Well, I don’t know if that’s what they’ll call it — probably not — but Our Governor is the clear and obvious winner in a backdoor maneuver to fast-track a new campaign finance bill. And I mean extremely fast track.
I know, the Legislature isn’t even in session yet. But, per Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz, the fix is in.
One of the Vermont legislature’s first acts upon reconvening this week may be to vastly increase the amount of money in state politics.
After failing to reach compromise last spring over competing campaign finance bills, House and Senate negotiators narrowed their differences during the legislative off-season and are scheduled to sign off on a final bill Tuesday morning. Both houses could pass the new version by the end of the week and send it to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
The campaign finance reform issue was an embarrassing flameout in 2013. It began with broad tripartisan support, and ended with the State Senate going into a Four Corners offense and running out the clock with nothing accomplished.
And, during the long recess, it appears as though the Long Knives came out and gutted the legislation of anything meaningful whatsoever.
At present, candidates for statewide office can raise $2000 per two-year election cycle from any individual or corporation. That would double to $4000 if the current draft is passed.
Political action committees that donate directly to candidates would be able to raise up to $4000 from any individual or corporation, up from $2000. And political parties would be able to raise $10,000 from such entities, also up from $2000.
… The new $10,000 party limit is actually far higher than either of the two versions passed last spring by the House and Senate. The House had proposed limiting contributions to parties to $5000, while the Senate had proposed $3000.
The spending limits wouldn’t do much for the vast majority of candidates. But it should vastly increase the size of gubernatorial war-chests. Well, one war-chest in particular, since Peter Shumlin is the only guy who’s been maxing out a whole lot of donors. (Incuding quite a few Republicans, as Heintz has previously reported.)
This bill would make it even harder for anyone — Republican, Progressive, Independent, Lismaniac — to mount an effective challenge to Shumlin, who goes into this campaign with something like a million bucks in the bank.
Of course, that advantage depends on Shumlin’s — or successor Democrats’ — ability to appeal to Vermont’s monied class. Which tilts the balance toward “moderate” stances on, oh, stuff like tax reform. If that seems like a stretch, recall the words of Barre’s Republican Mayor, Thom Lauzon, who maxed-out his (current) donation limit at a November fundraiser for Shumlin:
“It was all Republicans!” jokes Lauzon, who says he and his wife, Karen, donated $2000. “Certainly with Republicans, one of our issues is we don’t want to see broad-based taxes increased. The governor’s probably led that charge as well as any other governor has.”
OTOH, the (so far hypothetical) person who’d lose the most under the new campaign finance scheme is Your Next Progressive Candidate for Governor, who’d have an even harder time competing with a well-funded Democrat (or Republican, if or when the VTGOP regains its bearings).
So, there you have it: the Peter Shumlin Bailout (and Screw The Progs) Act of 2014.