Attorney General William Sorrell has issued guidance concerning the contribution limits applicable to candidates who do not run in a primary. For the most part, the clarification affects independent candidates and those nominated by a minor political party through the caucus process. The Attorney General’s policy stems from his Office’s examination of the impact of the Legislature’s passage of Act 90, the law that revised Vermont’s campaign finance laws.
While the law that goes into effect in January 2015 sets contribution limits per general election cycle, the law in effect through December 2014 sets limits “per election.” This approach leads to lower contribution limits for independent candidates who do not have a primary, as opposed to major party candidates who run in both a primary and general election.
In issuing this guidance, the Attorney General was mindful of a recent decision in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that applying different contribution limits for write-in and major party candidates for the same office violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Under the Attorney General’s enforcement policy, all candidates for office in Vermont in the 2013-2014 election cycle will be permitted to accept $2,000 from a single source and $6,000 from a political committee (unless the office is one for which no primary exists for any candidate). In other words, even when a candidate runs in only one election (such as an independent, write-in, or minor party candidate), that candidate will be permitted to accept contributions at the same level as those of major party candidates who run in both a primary and general election for that office.
Source: Attorney General, May 19, 2014