Gutting Vermont Public Financing


Aired February 12, 2001

INTRO: Rick Hubbard is concerned about recent proposals to empty Vermont’s campaign finance fund.


Have you heard about the current proposal to take all the money out of Vermont’s campaign finance fund? Some of our politicians want to use up to $1.2 million to meet other recession-era budget needs.

But without public financing, we’ll be right back where we started on campaign finance reform, with 96% of us not contributing a dime to any candidate or political party and with the vast bulk of the campaign cash coming from less than 3/10ths of 1% of us.

And lately, we’ve been getting an earful from Washington about what that represents. How many more Enron scandals do we want? Enron played the game the way most big corporations play it today. Spread lots of campaign cash around. Get much better access so you get your lobbyists in the door to help rewrite legislation, cut new tax breaks and generally have an edge to turn things your way. Enron was so effective at it that in spite of up to one hundred billion dollars in revenues, it avoided paying any taxes in 4 of the last 5 years. Enron, like many big corporations, even got millions more in tax rebates. Wouldn’t we all like that kind of access and influence?

When taxes from tax breaks for the well connected aren’t paid, the budget still has to balance. Usually, this means you and I end up paying more taxes to make up the difference. And that ends up costing us a lot more than the cash they contribute to campaigns.

This sorry situation isn’t likely to change until campaign money is available on behalf of all of us, giving politicians increased incentives to put citizen interests ahead of special interests.

Our public financing law here in Vermont isn’t perfect, but gutting it will decrease citizen chances to keep more money in our pockets and have more candidates to choose from.

Progressive Anthony Pollina used public financing in the 2000 elections and captured about 10% of the vote. But it only gave him about 1/3rd of the money Governor Dean was able to raise, mostly from out of state sources. Without public financing, it’d be that much harder for Pollina and the Progressives to raise enough money to get their message out.

Not having public financing might also help Republican Jim Douglas as a candidate for governor. As the front-runner, Douglas has a big fundraising edge over competitor Con Hogan, so we’ll hear more from candidate Douglas than Hogan.

But we benefit from having more candidates to choose from, plus more information about each of them, their backgrounds, abilities and positions on issues, so we vote better. And that’s just what the legislature had in mind when they set up public financing.

Our Vermont legislators have tough choices to make this year, but I hope they’ll put our citizen interests first and preserve the fund for public financing of campaigns.

This is Rick Hubbard from South Burlington, Vermont.