by Robert Maynard
Vermont’s legislature appears poised to throw the advice of a constitutional law scholar from Vermont Law School out the window and pass yet another constitutionally questionable campaign finance law. This site posted an article about that warning on April 29th:
Vermont’s political leaders have a track record of passing ill-advised legislation that results in costly lawsuits that do not stand up to constitutional scrutiny. This tendency prompted a Vermont Law School Professor to warn our legislators not to risk another campaign finance court battle, as related in this Vermont Digger article:
Constitutional law scholar Cheryl Hanna urged the House Government Operations committee on Friday to be cautious about instituting new campaign finance reforms.
Hanna, a well-known Vermont Law School professor, advised legislators on how they could best avoid potential lawsuits in light of recent federal court rulings, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2007 that threw out Vermont’s attempts to curb campaign spending.
Not surprisingly, her warning seemed to fall of death ears: “Rep. Annie Mook, D-Bennington, told Hanna that other witnesses urged the committee to be “risky” and “brave” in instituting substantive oversight of money in politics.” Defending the state against lawsuits can be quite expensive, but it is easy to be “risky” and “brave” when it is the taxpayers’ money at state, rather than your own.
As if on cue, the Vermont House is considering a bill to restrict contributions to SuperPacs. As pointed out in this Vermont Digger article, this proposed bill is practically guaranteed to attract a lawsuit:
The full Vermont House is set to debate restricting Super PAC donors to $5,000 donations per election cycle, with attorneys, lawmakers and party officials scrambling to stake out strong positions.
The chief controversy involves a likely lawsuit the state could face if it enacts such a cap. If passed by the House, the legislation must then be reconciled with the Senate version.
Jack Lindley, Vermont Republican party chair, said that he had been told by the law firm of James Bopp, a nationally renowned campaign finance attorney, that a legal challenge to the legislation is assured “within weeks” if the cap is enacted.
According to Bopp: “It’s perfectly clear that under the law that you cannot cap contributions to Super PACs. … Numerous courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional to limit contributions to them. This is just another foolish attempt by the Vermont Legislature to defy the constitution.”
Unfortunately, it is not the Vermont legislature who will have to pay for their foolish attempt to defy the constitution should they be so reckless as to proceed with this. That burden, as usual, will fall on the already overburdened taxpayers. How long will Vermont taxpayers bear this burden just so that far left politicians can push an ideological agenda with no regard to the constitutionality of that agenda. It might be a little more understandable if the left in Vermont did not have its own money spigot that would not be affected by this law. In fact, the law only serves to silence what little ideological opposition the left faces in this state.