« Previous  
 Next »

Douglas: Campaign Lawsuit

04/03/12 5:55PM By Jim Douglas
 MP3   Download MP3 

(Host) In the wake of a Presidential visit to Vermont, our attention is increasingly focused on the upcoming campaign. Former Vermont governor and commentator Jim Douglas explains, though, that there is at least one matter still pending from the 2010 election season.

(Douglas) Senator George Aiken famously spent $17 on his final run for public office. Campaigns have changed since 1968: running for office today is far more expensive. In 2010 both of Vermont 's gubernatorial candidates spent record amounts and already our senators and congressman have amassed huge war chests of out-of-state money for their next campaigns. SuperPACS threaten to dump unprecedented amounts into the presidential race, supplementing billions from candidates and parties. I've always supported reasonable limits on contributions, which are essential now more than ever.

Unfortunately many good men and women choose not to serve in public life. I've spoken with potential candidates who would have been great leaders, but are discouraged by the costs - both personally and of the campaign.

And apparently for good reason, since there's a case working its way through the Vermont courts right now that illustrates the problem. Brian Dubie served as lieutenant governor for the 8 years of my tenure and he brought a great deal of valuable experience to the job, from homeland security to healthy aging and education taxes. Brian ran to succeed me as governor in 2010. He fought hard against the trends of history and demographics, and he came up just a little short. After the campaign, he served out his term, returned to his day job and prepared to move on with his life.

But the state had other ideas. More than a year later, a lawsuit was filed against Brian, claiming that, during the campaign, he had illegally shared some polling data with the Republican Governors Association. The RGA lawyers had assured Brian that furnishing the information was perfectly legal; having been burned by Vermont's campaign finance laws in the past, the Association had every reason not to run afoul of them and Brian had every reason to rely on their advice.

The cost to Brian and his family of defending himself has become steep. While there is certainly merit in debating the appropriate role of out-of-state groups in Vermont elections, I can't see the sense in doing so at the expense of a man who has served the public well and acted in good faith. In fact, I can't ever recall another case of a candidate being personally targeted like this. And I can only assume that a protracted lawsuit such as this one - years after the campaign is over - will only discourage other decent and hardworking people from running.

Politics is an honorable calling. I spent nearly 4 decades in public service. But today, too many talented Vermonters who could make a real contribution to our state choose not to "throw their hats in the ring" because the costs are too great. Surely, we must have reasonable contribution limits and ensure accountability in our electoral system. But that won't be enough if candidates are exposed to never-ending legal battles long after the voters have made their choice. Going after a decent public servant is hardly the pathway to reform.

Tags

politics
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter