Vermont Campaign Finance: 4. Vermont’s 2016 Campaign Donors


Many millions get spent on Vermont’s political campaigns. Where does all this money come from?

Lets begin with the elections of Patrick Leahy in the US Senate and Peter Welch in the US House of Representatives. Both are long time incumbents with well- oiled money raising organizations.

Patrick Leahy’s campaign raised over $4.5 million for the 2016 election. Individuals provided 66% and PAC’s (558 of then) provided 34% of this money.

Peter Welch raised just over $1 million for the 2016 election. Individuals provided 29% and a collection of 417 PAC’s provided 71% of this money.

In both campaigns, the PAC’s were comprised of a multitude of corporations, labor unions, trade associations and liberal causes, pretty much in that order.

Remember that Patrick Leahy also has a Leadership PAC called Green Mountain PAC, which contributed actively to Vermont’s state-level elections. This PAC raised $520,000, of which 37% was from individuals and 63% PAC’s.

At the state and local level, individuals are the largest donors. Open Secrets reported that individuals donated $7.2 million to candidates, political parties, PAC’s and Super PAC’s in the 2016 Vermont election cycle.

PAC’s are also active in Vermont. The top twenty PAC’s in the 2016 election are outlined below.

2016 PAC Contributions to Vermont State and Local Elections


PAC Contribution
Coca-Cola Nonpartisan PAC $125,950
National Education Association $81,295
Vermont Realtors PAC $70,182
Gun Sense Vermont Victory Fund $34,233
Friends of Franklin County Republicans $33,868
Local 693 Plumbers & Pipefitters PAC $26,887
Drive PAC (Teamsters) $24,000
Green Mountain Republican Senators Committee $20,789
Washington County Republican Committee $16,921
Peckham Industries Inc. Vermont PAC $16,000
Caledonia County Republican Election Committee $13,179
HEAT PAC (fuel dealers association) $12,600
Coalition for a Livable City (Burlington based) $11,206
Vermont Conservation Voters $10,734
Vermont Credit Union PAC $9,912
Campaign Research Center (Chamber of Commerce PAC) $8,265
NRA Political Victory Fund $8,258
Eli Lilly & Co. PAC $7,500
Professional Firefighters of Vermont PAC $7,333
IBEW Pac (electrical workers) $7,000

Source: Vermont Secretary of State, 2016 Final Campaign Finance Reports

The Informed Vermonter has no idea why the Coca Cola Nonpartisan PAC pumped over $125,000 into Vermont’s 2016 election contests, but three things might have motivated them.  First, GMO labelling.  Second, the possibility of a sugar tax.  Third, the exclusion of soft drinks from the food products sales tax exemption.  This is, of course, just speculation on my part.

Four Leadership PAC’s were also meaningful contributors to Vermont’s 2016 general election campaign, as follows:

2016 Leadership PAC Contributions to Vermont State and Local Elections


Leadership PAC Political Party Contribution
The Senate Circle Democratic $26,083
Common Sense Leadership PAC Republican $52,998
Vermont Democratic House Campaign PAC Democratic $96,908
Vermont House Republican PAC Republican $11,699

Source: Vermont Secretary of State, 2016 Final Campaign Finance Reports

That leaves the underlying donors to the Super PAC’s that bankrolled much of the mass media spending in Vermont’s 2016 election.

Remember that two super PAC’s, A Strong Vermont and Our Vermont, spent over $4.4 million in Vermont’s 2016 election.

A Strong Vermont was backed in a meaningful way by the Republican Governors Association, the top five donors a of which are Koch Industries (oil, gas, chemicals), Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Mountaire Corp.(chickens), Las Vegas Sands(casinos) and Elliot Management(hedge fund).

The Our Vermont Super PAC was funded in large part by the Democratic Governors Association. Its top five donors are Blue Cross/Blue Shield, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America and the America Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees. Four out of the five top donors are health care/pharma companies.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield,one of the largest donors to both Super PAC’s, is clearly hedging its bets! Its the largest health insurance provider in Vermont.










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