Vermonters First spends more on Wendy Wilton

Oh boy. The conservative Super PAC Vermonters First has just filed another mass-media report with the state Elections Office. This time, $35,000 in TV and radio ads for Wendy Wilton, Republican candidate for Treasurer.

For those keeping score, VF has now reported spending $108,000 for WIlton's campaign -- in the last two weeks.

October 11: $30,000 for Wilton TV ads.

October 23: $43,000 for a Wilton mailer.

October 24: $35,000 for Wilton TV and radio ads.

That's a stunning number, and I'll have more commentary on it in an upcoming post. But for now, I'll move on to another stunner.

Given this avalanche of spending in a mere two weeks, I was curious to know the total amount VF has spent on Wilton's behalf throughout the entire campaign.

The answer: We don't know. Nobody knows. (Except Tayt Brooks, International Man of Mystery.) That's because of a quirk in state election law which I will explain after the jump.  
The state Elections Office posts campaign finance reports online. You can go to its website and look up "mass media filings," which is where I found the above information. There are lots and lots of mass media filings between October 8 and 24. But there are none between August 29 and October 8.

So I talked with Will Senning at the Elections Office, and he explained that state law only requires mass media filings within 30 days of an election. Earlier than that, and there's no requirement to report media buys.

There's a reason for that. During election season, candidates, parties, and political organizations have to file campaign finance reports on or near the 15th of each month. The most recent filing deadline was October 15, and the next one isn't until mid-November, well after Election Day. The requirement to report mass media buys was meant to fill this gap -- to promptly reveal significant political activity in a timely fashion, before the election.

However...

While the mid-month campaign finance reports include all expenditures, those expenditures are not broken down by candidate. So if you have a very active organization -- say, Vermonters First -- spending money on behalf of multiple candidates, then the monthly reports will not tell you how much it spent for any individual candidate.

Which means that, prior to October 7, we have no idea how much money Vermonters First spent in support of Wendy Wilton.

We know it was a hell of a lot, but we don't know how much.

Until now, that was a minor point. But with the unprecedented activity of Vermonters First, it's suddenly become a big loophole in our election law.

Just another small example of how Vermonters First is single-handedly changing our political landscape.  

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