Almost two years ago, the two of us hosted the kickoff rally for Dean Corren’s run for Lt. Governor at the Vermont Statehouse. Dean was the first to qualify for Public Financing (PF) in a decade. His campaign had to follow strict rules that allowed no more contributions of any kind, and they complied – scrupulously. They even paid for the ice cream!
Shortly before the Nov. 2014 election, the chair of the VT Democratic Party sent out an email supporting Dean and other Democratic candidates. Despite being clearly allowed in the law, Attorney General William Sorrell claimed that the email (which he later valued at $255) was an illegal contribution, and rather than even allowing the campaign to pay for the email, he threatened Dean with prosecution if he didn’t pay a penalty of $72,000.
So last March, Dean sued Sorrell in federal court to challenge the AG’s enforcement and certain unconstitutional restrictions in the law. The purpose was to make sure that others could use PF without risking their family’s finances, and to make PF more competitive to reduce big money’s domination of our elections. A week later, Sorrell sued Dean in state court, seeking $72,000. The outrage from this resulted in the legislature quickly eliminating part of the proposed penalty, and in the Governor appointing an independent investigator to look into campaign and ethical charges against Sorrell himself.
We’re writing now because the federal court decision recently came down. The judge ruled in agreement with Dean and the other plaintiffs that Attorney General Sorrell’s interpretation of the statute conflicts with the Constitutional rights of a PF candidate to freely associate with and receive the support of his/her political party, and that the US Constitution requires that a PF candidate be entitled to the same party support described in the law as any others. In other words, when the state law is read constitutionally, Dean’s campaign did not commit any violation.
But the state case is still proceeding, so we need to raise some money. The case has already cost over $5,000 and could end up costing several times that. The AG’s office has made it clear that they will try to make this malicious prosecution as expensive as possible, and despite the federal decision, intends to continue.
So we ask you to please join us in helping our candidate fend off this attack and keep Public Financing viable. Dean’s family should not have to shoulder the burden. We know that like us, many of you are contributing to Bernie (or Hillary) and to Dave Zuckerman’s run for Lt. Governor. But please also help the cause to get our elections and democracy back by sending a check to:
Dean Corren, Public Finance Case, 92 Brookes Ave., Burlington, VT 05401
If you want more information, please email Dean at email@example.com or call him at 802-864-9916.
Ben & Jerry