, Charyk said that he has not been involved in Dunbar’s campaign.

During a recent interview, Dunbar said that he and three other individuals are running his campaign and denied Olsen’s assertions that he has been receiving help from Charyk.

"Nick Charyk is not involved in my campaign," Dunbar said. "I haven’t received any endorsements or any money from any official Democrat employees or representatives or anything."

Dunbar did say, however, that Charyk was trying to persuade him to run as a Democrat -- a fact that Charyk confirmed.

"I would have liked for him to run as a Democrat. He is running as an Independent," said Charyk. "I would love to bring him into the fold, but he declined."

Charyk said he did invite Dunbar to a training put on by the Democratic Party, which Charyk said was free to all Democratic candidates -- or potential Democratic candidates -- and their families.

Both Dunbar and Charyk confirmed that Dunbar did attend the meeting, but ultimately Dunbar said he chose to remain an Independent candidate and that’s how his name will appear on the ballot in November.


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