Although over the last year many states have exempted Super PACs—i.e., groups that only make independent expenditures—from the strictures of contributions limits, Vermont may be headed in another direction.
This is not the first chapter in the Vermont Super PAC story. As we noted last July, the Vermont Attorney General declared that the State would no longer enforce contribution limits against Super PACs. This announcement was prompted in large part by a federal district court decision in Vermont Right to Life Committee v. Sorrell, which expressed the view—but did not ultimately decide—that the application of a contribution limit to a Super PAC would likely be unconstitutional under Citizens United. At the time, the Vermont Attorney General forecasted that he would “consult with the Vermont Legislature” and “seek either legislative amendment or confirmation from the Legislature that Vermont’s contribution limits should continue to apply to all PACs, despite the likelihood of litigation.”
The Vermont Legislature is starting to make its position known: contribution limits should apply to Super PACs, even though a handful of federal courts have concluded that the application of such fundraising restrictions is unconstitutional. Last month the Senate passed a bill that would cap contributions to Super PACs at $3,000, but only if the final result of the Vermont Right to Life Committee appeal is a holding that “contributions to independent-expenditure-only political committees are constitutional.” And according to press reports, a House committee yesterday voted to impose a $5,000 cap on donations to Super PACs, irrespective of how the litigation proceeds. We will continue to monitor developments as this story unfolds and as potential legal challenges emerge.