The gang that couldn't shoot straight

It's getting to be a consistent pattern on the Republican side: violations of state election law, mostly having to do with disclosure requirements.

This past week alone, the VT Democratic Party has filed four complaints with the Attorney General's office. And unlike Republican charges, which come in the form of "raising concerns" or "asking questions," the Dems have specific evidence to support their charges.

The alleged Republican violations are technical in nature, but as Dem party chair Jake Perkinson pointed out, the laws "are not onerous or overly complex." It's Politics 101: You put out a flyer, publish an ad, or buy time on radio or TV, you disclose who paid the bill and notify any candidate mentioned in the ad.  

First, on October 23, the Dems accused Vermonters First of failing to notify House candidate Maida Townsend that she was being targeted in a mass mailing, and of failing to include her on its list of targeted candidates. (Townsend discovered this when she, herself, received the mailer at her home.)

The following day, the Dems accused Windham County candidates Dick Tracy (Senate) and Scott Ranney (House) of jointly sending a mailing that didn't state its funding source, as required by law.

And on Friday, the Dems accused David Ainsworth, House candidate from South Royalton, of five separate violations over the past two months.  (This is a rematch of a 2010 election in which Democrat Sarah Buxton defeated Ainsworth by one single vote, so the violations are especially noteworthy.)
The Dems accuse Ainsworth of failure to disclose funding sources on campaign material, failure to report a media buy made within 30 days of the election as required by law, and failure to file campaign finance reports on time.

The Dems also ask the AG to look into possible coordination between individual candidates and Vermonters First, since the nature of the violations appears to show a consistent pattern.

These allegations are relatively minor, but their numbers are increasing. That would seem to indicate one of three things: incompetence in the basics of legal campaigning, a disconcertingly casual approach to obeying the law, or an effort to conceal the money flow (since most of the alleged violations concern disclosure of funding sources).

The AG's office has launched inquiries into the first three complaints. A probe of the Ainsworth charges will probably follow within the next few business days. Again, none of this is truly scandalous, but it's a good thing that the Dems are keeping a sharp eye on the Republicans. Especially with the unprecedented nature of Vermonters First's spending in this campaign.  

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