- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - In a story Jan. 12 about the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear a challenge to Vermont’s campaign finance law, The Associated Press erroneously reported a question raised by the case. The question was whether the Vermont Right to Life Committee Fund for Independent Political Expenditures could receive unlimited contributions, not make them.

A corrected version of the story is below:

US Supreme Court declines to review Vermont campaign law

US Supreme Court declines to review challenge to Vermont campaign finance law


Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a hearing to a Vermont anti-abortion group that had challenged several provisions of the state’s campaign finance law.

The court’s decision not to hear the case effectively upholds a ruling issued in July by a federal appeals court shooting down a legal challenge first filed in 2009 by the Vermont Right to Life Committee.

Attorney General William Sorrell called Monday “a good day for Vermont,” while Vermont Right to Life’s Sharon Toborg said the group was disappointed.

Changes to campaign finance laws occurred both at the state and federal level since the case was filed, and the case evolved with them. A key question ended up being whether VRLC could set up a separate “fund for independent political expenditures,” which could receive unlimited contributions.

The effort to set up the fund was designed to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which lifted caps on contributions made to what are termed independent political committees.

VLRC maintained the fund was set up merely to promote the group’s positions on issues, and therefore should not have to abide by the limits.

Judge William Sessions III of the U.S. District Court for Vermont ruled in 2012 that there was too much overlap between VRLC and the affiliated fund to call it independent of its organizational parent. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Sessions’ decision in July.

The high court’s decision not to take the case “means that a political action committee must do more than create a separate bank account for independent expenditures to be exempt from the limits on contributions,” said a statement from Sorrell’s office on Monday.

“Since the two committees shared board members and staff, transferred funds to one another, and jointly planned activities, both of them were required to abide by the contribution limits,” the statement added.

VRLC also had argued that its main arm should not have to file campaign finance reports, saying it engages in a variety of activities and does not have “the major purpose” of supporting or opposing candidates. The Supreme Court also declined to review the appeals court’s rejection of that argument.

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