News You Should Know: Nov. 21, 2017 AKI SOGA/FREE PRESS
Dean Corren, a Progressive/Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2014, faced a $72,000 penalty brought by Attorney General Bill Sorrell for allegedly violating the state's campaign finance law. The state has agreed to drop the case in a settlement.(Photo: FREE PRESS FILE)Buy Photo
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Attorney General's office has settled a lawsuit with a former lieutenant governor candidate who was accused of taking advantage of a mass email from the state Democratic Party in violation of campaign finance rules.
The settlement announced Tuesday will have Dean Corren pay $255, the estimated value of the in-kind contribution for the emails, to charity.
The attorney general's office filed suit against Corren in 2015 alleging that by having the mass email sent on his behalf during his 2014 campaign, Corren violated campaign finance law because he had accepted more than $180,000 in public money for his campaign under the Progressive and Democratic party banners.
The state initially sought $72,000 in fines and penalties. Corren's attorney, John Franco, said the amount of fines and penalties had been adjusted due to changes in state law, and that Corren would have likely faced a penalty of just over $20,000.
A court trial was poised to begin Dec. 7.
In a statement, Corren said he had offered multiple times to pay for the value of the email.
"We achieved everything we wanted," Corren said of the settlement. He thanked Franco and commended his wife, Cindy, for enduring "three stressful years."
Attorney General T.J. Donovan said the settlement was fair.
"I was concerned about the notion of fairness in this case since the beginning," Donovan said. "The penalty always seemed high to me — the potential penalty, I should say."
The state and Corren will each bear the cost of their own legal fees.
Franco said he would ask the Vermont General Assembly to change the campaign finance law to allow candidates the chance to correct any alleged violations in the future.
"Dean Corren has spent over $50,000 defending his good name over a $255 email," Franco said in an interview. "No Vermonters should be put through that. That is treating Vermonters like you’re an occupying army."
Donovan said he would support a change to the state's campaign finance law to allow candidates to comply with complex legal requirements.
"I do believe that when people make mistakes, they should be given the opportunity to correct them," Donovan said.
Donovan said the Corren case raised "more questions than answers," and that lawmakers may need to examine how candidates are supposed to put a dollar value on electronic assistance.
"Going forward in the next election, how are they supposed to value what an email is?" Donovan asked.
Source : http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2017/11/21/vermont-2014-candidate-settle-campaign-case-255/884964001/