The absurd extremities of the public financing law

The Vermont Democratic Party, having lopsidedly endorsed Prog/Dem Dean Corren as its candidate for Lieutenant Governor, seems to be doing all it can to strip away any value from that endorsement.

The Vermont Democratic Party this week sent glossy color mailings to reliably Democratic voters, urging them to vote for its slate of statewide candidates. But Corren wasn’t mentioned.

Dean Corren at the Democratic State Committee meeting in September.

Dean Corren at the Democratic State Committee meeting in September. Photo courtesy of… well… me.

When the Democratic State Committee endorsed Corren, party officials made it clear that there were significant restrictions on their ability to offer him any tangible support — voter data, Coordinated Campaign, etc. — because by accepting public financing, Corren had to forswear all other fundraising avenues. Including in-kind support. Indeed, they said they would have adhered to the same limits if the Democratic hopeful, John Bauer, had qualified for public financing.

The Dems were advised by their lawyers to steer clear of anything that might run afoul of the law. Which allowed them to circumvent questions about the wisdom of sharing the party’s legendary database with a Progressive, who might then share it with his party. A valid concern, when the Progressive Party often runs candidates against Democrats.

But to exclude any mention of Dean Corren from mailings? To me, that seems an excess of caution. And a serious handicap for his campaign.

And while Corren was in full agreement with the Dems on their withholding of voter data and the Coordinated Campaign, he seems less satisfied with this move:

Corren said he’s prevailing upon Democratic officials to include him on the next round of mailings.

“The conversations go on,” Corren said. “We’re in the midst of conversations. So it’s not like it’s a one-shot deal.”

Corren has dutifully played nice, and I commend him for that. But excluding Corren from a mass mailing, to me, is stretching the legal point. It raises doubts about the Dems’ real motives.

I’ve been told that the Dems don’t want to turn “tangible assistance” into an issue for Phil Scott; but issues like that are inside baseball, and have little or no effect on voters. Maybe the risk is small enough to merit the potential reward.

At the very least, it points out a serious shortcoming with the public financing law. The qualification standards need to be loosened, so more candidates can qualify. And, apparently, there needs to be a better definition of “tangible assistance” so that parties don’t have to pretend that one of their own doesn’t exist, just because s/he qualified for public financing.

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