Vermont News Briefs

Court hearing on alleged Sorrell super PAC coordination delayed more than a month

It looks like Jack McMullen won’t get his day in court, if his luck keeps up.

McMullen, the Republican candidate who lost his bid for attorney general, requested an emergency hearing on alleged illegal coordination between Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell and a super PAC during the August primary, only to learn that the hearing would take place two days after the election.

Now, because Bill Sorrell’s attorney, Richard Cassidy, was out of the country on Nov. 8, the hearing has been delayed until Dec. 13. McMullen also told VTDigger that because he’s scheduled to attend a corporate board of directors meeting in New York on that date, the hearing could be pushed back further.

“I don’t have any comment on the delay, not at this point,” he said. “As long as it’s done reasonably quickly … What I hope to do is, now that the election’s over, simply ask that evidence be preserved and that it be referred to a state’s attorney for investigation and processing.”

McMullen exploited an arcane provision of campaign finance law to force a hearing on Sorrell’s alleged coordination with a super PAC and Howard Dean, who campaigned for Sorrell.

“What I wanted to do was to call attention to this issue before the election, so that the voters would at least be aware of it,” said McMullen. “It didn’t seem to matter. He [Sorrell] got elected anyway.”

McMullen’s lawyer Paul Gillies is preparing a memo to guide the court’s interpretation of the statute.

McMullen said it’s unlikely that the court will make an immediate determination about whether Sorrell violated the law, in the absence of a fuller body of evidence, aside from what’s already public record in campaign finance filings and news reports.

Republican state chair Jack Lindley’s request for Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster to investigate the alleged campaign finance violations is pending. Fenster didn’t return a call for comment.

Sorrell reiterated that he didn’t violate any campaign finance laws. “I have a great deal of experience on campaign finance issues, including familiarity with the law on coordinated expenditures. As I’ve said repeatedly, I zealously adhere to the law in this matter,” he said.

Sorrell said he chose Cassidy as his counsel after he offered to appear on his behalf, and because “he’s an accomplished litigator, and a Democratic National Committeeman for Vermont. … He’s certainly been involved in political issues, and that’s what this is, a political issue, really.”

As for what will happen at the hearing, even on the question of what Cassidy will present or argue, Sorrell seems to be in the dark. “Even Jack McMullen’s attorney is saying that this is a matter of first instance for the court,” he said. “Even what procedure will be followed – that’s very much up in the air.”

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Nat Rudarakanchana

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