Urging Action on Proposed Campaign and Election Changes

I’m writing to explain my intended vote on what I perceive to be a poorly constructed bill that has been voted out of the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs. It is very likely that we will be voting on this bill as early as Wednesday, March 1st. If you wish to take action by contacting other State Representatives, it will be critical for you to do so within the next day or two. I’ll link an action step option for you at the end of this blog.

It’s also important to realize that the Committee leadership created this bill by striking out the existing language on another unrelated bill to insert these edits to existing campaign and election processes. I know there are a few co-sponsors who chose to sign on to the initial bill before these edits were strongarmed into place. At least one of those co-sponsors has expressed frustration with the fact that they now remain listed as a sponsor of this completely different bill. This is an unfortunate example of how others with personal agendas distort and misuse the process.

The bill is listed on the Committee on Government Operations landing page as Draft No. 3.3 – H.97. This is one of the more confusing bills I’ve had to decipher and I do not believe that is unintentional (anything struckout is language proposed for removal; anything underlined is language added for consideration). This is not merely a case in which the legal language necessary to create a new statute is confusing to the outside observer. This is also a case by which a supermajority party is seemingly adding deliberate complicated schemes to our campaign and election processes. My interpretation is that this only serves the party in control by consolidating power and closing access by which anyone else might wish to join the arena. This is a clumsy attempt at a power grab. A pet project.

I campaigned and ran as a Progressive/Democrat candidate. I could spend an entire separate blog entry to discuss why those affiliations accurately capture my candidacy. This is how I choose to affiliate and present myself. I believe that freedom of affiliation is a critical component of the process by which we select those who represent us in Montpelier. I am thankful and grateful to the Democratic Party for giving me a landing spot as I was leaving a very conservative small town and finding my path to progressive action. Upon arrival to Vermont, I was so thankful to find that the Progressive party was a thriving and active political community. I am a Progressive/Democrat and I’m open to any continued conversation on how I define that.

H.97 is problematic for a few reasons. First, H.97, as written within this draft, is undemocratic. If passed, the state (as identified by the supermajority party) would be governing how other major parties may choose to identify themselves. Even if I identified purely as a Democrat, I would have significant problems with the party resorting to control methods similar to which we’ve seen and have always been justifiably critical when implemented from other parties.

At a time when nearly one third of all seats were won uncontested, we should be drafting legislation to make it easier for candidates to appear on the general ballot, not harder. This is critical to a functioning democracy. Instead of spending time on such unnecessary and unrequested legislation, the Committee could have used this opportunity, if they really cared about democracy, to develop avenues for the public financing of elections and ranked choice voting.

But why spend any time on considering the benefits of the public financing of elections when you can simply create legislation that allows your party to hoard more wealth? If passed, H.97 will pump more money into politics by raising the maximum limit on contributions from a political candidate to a political party. That limit is currently set at $10,000. If passed, H.97 would increase the limit to an absurd $100,000. This also allows the party to then transfer an equal amount to any other candidate.

Every Progressive candidate commits to refusing corporate money. We believe that grassroots organizing is the key to winning elections and building strong coalitions – not money and TV ads. I have written before about my early realizations that our processes already contain far too many economic barriers for anyone who might wish to serve but doesn’t have the means to begin a campaign. H.197 increases those barriers exponentially.

The House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs has a place in our process that would allow them to pass so much critical legislation that would serve the people of Vermont. They’ve got such an opportunity to do good work. Pet projects and power grabs are not good work. H.97 only serves the party in charge.

The Progressive Party of Vermont has made it very easy to reach out to any State Representative if you feel the desire to impact this vote. Please consider reaching out to voice your concern.