Pity poor William H. Sorrell, Attorney General of Vermont.  On February 28, he went before the U.S. Supreme Court.  He said political corruption in Vermont is a serious problem.  Then under tough questioning from Chief Justice John Roberts he said he hadn't prosecuted anyone for it. Vermont Is Corrupt:  State Attorney General Says So

Pity poor William H. Sorrell, Attorney General of Vermont.  On February 28, he went before the U.S. Supreme Court.  He said political corruption in Vermont is a serious problem.  Then under tough questioning from Chief Justice John Roberts he said he hadn't prosecuted anyone for it.  Asked to provide just one example of the assertion made in his written brief that contributions "determine" the positions politicians take on issues, Mr. Sorrell could not.

Sorrell was between a rock and hard place, defending the indefensible, a state campaign finance law that limits candidate spending to as little as $200 (for a state House seat) in a two-year election cycle. You can't buy balloons, buttons and a bullhorn that will work until Saturday for $200 (although you apparently can get three 30-second television spots in Burlington for $45).

Vermont's law, enacted in 1997, is one of those periodic attempts to upend the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Buckley v. Valeo that, in essence, said money is speech, so stop already with all these attempts to regulate campaign spending.  (Read: Is Buckley dead? That was in 1976.)

Ever since then, politicians local, state and federal have been attempting to do exactly what the Supreme Court said they couldn't do.  They call themselves "reformers," but they really are just incumbents trying to protect themselves against challenge, it being generally understood that any restrictions on political campaigning provide advantages to incumbents.

Why do they keep trying?  Perhaps because the Supreme Court doesn't have a militia, but the smart money is on the tried-and-true concept that it is better to hobble one's opponents than to defend one's own miserable performance at the public trough.  Besides, incumbents can make a law, virtually any law, which despite unconstitutionality, takes years and a fortune to overturn.

Maybe the Supreme Court should have a militia, but until it gets one, most observers of the oral arguments over Vermont's law left with the impression that it is soon to be struck down, hopefully with clarity of language and brightline directive that puts a stop to much of the rampant nonsense foisted under the banner of "reform."

As to Mr. Sorrell, we don't have a clue when his term ends or the circumstances of his incumbency.  But if the court rules as expected, he may just have to find and prosecute all that Vermont corruption he's so sure of, or live with the question posed by Justice Kennedy:  "Isn't the answer that voters can see what's going on and throw the incumbents out?"  We would say "one can only hope," but as sure as the maple syrup flows, that would run afoul of some campaign law.

March 2, 2006
[About CFIF]  [Freedom Line]  [Legal Issues]  [Legislative Issues]  [We The People]  [Donate]  [Home]  [Search]  [Site Map]
2000 Center For Individual Freedom, All Rights Reserved. CFIF Privacy Statement
Designed by Wordmarque Design Associates
Conservative News Legislative News State Legislative News Congressional News Agricultural News Campaign Finance Reform News Judicial Confirmation News Energy News Technology News Internet Taxation News Immigration News Conservative Newsletter Legal Reform News Humorous Legal News News About Senator Kennedy News About The War In Iraq Tribute to President Ronald Wilson Reagan