Super PACS Could Have Impact On Vt. Elections

07/06/12 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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Former state senator George Coppenrath isn't a big fan of campaign contribution limits. He argues that the passage of campaign finance legislation, capping the size of individual donations, has resulted in the creation of special interest political action committees.

He says it's much harder for voters to "follow the money" in a campaign when the PACs get involved.

"It takes money that would flow to a campaign candidate and would be visible and diverts it through these PACS and makes it less visible," said Coppenrath. " And actually PACs are set up for special interests so they tend to push towards special interests where as going to a candidate, a candidate would be more free to say this is what I stand for this is how I'm getting my message out."

Todd Bailey is a senior government affairs specialist at KSE Partners - a lobbying group that's just set up a campaign division. He says the problem is that there's too much money in politics.

"The bottom line is eliminating PACs is not going to change the money equation in the electoral process if we have no limits. Then it becomes irrelevant which way we're giving the money whether it be through a PAC or through an individual," said Bailey. " It's realty about whether or not someone can write that $5 million check or not."

And Bailey is concerned that Super PACs, like the ones that have emerged in the Presidential race, are headed to Vermont.

"Money should not be purchasing an office. Flat out I think that people are opposed to the sense that if someone can raise $5 million through an independent expenditure PAC or what's widely known as a super PAC, which has become common in this election cycle, that's an inappropriate way to proceed in our electoral process. It's undemocratic."

Former senator Coppenrath has a solution to help reduce the influence of money in elections. He would require candidates to purchase matching ad time for their opponents.

"You could see how the money was being spent and the Secretary of State could have a website just showing all the money coming in and going out and how it's being spent," said Coppenrath. "And then the free press can pick and choose the information they want to provide to the voters in addition to the ads they're being inundated with."

While Bailey supports the idea of publicly financing statewide campaigns, Coppenrath says he opposes it because he doesn't think it's an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer money.





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