Senate lawmakers advanced a proposal Tuesday that would ban campaign contributions made directly by corporations to political candidates or parties. Under the legislation, corporate money could still find its way into Vermont’s elections, but it would have to move through a political action committee first.
The Senate Government Operations Committee approved the bill in a 4–1 vote Tuesday afternoon, with only Sen. Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) opposing it. The full Senate is likely to take it up later this week.
The legislation would allow individuals, PACs and political parties to contribute directly to candidates and parties, but it would bar private companies, nonprofit organizations, trade associations and labor unions from doing so. Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) sponsored the legislation in an effort to limit corporate influence in politics and increase transparency in campaign financing.
“The less the merrier, as far as I’m concerned,” Sen. Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) said of corporate contributions as the committee prepared to vote on the legislation.
Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said the bill is "a step in the right direction" and an important acknowledgment that corporate money is a problem in politics.
The Senate passed a bill last year that would have taken a different approach to limiting corporate contributions by capping the amount companies could donate, but that legislation never passed the House. Previous versions of the legislation have died in committee and on the Senate floor.