Rarely do prosecutors give the go-ahead to violate state laws. But in an advisory opinion issued Wednesday afternoon, Attorney General Bill Sorrell let it be known that he won’t be enforcing aVermont statute that imposes $2,000 contribution limits on independent-expenditure political action committees.
While he supports the limits in concept, Sorrell said recent federal court decisions render Vermont’s statute constitutionally indefensible. Sorrell’s advisory opens the door to unlimited independent expenditures in poltiical races this year, heralding the arrival here of the same statutory landscape that has inspired the creation of super PACs in federal races.
“I remain deeply troubled by Citizen United’s unduly cramped understanding of the potential for corruption caused by the flow of large sums of money through all types of PACs in elections,” Sorrell said.
But the state of Vermont, he said, can’t go its own way on this one. Montana recently sought to uphold state limits on contributions to PACs, Citizens United notwithstanding, but the U.S. Supreme Court struck them down.
Enforcing the $2,000 limits on PACs that have no coordination with the candidates themselves, Sorrell said, would spawn costly, and unwinnable, legal battles for Vermont.
“By announcing the office’s position on the issue, it is my goal to provide advance guidance to PACs and all participants in this election cycle and take meaningful steps to avoid potentially costly litigation,” he said.