Democrats allege illegal use of Vermont seal by GOP super PAC – UPDATED

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Tayt Brooks, treasurer of the Republican super PAC working to support the candidacies of Wendy Wilton and Vince Illuzzi, said group has removed web ads alleged to have run afoul of a state statute that prohibits the use of the Vermont seal in advertisements.

Brooks said he was unaware of the law until he was notified of the possible violation in an email from the Secretary of State’s office earlier today.

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Vermont Democrats today accused a Republican super PAC of violating an arcane statute that prohibits the use of the state seal in advertisements.

Vermonters First, the political action committee funded by GOP super patron Lenore Broughton, has been spending massive sums of money to bolster the electoral prospects of Wendy Wilton and Vince Illuzzi, Republican candidates for treasurer and auditor, respectively.

In late July, Broughton’s shop began airing 15-second TV ads for the duo. More recently, their smiling faces have begun appearing on internet ads.

Those web ads, according to a press release fired off this afternoon by the Vermont Democratic Party, constitute a clear violation of Vermont Statutes Title 13, Chapter 45.

Both of the ads feature an image of the Vermont seal, that enduring symbol of agrarian enterprise made famous by the Vermont inmates who carefully hid those pigs on the state police cruiser decals. But as VDP chairman Jake Perkinson pointed out, a state law dealing with “flags and ensigns” says “the state seal and coat of arms may be used for commemorative medals or for public displays not connected with any advertising.”

The Wilton/Illuzzi ads, presumably, would constitute political advertising.

We put in a call to Vermonters First Treasurer Tayt Brooks but haven’t heard back yet.

“In a race where a Super PAC funded by millionaire Lenore Broughton is already spending it’s money to lie to Vermonters, every detail counts,” Perkinson said in a release. “Tayt Brooks and Ms. Broughton should take down their ads and stop misusing the Vermont state flag and coat of arms for partisan purposes. Vermonters deserve and expect all players in this race to obey the law, Vermonters First is no exception.”

It would be interesting to see whether the law cited by Perkinson would stand up under challenge. The same chapter bans the reproduction of the U.S. and state flags on merchandise. It also features a provision saying you can’t “publicly mutilate, deface, defile, defy, trample upon, or by word or act cast contempt upon” a U.S. or Vermont flag.

Federal law also prohibits the desecration of a U.S. flag, but it’s a totally toothless statute, since the U.S. Supreme Court has on numerous occasions upheld citizens’ rights to burn disparage or in anyway show public contempt for the Stars & Stripes.

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