Vermont GOP chair Jack Lindley yesterday called for Gov. Peter Shumlin to appoint an independent counsel to investigate alleged campaign finance violations committed by Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s campaign, in the recent primaries.
In a letter, Lindley wrote that he wanted special counsel because of “the obvious conflict of interest General Sorrell has in investigating himself and his supporters.” He then cites a timeline involving Howard Dean, Bill Sorrell, and ads from the Committee for Justice and Fairness, which is run by the Democratic Attorneys General Association.
The letter claims that Howard Dean’s volunteer work for Sorrell’s campaign forms a significant legal basis for further investigation into the relationship between the super PAC and the campaign.
Reached by phone in Atlanta, Sorrell dismissed the allegations as a “ridiculous” political partisan move indicative of mounting campaign rhetoric.
“Howard Dean is aware of the campaign finance laws, and I’m very much aware of the laws, and we did nothing wrong here, nothing wrong whatsoever,” said Sorrell. “If Jack Lindley wants to waste public dollars on an investigation that’s not going to turn up any wrongdoing, I guess he’s got the right to do it.”
Sorrell couldn’t recall a precedent where an attorney general had faced accusations of violating campaign finance law, and remained unsure about the standard procedure for investigating the attorney general’s office or campaign.
He suggested that he could “wall himself off” from an investigation which had merit, or that a state’s attorney could investigate the office.
In response today to the letter, the governor’s counsel Sarah London wrote that Lindley should instead submit his complaint to a state’s attorney.
Meanwhile, Howard Dean called Lindley’s request an exercise in “throwing mud” and he said Lindley’s charges were not backed by evidence.
Lindley’s letter collected and connected facts from the public record, he said, but didn’t necessarily reveal any fresh details on the topic, which had been reported about extensively by the press.
Lindley denied that the letter attempted to distract attention from similar questions raised last week about the relationship between Randy Brock and Tayt Brooks, who runs Republican super PAC Vermonters First.
Details from the letter, which is accompanied by 42 pages of “exhibits,” include a $20,000 radio ad purchase from the Sorrell campaign, paying an organization with the same address as DAGA, the group behind the Committee for Justice and Fairness.
Although the letter also accuses the super PAC of failing to file Vermont election forms with the Secretary of State, Federal Election Commission filings show that the group registered at the federal level, and so can opt to comply with the federal filings deadlines in October.