Democrat John Bauer kicked off a run for lieutenant governor Monday that he said will focus on economic equality, more investment in Vermont businesses and campaign finance reform.
Bauer, who was endorsed by the state Democratic Party over the weekend, told reporters at the Statehouse that he would not accept corporate donations and intends to qualify for public campaign funding.
To do that, Bauer would need to raise at least $17,500 from 750 Vermonters in amounts of $50 or less by mid-June. That would entitle him to receive $50,000 for the primary election period and $150,000 for the general election, according to the Secretary of State’s 2014 election guide.
“Money in politics is a like a snake wrapped around our democracy,” Bauer said. “It’s growing and it’s squeezing ever tighter. Public financing is a way for us to loosen that grip to make a change … to make publicly elected officials elected using public money. Because of what’s happened in two (U.S. Supreme Court cases) we now have corporate financing of candidates.”
Bauer is the only statewide Democratic candidate to take the no-corporate-donation pledge, but the party says it embraces Bauer’s effort.
“The VDP fully supports public funding,” spokesman Ben Sarle said in an email. “And John Bauer’s intent to qualify for it is a principled decision, and I respect him for it.”
Bauer joins former Progressive lawmaker Dean Corren of Burlington and Marina Brown of the Liberty Union Party as announced candidates for the state’s No. 2 job. Incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is expected to seek re-election.
Bauer, 57, of Jeffersonville said he believes the state should create ways for Vermonters to invest within its borders.
He proposed the creation of a state-run retirement fund similar to an IRA or the popular college savings plan in which non-union, hourly workers could contribute money that would be invested in local communities. He suggested the funds could be managed by Vermont banks and credit unions and could offer various risk levels for investors. He said Vermonters should benefit from the same strategies that are enriching Wall Street investors.
“More and more wealth is going to the wealthiest people in this country,” Bauer said. “What we need to do is use some of the techniques that this economy uses to build wealth for the wealthy to benefit more people in Vermont.
“We have to encourage employee-owned businesses, benefit corporations and community ownership of things because this is how we will build wealth for the people.”
Bauer said he thought it was time to explore the concept of a state bank and supported an idea floated by Sen. Anthony Pollina, D/P/W-Washington, to put 10 percent of the state’s operating cash in such an institution.
“I think exploring the state bank idea is a good idea,” Bauer said. “There a reason why banks are becoming wealthier and wealthier … they are gaining all of the profits.”
Bauer also said he agrees with fellow Democrat Gov. Peter Shumlin’s push toward a single-payer health care system and other policy issues, but has not yet reached out to the governor for an endorsement.
Bauer is the sound supervisor for the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.