Vermont House And Senate Races See Influx Of PAC Spending

Oct 3, 2018

With only about a month until Election Day, candidates for statewide office are garnering most of the media attention in Vermont. However political action committees appear to be focusing most of their energy on local races for House and Senate.

By the end of August, five super PACs had registered in Vermont for the 2018 election cycle. And their arrival seemed to signal the onset of a spending blitz on the race for governor.

But so far at least, that spending hasn’t materialized, and super PACs have been mostly quiet since the August primary. Meanwhile, the more garden-variety political action committees — they can't accept unlimited donations, as super PACS can — seem more interested in local races for House and Senate than big statewide contests.

In the past month alone, 10 political action committees have donated $78,000 to dozens of local candidates. None has spent more than the Vermont-NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, which gave $38,000 to 45 candidates in September.

“We firmly believe, in Vermont and elsewhere, having legislatures composed of supporters of working people and supporters of education and supporters of unions is absolutely crucial,” said Darren Allen, the Vermont-NEA's spokesman.

Allen said it’s not that the union doesn’t care about the race for governor — in fact, it endorsed Democrat Christine Hallquist in that race and gave her the maximum contribution of $4,080.

But, Allen said, it’s the 180-member Legislature that decides which laws get passed and which ones get rejected.

Alison Cummings, with the Vermont Association of Realtors, said her organization is also focused squarely on the Statehouse.

“They’re hugely important,” Cummings said.

The Vermont Realtors PAC donated about $28,000 last month to 57 candidates for House and Senate.

Cummings aid the Legislature has enormous control over policies that affect the housing landscape. And if her organization’s PAC can help elect candidates that share their views, then Cummings said the political donations are a worthwhile investment.

“And so we really support candidates who see that housing is a critical need in Vermont," Cummings said.