May 10th, 2017
Executive Director, Vermont Progressive Party
Burlington, VT – The Vermont Progressive Party filed an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City in late April. The appeal challenges a recent court ruling on Vermont’s public financing law for candidates.
In 2015, The Progressive Party joined with former Lt. Gubernatorial Candidate Dean Corren, and other Progressive candidates and donors to challenge former Attorney General Sorrell’s interpretation of Vermont’s public financing law. Sorrell’s interpretation of the law has been maintained by the current Attorney General, TJ Donovan. The Progressive Party believes Sorrell and Donovan’s interpretation of the law is unconstitutional because it treats publicly-financed candidates differently from traditionally-financed candidates, and limits the ability of political parties to coordinate with candidates who accept public financing. They say that this infringes on the freedom of speech and association rights of both candidates and parties.
In March 2016, the Federal court in Burlington ruled that Vermont’s public financing law does allow for a publicly financed candidate to coordinate with a party, but did not specifically declare that Sorrell’s interpretation of the law was wrong.
John Franco, the Progressive Party’s lawyer, said “the ruling has serious negative implications to free speech and political association for any candidate who seeks to use public financing and coordinate with their party. It has left us with the intolerable situation that it is impossible for Vermonters to use public financing, so we are appealing the ruling to the Second Circuit.”
Progressive Party Chair, Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, stated that Sorrell’s interpretation is unconstitutional and blocks any viable candidate from using public financing in the future.
"The Progressive Party is fighting to save public financing, so we have to wonder why Attorney General TJ Donovan is fighting rather than joining us,” Mulvaney-Stanak said. “In a post Citizens United world, we should be fighting the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics, not fighting those who seek to use our public financing system.”
Progressives have launched a fundraising drive to help pay for their legal fees, and are encouraging anyone who believes in public financing to donate. They plan to hold a public awareness and fundraising event in July.