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Vermont GOP: House majority leader violated campaign finance law

By   /   February 15, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

Photo courtesy of state of Vermont

VIOLATION?: The Vermont GOP alleges that Democrat Rep. Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, violated the state’s campaign finance law.

State GOP leaders allege that Vermont’s House majority leader and the state Democratic Party violated campaign finance law by sending a mass fundraising solicitation to lobbyists during the legislative session.

In a news release Tuesday, Vermont GOP Executive Director Jeff Bartley said House Democrat Majority Leader Jill Krowinski sent an email this week seeking contributions on behalf of the Vermont Democratic Party.

Since the email targeted lobbyists, Bartley alleges, the solicitation ran afoul of a campaign finance law that Krowinski herself voted for in 2015.

“This fundraising plea … solicited contributions from lobbyists, circumventing a Vermont state law (2 V.S.A. 266(3)(A)) prohibiting lawmakers from soliciting contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session,” the news release states.

Bartley told Watchdog the solicitation was sent out Tuesday morning and attacked House Republican Minority Leader Don Turner while asking for contributions. He added that the Vermont GOP is filing a complaint to Vermont’s attorney general and the secretary of state.

If the matter is pursued, the complaint will be reviewed by the new Committee on Campaign Finance Education, Compliance and Reform. Vermont’s secretary of state and attorney general established the committee in January.

The Vermont GOP claims Krowinski should have known better than to send out the solicitation.

“As a legislator serving her third term, a former Executive Director of the Vermont Democrat Party, and a former campaign manager, Rep. Krowinski should be more than familiar with Vermont’s campaign finance laws. Rep. Krowinski is more concerned with raising money for her reelection campaign in 2018, than doing the work her constituents elected her to do,” Bartley continued in the news release.

Krowinski did not return Watchdog’s requests for comment.

In 2015, both chambers of the Legislature passed S.93 (Act No. 49) before it was signed into law by then Gov. Peter Shumlin. The House passed the bill 138-7 on a roll-call vote, with Krowinski voting in favor of the legislation.

Bartley said Krowinski had been sending weekly emails “blasting Republicans” before she sent out the solicitation Tuesday criticizing Turner.

“It’s a blatant violation to me, considering her history,” Bartley said. “Back in 2010 she was an employee of Planned Parenthood and she cut checks against Republican Brian Dubie’s gubernatorial campaign. She was fined pretty substantially. Now why would a sitting representative seem to have total control over her party in the state?”

Bartley said he consulted with Republican legal counsel and state Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, before moving forward with the complaint.

“It is a pretty clear violation,” Bartley said.

Correction: The House Committee on Campaign Finance Education, Compliance and Reform does not handle complaints or enforcement of current laws. It makes recommendations on existing rules only. The original story has been updated to reflect the committee’s role.

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Lou Varricchio is bureau chief for Vermont Watchdog. He has 20 years experience in print and broadcast journalism, including newspaper work in Pennsylvania and also in Vermont, where he was formerly managing editor of multiple New Market Press newspapers. He was a senior science writer at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, and appeared as the co-host on “Our Changing Planet,” a mini-series produced by the Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium and distributed by Prairie Public Television. Lou has written, produced and hosted several science documentaries distributed nationwide through Public Radio International and American Public Radio. He is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.