The Campaign for Vermont just sent me their monthly email newsletter the other day. So in order to see what they ran up Bruce Lisman’s flag pole this month, I visited the Campaign’s Facebook page.
Among all the usual Campaign for Vermont centrist 'products' that were ‘on sale’ I did notice they have chosen to use an image of the Vermont state flag coat of arms for their Facebook profile picture. The Campaign for Vermont’s profile image design is a Vermont flag in the shape of the state map with the word “Vermont” clearly visible.
For those not familiar with Facebook stuff, the cover/profile photo is the image that appears on every post and all updates they send out to their 15,000 plus followers. It acts a logo of sorts for all the C for VT’s Facebook posts.
Bruce Lisman, who founded the group, hired a new executive director this summer and reportedly stepped back from running the day-to-day operations. Rumors that he wants to run for Vermont governor, denied by Lisman, hover over the C for VT. The new director claims the Campaign is not anything more than what they say they are – an issues-based centrist organization without secondary goals. One thing they definitely are is beholden for operating funds to Lisman – who has bankrolled all the organization’s activities from the start, to the tune of more than one million dollars. So Bruce may still have some bit of influence at C for VT.
The Campaign for Vermont’s official webpage also uses part of the flag coat of arms symbol. Both sites’ use of the flag is possibly illegal and a form of misuse of the official state symbol. “The state seal and coat of arms may be used for commemorative medals or for public displays not connected with any advertising…” The entire statute can be found here .
In 2012 the PAC Vermonters First and a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives were asked by the Secretary of State to end their use of part the Vermont Flag in their advertisements. Secratary Condos explained at the time:
There are criminal penalties associated with misuses of the symbol, including imprisonment up to one year or a fine of up to $1,000; the attorney general’s office generally advises that Condos notify offenders and request the ad’s modification first.
The intention behind the law, explained Condos, is “to make sure that people don’t think that the state is providing an endorsement of a candidate or a product. Originally, the law wasn’t there for candidates, but more for products, for people not to use it to try to sell a product.”
Here, he said,[speaking in 2012] “the product happens to be a candidate.”
In this case the product happens to be Bruce Lisman and his Campaign for Vermont. Flag protection laws are certainly questionable with regard to free speech provisions of the U.S. Constitution, and there are plenty of gray areas. But right or wrong, there seems to be a recognized state law that prohibits this type of use for state flag.
Gonna strike the state colors Bruce?