Super PAC Ads Hit Statewide Races

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According to the latest campaign reports, the incumbents in Vermont’s statewide races hold a strong fundraising edge over their challengers heading into the last 7 weeks of the campaign.

But the emergence of a new Super Political Action committee could help even the field in some of these races.

The reports show that incumbent Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin has raised roughly a million dollars for his re-election campaign and he has about $900,000 on hand in the bank.

In contrast, GOP challenger Randy Brock has raised about $350,000, he’s loaned his campaign $300,000 and Brock has about $240,000 available in the bank.

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says this large fundraising gap means that Shumlin will be able buy a lot of TV ad time while Brock is going to have a harder time using paid media.

"Here in the United States in general and Vermont in particular candidates need to raise money in order to buy advertising time to get out their message."

However Davis says a new super PAC known as "Vermonters First" could play a role in this election. Thus far, the group has run TV ads supporting the Republican candidate for Treasurer, Wendy Wilton and the Republican candidate for Auditor, Vince Illuzzi.

It’s also running ads criticizing Shumlin’s plan to have Vermont become the first state in the country to implement a single payer health care system.

One person, Lenore Broughton of Burlington, is bankrolling the Vermonters First campaign. To date, she has donated $134,000 to the group.

Former Republican Party chairman Tayt Brooks is the head of Vermonters First. His says his group is trying to bring a message to Vermonters that they don’t usually hear.

"Right now in Vermont we’re looking at one party, single party rule and we think it’s important to get a message out there to provide some balance to the conversation in regards to the issues facing Vermonters whether it be jobs or the economy or health care or the overall budget."

Brooks says it’s too early to tell how much his group plans to spend on the 2012 elections. Whatever they spend, Davis says the Super PAC system raises important questions about money and politics.

"Is it compatible with democracy to have a few individuals or organizations that have very large resources at their disposable able to make a such large expenditures in political campaigns," said Davis. "The interpretation of the First Amendment is these donors have the right to do that but I think the question that many people are raising is, is it consistent with democracy with a small d."

Brooks says the Super PAC system is good for democracy because it’s critical for voters to hear different points of view on key issues in order to make an informed choice on Election Day.


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