But Johnson missed a big fat whopper that Sorrell told right off the top, and later repeated. I don’t blame Johnson for this; he’d have to have an amazing memory for two-year-old court rulings to have caught Sorrell’s dissembling.
At issue was the 2012 Democratic primary, and whether there was improper collusion between the Sorrell campaign and the Committee for Justice and Fairness, a Washington-based PAC that spent big on Sorrell just before the primary, which he won by a razor-thin margin.
Sorrell’s opponent in the 2012 general election, Republican Jack McMullen, filed a complaint against Sorrell, alleging improper collusion in the primary. Here’s how Sorrell characterized the disposition of that case:
I’m not guilty. The coordination with the Democratic AG’s Association, that was the subject of a lawsuit in Chittenden Superior Court filed against me back in 2012; the judge ruled in my favor.
He later restated his reading of the decision:
There was no violation there, my Republican opponent sued me and had no evidence to support that there was illegal collusion, and the Chittenden Superior Court ruled in my favor. Case over.
Well, actually, case NOT over.
In fact, the case was never investigated. It still hasn’t been investigated.
State campaign law provides a way to achieve rapid disposition of a complaint against a candidate. The idea is to give some resolution while the campaign is still ongoing, instead of long afterward when it’s basically moot.
But this is not a full court proceeding; it’s limited to the public record and any facts submitted by the complainant. There is no investigation, no subpoenas, no depositions, no prosecution.
In this particular case, McMullen v. Committee for Justice and Fairness, Judge Robert Mello based his decision solely on McMullen’s information. McMullen was the only witness. Nobody checked written, email, or telephone contact. No one other than McMullen himself provided sworn testimony. Judge Mello’s decision did not answer any questions; it merely concluded that “McMullen has failed to prove” the allegations.
This was not a failure on Judge Mello’s part; he was operating within the strictures of the law. Sorrell is technically correct that McMullen’s petition was dismissed by the court; he is absolutely wrong to state that he’s been cleared, “case over.”
If that’s what he thinks, then it’s a damn good thing we’ll have an independent investigation of his campaign activities. It is to be hoped that the investigator will dig into the files, thoroughly question those involved, and search for evidence of collusion between the Sorrell campaign and the PAC that saved his bacon.
The questions remain unanswered, and Sorrell should stop claiming otherwise.