Vermont news outlets recently reported on funds raised to date by Vermont Senate candidates but they provided no information on the origins of the funds nor the political principles used to raise them.
According to OpenSecrets.Org, Senator Leahy has taken about $1.4 million in PAC funds during his career—64% from business, 17% from labor, and 19% from ideological/single issue PACs (http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cycle=2010&cid=N00009918&type=I).
Just in this 2010 election cycle, Senator Leahy has taken more than $600,000 in PAC funds, including about $27,000 from pharmaceuticals or health products companies with the following names: Amylin Pharm, Biogen Idec, Boehringer Ingelheim Corp., Cephalon Inc., Generic Pharm Assn, GlaxoSmithKline, Life Techn Corp., Mylan Inc., Pharm Research and Manufacturers of America (PhaRMA), Teva Pharm USA, and Watson Pharm. The FEC website (http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/cancomsrs/?_10+S4VT00017) has Senator Leahy’s 2010 PAC funds at about $579,000. In addition to contributions by the companies listed above, Pfizer Inc. is also listed.
Many of the health care-related contributions were likely received during the course of deliberations about health care reform, potentially affecting his ability to objectively represent Vermonters without conflict of interest.
I am uncertain if the summaries are up to date and include the last quarter’s filing but one gets the idea.
In a recent Vermont Public Radio interview, Mr. Leahy appropriately lamented about the adverse effects on our democracy of the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision. The court reversed years of precedent that disallowed companies and unions from funding advertisements in the last weeks prior to elections. The decision has opened flood gates for limitless corporate funding favoring or opposing any public policy during elections. However, Mr. Leahy’s stated versus practiced campaign finance political principles are inconsistent. As he has been a player in the Washington game of corporate PAC financing of his campaigns for years, in principle, he clearly does believe in corporate campaign financing. One cannot cherry pick political ethics; either one plays the game or one does not.
I advocate for a Vermont political revolution, whereby we Vermonters insist on optimal ethics from our elected officials (http://www.danielfreilich.com/political_revolution.php). What we really need is comprehensive campaign finance reform, but in the interim, we should insist on personal responsibility, whether required by law or not. If we want more personal responsibility in the general population, our leaders must set an example. Ethical standards for elected officials should be the same as those for nonelected officials.
As such, I believe in and will abide by the following political principles: All significant potential conflicts of interest should be avoided. Vermont candidates and elected officials should not accept PAC and/or other special interest campaign funding. Where they have accepted such funding, they should recuse themselves from voting on relevant issues. Congressional representatives should self-impose term limits to minimize patronage and potential for financial and other potential personal conflicts that go along with a life-long political career in Washington. Finally, they should affirm to Vermonters that they will not automatically “caucus” with their party and will always endeavor to understand what is best for America and Vermont and vote accordingly. They should not misplace their loyalty in favor of party over country and state.
Back to the point: I have not and will not accept any PAC or special interest funding. My campaign relies entirely on individual contributions.
I hope all Vermont candidates will commit to the same governance principles.