Abortion rights campaign set to spend big in Vermont election

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A person holds a sign outside the Statehouse during a rally in May supporting Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment that would further protect abortion rights in Vermont. A coalition of organizations supporting Proposition 5 show the most money in the bank after Friday’s campaign finance disclosure deadline. File photo by Shaun Robinson/VTDigger

The statewide campaign with the most money in the bank this election cycle isn’t backing a candidate — it’s the coalition of organizations working to pass Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment that would further protect abortion rights in Vermont.

That’s according to new campaign finance information filed with the secretary of state’s office before the Friday night deadline. The latest filings provide the first look at fundraising and spending data for statewide and legislative candidates since March 15 — and, in some cases, since they began campaigning. . The filings come with early voting already underway ahead of the Aug. 9 primary election.

Proposition 5, also known as the Reproductive Freedom Amendment, will not appear on ballots until the November general election. But the campaign promoting it has already amassed a formidable war chest: Vermont for Reproductive Liberty, a super PAC supporting passage of the amendment, has taken in $370,203 in the last period and a total of $552 $410 this election cycle. He has spent $71,396 since March 15, leaving him with $384,942 in the bank.

Individual donors represent approximately 14% of these contributions. But the bulk of the funding for the super PAC comes from the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund, at $200,000, and the American Civil Liberties Union, at $100,000. An additional $20,000 contribution from Arizona-based People for Progressive Governance landed May 4, two days after Politico first released the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion reporting that Roe v. Wade was about to be canceled.

The filing indicates that Vermont for Reproductive Liberty is poised to spend heavily on advertising as November approaches. A digital campaign has been ongoing since last fall, and the latest filing includes payments totaling more than $14,000 to GMMB, a major political communications company based in Washington, DC.

The PAC exists solely to secure passage of Proposition 5, according to former Democratic state representative and Vermont health commissioner Harry Chen, who serves as the group’s treasurer. It has no employees and contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to carry out the campaign. (Other organizations listed on the campaign website include Alliance for a Better Vermont and the League of Women Voters of Vermont.)

Amendments to the state constitution are “few and far between,” Chen wrote in an email. “The last was in 2010. Given that, there’s a lot of public education that’s needed to achieve our goal. This includes large media which is expensive.

Toll remains ahead in the race for lieutenant governor

In the crowded Democratic primary for the lieutenant governor, Kitty Toll remains the top fundraiser. The former state representative brought in $82,799 in the last term, bringing her total raised throughout the campaign to $199,200.

Toll had carved out a niche for himself in fundraising and counted several former colleagues in the Legislative Assembly among major donors. That period, her campaign spent big, allocating $108,372 — more than she earned — largely to major media buys.

Toll is so far the only contender in the race to buy TV ads. According to the latest filing, the campaign spent $71,410 on mass media, about two-thirds of its total spending this period, including five-figure buys on WCAX and WPTZ. Toll’s campaign ended the period with $84,386 in hand.

Trailing Toll is former Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman, who in February launched his campaign to get his old job back. Zuckerman raised $74,582 in the last period, bringing his total contributions since launching his campaign to $166,899.

In recent months, Zuckerman has also spent more than he brought in, spending $88,193 on expenses, including consulting fees and staff salaries. (While Zuckerman also produced video ads, no TV purchases appear on his record.) The campaign had $64,392 in cash on Friday, including $3,729 carried over from Zuckerman’s last campaign.

Since mid-March, nonprofit leader Patricia Preston has raised $46,515 in her campaign for lieutenant governor and spent $38,097. Preston, who launched his campaign in January, had $88,178 in cash — more than Toll and Zuckerman — on Friday.

Rep. Charlie Kimbell, D-Woodstock, also vying for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, has raised $19,276 since mid-March and $62,913 since launching his campaign in January. He has spent $36,062 over the past three months and had $22,063 on Friday.

Across the aisle, Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, has raised just $5,956 since mid-March and $14,131 in total since launching his campaign in January. He spent $5,966 that time.

Former Rutland County GOP Chairman Gregory Thayer is running against Benning in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor. Thayer has raised $2,028 since launching his campaign in January and has spent $1,288.

Close matches in the races for Attorney General and Secretary of State

When former Attorney General TJ Donovan announced May 5 that he would be stepping down as Vermont Attorney General, Washington County State Attorney Rory Thibault waited a day before announcing that he would would run for Donovan’s seat. But Charity Clark, Donovan’s former chief of staff who entered the race 10 days later, has so far edged out her main Democratic challenger. Clark brought in $82,673 and spent $17,400, leaving him with $65,273 in cash.

Thibault raised $76,576 and spent $18,967, closing June with $57,609 in the bank. Of this amount, $12,283 came from Thibault himself or his immediate family.

Shortly after Secretary of State Jim Condos announced in February that he would retire at the end of his term, his deputy, Chris Winters, began campaigning for the seat. Since mid-March, Winters has raised $39,638 and spent $22,278. Winters had $38,315 in cash on Friday.

Winters’ top donors include the Vermont Association of Realtors, which contributed $4,210, the maximum allowed. Winters also counts two retired statewide office holders among top donors: Condos and Treasurer Beth Pearce, who each contributed $500.

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, who is running against Winters for secretary of state, has raised and spent nearly identical amounts to Winters this time after launching her campaign more than a month after the last deadline. . Copeland Hanzas raised a total of $39,111 and spent $22,370. She ended the period with $16,742 in cash.

Copeland Hanzas, who has served in the Vermont House since 2005 and chaired the House Government Operations Committee for the past two sessions, counts several current and former lawmakers among his contributors, including Rep. Janet Ancel, D-Calais (500 $); former House Speaker Shap Smith ($500); and Rep. Becca White, D-Hartland ($400).

Montpelier City Clerk John Odum, who joined the race for Secretary of State a day before the last filing deadline in March, had not filed his July 1 disclosure by the midnight deadline of Friday.

Undisputed primaries for Treasurer and Governor

Former Vermont Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for state treasurer. Since launching his campaign in early May, he has raised $113,431 in campaign contributions and spent $24,440, leaving him $88,991 in the bank. Of that amount, $6,012 came from Pieciak himself or his immediate family.

Pieciak’s major donors include Pearce, the treasurer, who said she will not run again after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Pearce endorsed Pieciak the day he announced his candidacy and contributed $500 to his campaign, plus another $4,000 through his campaign committee. Former attorney general Bill Sorrell, whose re-election campaign Pieciak handled in 2012, gave his former agent $1,000 through his dormant campaign committee.

Housing and drug policy advocate Brenda Siegel is also running unopposed in the Democratic primary for governor. Siegel, who announced her run on May 2, raised $40,595 and spent $8,664, leaving her with $31,931 in hand.

Gov. Phil Scott did not announce his intention to run for office until mid-May and said he does not plan to campaign before the primary elections in August. But in recent months, the Republican has already raised $36,861, bringing his total for this campaign cycle to $40,041. However, Scott’s record shows he will have a sizable sum from previous campaigns this fall, $272,274.

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