MONTPELIER — The state will receive $14 million in civil penalties and legal relief from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds following a 2005 lawsuit, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced Monday.
The state sued the company over unsubstantiated advertising claims about the health consequences of one of its products.
A trial court ruled in 2010 that the company did not conduct sufficient scientific studies to support an advertising claim that a non-traditional cigarette, known as Eclipse, would reduce a smoker’s chance of developing cancer. The court awarded the state $8.3 million in civil penalties for the violations and issued a permanent injunction against Reynolds to prevent similar conduct in the future.
The court was in the process of considering the State’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in the lawsuit when the parties reached a settlement, according to Sorrell.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell
Under the the terms of the settlement, the company will pay the state $8.3 million in civil penalties. The remaining amount will cover attorneys’ fees and costs and will be divided among the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, other state attorneys general offices and a private attorney that worked on the lawsuit, along with the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Enforcement Fund, which advanced funds for the lawsuit.
The permanent injunction against Reynolds will remain in effect.
“This was a long and hard, but successful fight. Reynolds crossed the line and it cost them. At a time when tobacco companies are trying to find ways to hook new smokers, Vermont has sent a message that advertising tobacco products with unsubstantiated health-benefit claims is illegal and will not be tolerated,” said Sorrell said in a statement.
Reynolds made its “less risk” claims in print ads placed in nationwide publications, on a website promoting the product, in direct mail materials sent to Vermont consumers and on cigarette packages of Eclipse sold in Vermont.
MONTPELIER — A Democratic PAC must may a $30,000 penalty for violating the state’s campaign finance law during the 2010 election.
Green Mountain Future, a political action committee created by the Democratic Governors Association has settled with the state for the $30,000 penalty, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced Wednesday.
The settlement, which has been approved by the Vermont Superior Court, requires GMF to pay the state a civil penalty of $20,000 for failing to include its address on its website or in television ads that ran during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. GMF must also pay a $10,000 penalty the court had previously imposed for not registering as a PAC and filing campaign finance reports.
“Voters are legally entitled to know who is seeking to influence them,” Sorrell said a statement. “PACs need to obey the laws. They cannot hide. They must disclose their identity, including their address, their donors, and their expenditures, to the extent required by law.”
GMF spent more than $500,000 during the 2010 campaign on political ads. Television ads attacking Republican candidate Brian Dubie, the state’s former lieutenant governor, aired thousands of times but did not include complete identifying information. The public had no way of knowing who was behind the ads because GMF did not file required reports, Sorrell said.
The Vermont Superior Court determined that GMF violated Vermont’s campaign finance laws in Dec. 2011 but did not impose a financial penalty for its failure to fully identify itself in ads.
The Vermont Supreme Court then ruled in September that the lower court erred in not imposing a penalty. In its decision the Vermont Supreme Court said “the difficulty of calculating a penalty [does not] mean that no penalty can be awarded.”
The case returned to the trial court for consideration of an appropriate penalty. The settlement announced Wednesday closes out the only remaining issue in the enforcement action, Sorrell said.
We sat down with the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Jack McMullen, for an editorial board meeting today. He began by talking about the dynamics of a three-way race, which means the race could be won by a plurality of under 50 percent.
It’s unclear how much the independent candidate for AG, Ed Stanak of Barre, will peel away from Sorrell’s support, McMullen said, because Stanak has a strong constituency.
“I distinguish myself in a couple of ways,” McMullen said. “I have a business as well as a law background…. I have a sense for the impact of law on business.”
That would inform the way he’d run the AG’s office, McMullen said, when talking about how he’d be different than incumbent Bill Sorrell.
“Well, business informs you should get ahead of problems…. I would be in the legislature early, giving advice… not on policy… mostly it would be this is the policy you want to do, if you adjust it 15 percent, you could stay out of Constitutional waters,” he said. “…Picking up the mess on the other end is costly, time-consuming.” Continue reading →
Republican candidate for attorney general, Jack McMullen, announced Monday the following elected officials have endorsed him for the office:
- Gov. Jim Douglas
- Auditor Tom Salmon
- Senator Peg Flory
- Senator Kevin Mullin
- Minority Leader Don Turner
- Assistant Minority Leader Brian Savage
- Rep. Lynn Dickinson
- Rep. Janice Peaslee
- Rep. Bill Johnson
TJ Donovan supporter Steve Howard said the the Democratic primary race for attorney general could keep going into late Tuesday night or Wednesday, and a victory or concession speech would not happen Tuesday night.
With 244 of 258 precincts reporting, 95 percent of precinct areas, Donovan reached 20,000 votes to incumbent Bill Sorrell’s 20,615, making the margin 49 percent to 51 percent.
BURLINGTON — A conference room for Democratic primary attorney general candidate T.J. Donovan has some 125 or more people, ranging from politicians to office workers and supporters. There’s standing room only, and people are hovering over iPhones to check AP … Continue reading →
BURLINGTON — A conference room filled with T.J. Donovan supporters at the Hilton Burlington is buzzing with chatter as precinct results for the Democratic attorney general race are rolling out.
With 23 percent of the precincts reporting, incumbent Bill Sorrell had 51 percent of the vote, and Donovan had 49 percent, according to unofficial figures. The crowd applauded after previously giving a “boo” in unison because another tally showed Sorrell with a wider margin.
Former Gov. Phil Hoff is here, and the crowd hovered around a standing up flatscreen with TV news updates scrolling on the screen.
Time will soon tell how much T.J. Donovan’s efforts paid off.
The 38-year-old has sought to oust an incumbent with 15 years on the job, perhaps the most competitive race Attorney General Bill Sorrell has ever seen for an office he first landed through an appointment.
Donovan secured numerous endorsements, ranging from two police associations of the state and Republican mayors of Rutland and Barre. And he apparently out-raised and out-spent Sorrell in campaign dollars.
We just got an email from Bill Sorrell, sent to media outlets and written as a letter to TJ Donovan. The letter asks Donovan to release the questions included in a poll (which Sorrell frames as a ‘push poll’ based on coverage by Seven Days, more on that in a sec) that had been performed by an out-of-state polling firm, and was reported by two Sorrell partisans. For the full Seven Days article by Paul Heintz, click here. Donovan denies the poll was anything but a rigorous survey.