The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a hearing to a Vermont anti-abortion group that had challenged several provisions of the state’s campaign finance law. The court’s decision not to hear the case effectively upholds a ruling issued in July by a federal appeals court shooting down a legal challenge first filed in 2009 by the Vermont Right to Life Committee. Attorney General William Sorrell called Monday “a good day for Vermont,” while Vermont Right to Life’s Sharon Toborg said the group was disappointed. Changes to campaign finance laws occurred both at the state and federal level since the case was filed, and the case evolved with them. A key question ended up being whether VRLC could set up a separate “fund for independent political expenditures” and make unlimited political contributions through that vehicle.
The effort to set up the fund was designed to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which lifted caps on contributions made by what are termed independent political committees.
VLRC maintained the fund was set up not to make direct contributions to candidates but merely promote the group’s positions on issues, and therefore should not have to abide by the limits.
Judge William Sessions III of the U.S. District Court for Vermont ruled in 2012 that there was too much overlap between VRLC and the affiliated fund to call it independent of its organizational parent. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Sessions’ decision in July.