• End legalized bribery
    November 20,2012

    End legalized bribery

    The editorial cartoon in your Nov. 15 edition really hit home with me. I was a candidate for the State Legislature seat in Caledonia-1 and have always considered money in political campaigns as a form of corruption, unless it is governed by laws that very strictly limit amounts that can be given. My race happened to be one of the 40 or so house and senate seats that were targeted by Lenore Broughton, the wealthy right-wing Burlington heiress who poured about $800,000 of her fortune into supporting Vermont Republican candidates.

    I was the challenger in the race, running against an incumbent that has held the seat for 18 of the past 20 years. Despite working very hard I lost my race, within the 5 percent of total votes that would have allowed me to have a recount. Given that the result was at the high end of the 5 percent, I decided to accept it and not use taxpayer funds to try to change something that likely would not have changed.

    Broughton paid for two mailings that were sent to residents in my district, the first giving the names of my opponent and the two Republican senate candidates, advertising that their Democratic opponents had a secret plan to raise taxes. The second gave my name and those of the two Democratic senate candidates, again stating the lie that was in the first mailing, that we had a secret plan to raise taxes. When something like this happens in the last month of the campaign, it’s difficult to combat, especially given that most candidates don’t have limitless amounts of money to do so.

    Candidates on the other side claimed that they had nothing to do with those mailings and were not particularly enamored of them. I have no reason not to believe them, but given that they were not comfortable with what had happened, I wonder why they didn’t make a huge public issue of it, perhaps dissuading other super PACs from doing the same thing in the future. They missed an opportunity to make a case for more honesty and less sleaze in political ads.

    I’ll never know how many voters were discouraged from voting for me because of this lie. If 55 people who were thinking of voting for me selected differently because of the mailings, that caused me to lose the election.

    I’m writing this letter because it’s important that Vermonters know that the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court two years ago has the potential for corrupting our politics like nothing we have ever seen before. One thing we can do is let office holders know, prior to an election, that they will not get our votes if they accept this kind of legalized bribery.

    Claudette Sortino

    South Ryegate

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