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Vermont: Campaign Finance Law Faces Tough Sledding in Supreme Court

The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court displayed little appetite on Tuesday for making basic changes in its approach to campaign finance law, under which the government may place limits on political contributions but not on a candidate's spending.

Vermont's aggressive effort to drive much private money out of politics, through a law it enacted in 1997 that set tight limits on both contributions and expenditures, appeared unlikely to withstand the court's scrutiny after an argument that included a low-key but withering cross-examination by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. of Vermont's attorney general, William H. Sorrell.

The chief justice challenged the attorney general's assertion that money was a corrupting influence on Vermont's political system, the state's main rationale for its law. "How many prosecutions for political corruption have you brought?" he asked the state official.

"Not any," Mr. Sorrell replied.

"Do you think corruption in Vermont is a serious problem?"

"It is," the attorney general replied, noting that polls showed that most state residents thought corporations and wealthy individuals exerted an undue influence in the state.

The chief justice persisted. "Would you describe your state as clean or corrupt?" he asked.

"We have got a problem in Vermont," Mr. Sorrell repeated. -- Vermont Campaign Limits Get Cool Reception at Court - New York Times

Would this indicate that the Chief Justice, for one, is ready to abandon the "corruption or appearance of corruption" rationale for campaign finance laws in favor of "how many corruption cases have you prosecuted?"

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