A Narrow Focus on “Outside Money”

Anne Galloway recently covered a press conference by an ad-hoc group supposedly concerned about “outside money” in Vermont’s politics:

The group doesn’t have a name. It doesn’t have a budget or a logo.

The eight individuals (all Democrats) who met on the steps of Burlington City Hall, however, are on a mission.

They are concerned about the impact of Super PAC spending on Vermont elections, and they want the Legislature to pass campaign reforms that would require frequent and full disclosure of donations to Super PACs and new advertising disclosure rules (including a requirement that photos of funders be included in broadcast ads).

While they aim most of their fire at the Super PAC Vermonters First, they raise a question about “outside money” influencing Vermont’s politics:

Many observers are saying that despite all the outside spending by Super PACs this election cycle they really didn’t have an impact on electoral outcomes, they successfully didn’t sway an election,” Savage said. “That may be true, but just because they were ineffective last time doesn’t mean they’re going away. I think we have every reason to believe they’re only going to come back stronger than before.”

Vermonters are turned off by outside spending, he said, because it detracts from candidates’ own voices. “They muddy the debate, they confuse voters, they give an outsized voice to the very few and they’re not as accountable to the public as candidates are.”

It is true, Vermonters are turned off by outside spending.  But the group’s definition of outside spending is highly selective.  As has been pointed out numerous times here on True North Reports, there has been a significant amount of money flowing into Vermont from out of state interest groups for some time now.  This has often resulted in a politics of “bait and switch” where candidates will campaign on one issue during an election cycles, only to put that issue on the back burner during the legislative session in favor of an issue favored by well funded interest groups.  I do not see much attention being given to this problem.  In fact, it seems that the issue is being swept under the rug.  Perhaps we could push for reform that would require a disclaimer on any TV, print or other material seeking to influence policy or elections if a majority of the money raised by the entity comes from out of state.