McMullen Challenges Leahy to Campaign Spending Limit

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(Host) Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack McMullen is calling on Democratic incumbent senator Patrick Leahy to agree on a one million dollar spending cap in their race. The Leahy campaign says they’ll talk with McMullen about campaign-related issues once he wins the Republican primary in September.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) There are three parts to McMullen’s campaign challenge to Leahy: agree not to level personal attacks against one another; limit spending to one million dollars; and participate in a debate in each of Vermont’s 14 counties.

McMullen says the challenge is appropriate because its been 12 years since Leahy’s record has been thoroughly scrutinized. Six years ago McMullen lost to retired dairy farmer Fred Tuttle in the GOP primary. Tuttle then went on to endorse Leahy during the general election campaign:

(McMullen) “It’s a serious election and there are important issues to consider and for voters to make up their minds about. So they deserve to know where the candidate stands, why and what we intend to do to improve their lives. Also they need time to make an informed decision.”

(Kinzel) Leahy’s campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer says any discussion about spending caps or debates need to wait until after the Republican primary, where McMullen faces at least two opponents:

(Dwyer) “This is premature. We focus on elections one at a time – when the general election comes around we’ll be happy to sit down with the Republican nominee and talk about the general election, but certainly not until then.”

(Kinzel) McMullen admits that his fundraising efforts are going a little slow. So far he has lent his campaign $70,000 and he says he might go as high as $337,000 – that’s the threshold set under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law for self funded campaigns.

If a candidate exceeds this threshold, their opponent is allowed to increase the cap on individual contributions from $2,000 to $6,000:

(McMullen) “So that’s powerful incentive to raise money from third parties and I’m proceeding on that assumption. Hopefully I won’t have to put much more money of my own in, but if I have to I will. I think I need to at least meet the budget I’m suggesting.”

(Kinzel) McMullen says he’ll accept contributions from political action committees but he doubts that many PACS will be interested in his campaign until polls demonstrate that he’s gaining ground on Leahy.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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