Basically, Vermont law limits contributions by donors and imposes reporting requirements on candidates and donors so there is transparency regarding the identity of donors and the amounts donated.
Like the underlying federal law, Vermont law DOES NOT limit the level of spending of any individual, candidate, PAC (Political Action Committee) or political party.
Vermont attempted to put strict limits on both donation sizes and campaign spending. In 2006, the US Supreme Court overturned this Vermont law in the Randall vs. Sorrell case.
Vermont law also permits individual candidates (but not their family members) to donate as much money as they want to their own campaigns. Despite the obvious advantage this gives wealthy candidates, the ability to spend one’s own money as one sees fit seems fair enough.
Vermont law also permits unlimited spending by donors on “public questions” that are on the ballot, such as constitutional amendments, local bond issues, municipal budgets and school board budgets.
Vermont Campaign Contribution Limits
There are basically two types of donors that are addressed by Vermont’s campaign finance laws.
A “Single Source Donor” is any individual, corporation, labor union, trade association, partnership or PAC. Vermont’s campaign contribution limits are the same for all these types of donors.
Not surprisingly, political parties have a separate set of larger contribution limits. Vermont’s political parties include the Democratic, Republican, Progressive, Libertarian and Liberty Union parties.
With respect to lobbyists, lobbying firms and lobbyist employers, all of whom are Single Source Donors, there is a further set of restrictions. Candidates for the Vermont legislature cannot solicit of accept donations from lobbyists until the end of the election-year legislative session. Candidates for administrative posts (say the Governor) cannot accept donations from lobbyists until the same date.
In Vermont, Super Pac’s need to report media spending of $510 or higher incurred within 45 days of an election. If spending is $5,110 or higher, they also need to disclose the underlying contributors.
Remember, there are no limits whatsoever on the amount of money a Super Pac can spend on indirect campaign contributions.
With that as background, lets take a look at Vermont’s campaign finance contribution limits:
Vermont Contribution Limits Per Election Cycle
|Recipient||Donor:||Single-Source Donor||Political Party Donor|
|Local Candidate||$1,020||No limit|
|State Representative Candidate||$1,020||No limit|
|State Senate Candidate||$1,530||No limit|
|County Office Candidate||$1,500||No limit|
|Statewide Office Candidate||$4,080||No limit|
Source: Guide to Vermont’s Campaign Finance Laws, 2017-2018, Office of the Vermont Secretary of State
In addition to whatever amount of money a candidate can raise in compliance with the above restrictions, qualifying candidates for the position of Governor and Lt. Governor are also eligible for direct state grants to finance their campaigns.
To qualify, a candidate for Governor must raise at least $35,000 from at least 1,500 individual registered Vermont voters in contributions not exceeding $50. A Lt. Governor candidate must raise $17,500 on the exact same basis.
Once qualified, a candidate for governor receives $150,000 for the primary election and $500,000 for the general election and a candidate for Lt. Governor receives $50,000 and $150,000, respectively.