Sometime last week, when no one was looking, Governor Shumlin signed the Peter Shumlin Bailout Act of 2014 — er, that is, the campaign finance reform bill. You know, the one stitched together by a team of mad scientists during the Legislative offseason? The one that’s far worse than the watered-down version that got stuck in the mud last spring?
The one that puts the lie to the notion that Democrats are in favor of limiting the influence of money in politics? Yeah, that’s the one. As first reported last week by Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz:
Asked Thursday afternoon when it would be signed into law, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s spokeswoman Sue Allen said the deed’s already been done.
… If you were waiting for a public signing with a crowd of supporters and plenty of pens to give away, you apparently didn’t miss anything.
Following Heintz’ inquiry, Allen released a public statement. Here it is, in its glorious entirety:
Jeebus H. Christ. If that announcement were any briefer, it’d disappear into a black hole of its own formation. It’s safe to say the Governor’s office is fully aware of how embarrassing this bill is.
The bill, for those just joining us, substantially raises the limits on individual and corporate giving in a way that immediately benefits precisely one person: Peter Shumlin. He’s the only state officeholder or candidate who’s maxed out a significant portion of his donor base. He’s already got a campaign kitty rich enough to discourage any sensible Republican, and now he’ll be able to go back to his core supporters and ask for even more.
In the slightly longer run, the bill will solidify the two major parties by allowing them to collect lots more money and funnel unlimited amounts to their candidates. This will help offset the influence of big-money independent groups like Vermonters First and Campaign for Vermont, but it will also make it a whole lot harder for independent and third-party candidates to compete. Hence my other name for the bill, the Screw The Progs Act of 2014.
A few good provisions survived the behind-the-scenes hacksaw surgery that produced this bill: a slight increase in campaign finance reporting, a requirement that large single donors to superPACs be identified in the groups’ advertisements (read: Lenore Broughton), and the long-overdue institution of online filings. Currently, campaign finance reports are filed on paper and the information is not searchable; the new system is a genuine step forward in transparency.
But otherwise, this bill is a gigantic disappointment. Lawmakers who’d sought tighter limits on money in politics gamely defended the bill as, basically, better than nothing, and a starting point for future legislation. Yeah, well, when the party supposedly interested in limiting money in politics has total control of the process and THIS is the best they can come up with? I’m afraid it’ll be a cold day in Tegucigalpa before this issue sees the light of day again.