Sorrell presents oral arguments to Supreme Court

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(Host) Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell says he had a good day in front of the U.S. Supreme Court today.

He presented the state’s oral arguments in a case challenging Vermont’s limits on campaign contributions and expenditures.

VPR’s correspondent Terry Gildea attended today’s proceedings and has more from Capitol Hill.

(Gildea) Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer grilled Sorrell with campaign scenarios trying to get a sense of the financial limitations
imposed on candidates by the state law.

Breyer asked Sorrell if spending $200 on coffee and doughnuts at a campaign rally would violate
spending limits and lead to some sort of political corruption.

Sorrell spoke to reporters after hearing, on the steps of the Supreme Court. He says he was prepared for the justices’ questions.

(Sorrell) “That was just an attempt to show that this is ridiculous, this is too much nitpicking stuff. Candidates for all kind of elections at all levels in Vermont historically have been able to run very effective campaigns in within these expenditure limits including paying for coffee if need be and buying gasoline.”

(Gildea) Sorrell is confident the court will uphold state’s rights, overturn the Buckley versus Valeo precedent and let Vermont govern its state

(Sorrell) “You can’t look at what Vermont does through a California lens. Just in the same way that you wouldn’t look at what California does through a Vermont lens. But the point that’s important here in this case is, this is our law and you should look at it through our lens cause that’s reality on the ground campaigning in Vermont.”

(Gildea) But Vermont Republican Party Attorney James Bopp maintains there is a connection between the right to spend money and the first amendment right to free speech. He believes the Court will rule against the state.

(Bopp) “And I think the court was very vigorous in their questioning about the need to continue to preserve the right of candidates to participate in their own campaign and to be able to speak out on matters of public concern in the context of their election.”

(Gildea) Both sides remain confident about their day in court. A ruling is expected in the case sometime this summer.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Terry Gildea on Capitol Hill.

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