Campaign Finance

The Attorney General’s Office is charged with enforcing Vermont’s campaign finance laws. In addition, the Office defends those laws when they are challenged in court.

Legal Framework

Vermont’s campaign finance laws are set forth in Title 17 of the Vermont Statutes. The Legislature revised and re-organized the campaign finance law in 2014. The new law can be found at 17 V.S.A. § 2901, et seq. However, the contribution limits in the new law do not go into effect until January 1, 2015. The Attorney General has issued a Formal Opinion stating that the old limits remain in effect through December 31, 2014.

The following guidance memos describe the Attorney General’s policies on enforcement of campaign finance laws in certain situations.

Enforcement Policy on Independent Expenditure Committees
Enforcement Policy on Candidates Who Do Not Run in Both a Primary and General Election

Compliance Resources Candidates, political committees (PACs), political parties, and contributors should consult the Secretary of State’s Office, Elections Division for information on filing campaign finance reports and specific rules regarding contribution limits.

How to file a complaint

If you have a complaint regarding a potential violation of Vermont’s campaign finance laws, send a written description of the matter to the address at the bottom of this page or email. If it appears that the complaint states a potential violation, the Attorney General’s Office will investigate the matter pursuant to its authority under Act 90. As part of the investigation, we will send a copy of the complaint to the potential violator to ask for a response. Investigations can take a number of months depending on the facts and issues involved. Information collected by the Attorney General during an investigation is not public. See Act 90. You will be notified when the complaint is resolved.

There are several ways the complaint can be resolved. If the Attorney General believes there is sufficient evidence to prove a violation has occurred, the Office may file an enforcement action in Superior Court seeking an injunction, a civil penalty, or a criminal penalty. Alternatively, the Office may negotiate a settlement to obtain an acknowledgment of a violation, cessation of activities that violate the statute, or payment of a penalty. Final settlement agreements are public records. In some cases, the Office may address the violation by sending a notifying letter and requiring actions to cure the violation or prevent its reoccurrence.

If the Attorney General determines there is insufficient evidence to establish a violation of Vermont’s campaign finance law, the complaint will be closed without a penalty.

Press releases regarding resolutions of campaign finance investigations may be found in the Related News section on the left column of this page.

Enforcing Campaign Finance Law

The Attorney General has brought several civil enforcement actions for campaign finance violations. Important documents and court decisions in some of those can be found below:

State v. Green Mountain Future (2013)

  • Complaint
  • Superior Court decision
  • Vermont Supreme Court decision
  • Stipulated Judgment on penalty
  • State v. Republican Governors Association & Dubie (2013)
  • Complaint
  • Decision on Motion to Dismiss
  • Stipulated Judgment
  • State v. Republican Governors Association (currently pending)
  • Complaint
  • Decision on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment
  • Order re: Enforcement of $2000 Limit
  • Defending Vermont’s Campaign Finance Law The Attorney General’s Office defends Vermont’s law from challenges in both state and federal courts. Important rulings and court decisions in some of those actions can be found here:

    Vermont Right to Life Comm., Inc. v. Sorrell (2014)

  • Second Circuit decision
  • Federal District Court decision
  • Oxfeld v. Sorrell (2008)
    Federal District Court decision
    Randall v. Sorrell (2007)
  • U.S. Supreme Court decision
  • Final Judgment in Federal District Court
  • Published: Jul 25, 2014