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SUPERSEDING COMPLAINT

ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT COMMITTED


BY ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM H. SORRELL,
HIS CAMPAIGNS, AND THOSE WHO HAVE SUPPORTED HIS CAMPAIGNS
COUNT ONE
17 V.S.A. 2809
17 V.S.A. 2805
17 V.S.A. 2811
17 V.S.A. 2806
Improper Coordination with Single-Purpose SuperPAC Resulting in
General Sorrell Receiving and Failing to Report $194,081 in Illegal Contributions
For the first time in his fifteen years in office, in 2012, General Sorrell faced a formidable
opponent who challenged him in a primary race. General Sorrell won by only 714 votes. His
narrow victory is directly traceable to the record-setting expenditures made on his behalf by the
Committee for Justice and Fairness SuperPAC (CJF). CJF was formed, fully-funded, and run
by the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) for the sole purpose of supporting
General Sorrells primary campaign.
Records filed with the Vermont Secretary of States office indicate that the CJF spent
nearly $200,000 on General Sorrells campaign. Never before has so much money been spent in
a primary election for Attorney General in Vermont. Never before did a group have such a
determinative impact on a race.
Under Vermont law, campaign expenditures made on behalf of a candidate must be
reported as contributions to the candidate if they were facilitated by, solicited by or approved by
the candidate or the candidates political committee. 17 V.S.A. 2809. These types of
expenditures are commonly referred to as coordinated expenditures and are considered
contributions to the candidate. Id. Therefore, (at that time) they were limited to $2,000 per

election. 17 V.S.A. 2805. The Attorney General has advised that a campaign should assume
that if an expenditure was facilitated, solicited or approved by an agent, whether staff or
volunteer, that it will count as a coordinated expenditure subject to Vermonts $2,000
contribution limit.1
During the campaign, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was a lead supporter of
General Sorrell and an active, high-level agent of the Sorrell campaign. Governor Dean
provided strategic advice to both General Sorrell and CJF. Governor Deans role with both
entities allowed CJF to make improper coordinated expenditures with the Sorrell Campaign so
that it was as though General Sorrell himself had made the expenditures. Under the law, such
contributions should have been limited to $2,000. This improper coordination allowed General
Sorrell to harness unprecedented resources that he was unable to gather on his own and made the
difference for him in a tight campaign.
The events described below and the role of Governor Dean in General Sorrells 2012
campaign form a significant factual and legal predicate for improper coordination resulting in
campaign finance violations:

On March 19, 2012, Chittenden County States Attorney T.J. Donovan formally announced his
candidacy, challenging General Sorrell in the primary election for the Democratic Partys
nomination for Attorney General.

Soon after learning he would be challenged in the primary, General Sorrell met with Governor
Dean and discussed campaign strategy. 2 Governor Dean continued to serve as an advisor to
General Sorrell about how to run his primary campaign. 3

On April 6, 2012, Governor Deans Presidential PAC, Dean for America, made a $10,000
contribution to the Vermont Democratic Party. Upon information and belief, this contribution

Ex. A, Guide to Vermonts Campaign Finance Law, June 2008 at 18 (emphasis added).
Terri Hallenbeck, Vermont Attorney General Race Takes a New Twist, Burlington Free Press, August 24, 2012;
available at http://archive.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120824/NEWS03/308240011/Vermont-attorneygeneral-race-takes-new-twist
3
Paul Heintz, Dean Slams Donovan for Suggesting Illegal Super PAC Coordination, Seven Days Blog, August
23, 2012; available at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/dean-slams-donovan-for-suggesting-illegal-super-paccoordination/Content?oid=2204431
2

was made on behalf of General Sorrell to satisfy a long-standing candidate obligation to


contribute to the party. 4 Apart from Governor Deans contribution, there is no record of
General Sorrell or his campaign fulfilling this financial obligation to the party.

Throughout the spring and summer leading to the primary, Governor Dean served as an
active, top-level surrogate for the Sorrell campaign. In this role, Governor Dean endorsed
General Sorrell, appeared on direct mail pieces, and helped with fundraising. He also made
numerous campaign and media appearances with General Sorrell and made statements in
support of his candidacy.

On July 25, 2012, General Sorrell issued guidance specifically reversing his office policy to
allow PACs, such as CJF, to accept contributions in excess of the state limit of $2,000 and
still make unlimited campaign expenditures in Vermont. 5 This action cleared the way for the
unprecedented CJF expenditures made on General Sorrells behalf during the primary.

Two weeks later, on August 9, 2012, CJF filed a Vermont Notice of Mass Media Activities
report of a massive and record setting advertising purchase of $99,000 in support of General
Sorrell. 6

On August 14, 2012, CJF filed another Mass Media Activities report of an additional
purchase of $46,000 in advertising and $39,000 for direct mail supporting General Sorrell. Id.

On August 29, 2012, CJF filed yet another Mass Media Activities report indicating an
additional $10,080.75 in expenditures related to the advertising spent in support of General
Sorrell. Id. Thus, the financial support CJF provided General Sorrell totaled $194,080.75.

During August 2012, Governor Dean, acting as an agent of the Sorrell Campaign and with full
awareness of its internal campaign strategy, provided direct and substantial assistance to CJF
in developing and formulating its campaign expenditures and strategy on behalf of General
Sorrell. He narrated the nearly omnipresent CJF television ads and advised it on where their
money should go as far as television ads and mailers. 7

During August 2012, Governor Dean also narrated a radio advertisement for the Sorrell
Campaign with a script nearly identical to the CJF television advertisement.

General Sorrell admitted in his September 17, 2012 Campaign Finance Disclosure Form that
he paid $19,889 to Media Strategies located at 1580 Lincoln Street in Denver, Colorado. 8
This is the same address as the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA), which is
the founder of the CJF. 9 This shared address, almost 2,000 miles from Vermont, and DAGA

Ex. B, Dean for America, July 12, 2012 FEC Form 3P, at 9.
Vermont Attorney General Press Release July 25, 2012; available at
http://ago.vermont.gov/assets/files/Civil/IE%20PAC%20guidance.pdf
6
Ex. C, CJF, Vermont Mass Media Activities Reports.
7
Heintz, supra note 3.
8
Ex. D, Sorrell Campaign Finance Disclosure Form, at 5.
9
Ex. E, DAGA PAC 2012 Campaign Finance Disclosure Forms.
5

stated purpose as an organization suggests illegal coordination between the Sorrell Campaign
and DAGA, CJFs founders. 10
The value of the coordinated contributions constituted in-kind contributions to the Sorrell
Campaign, pursuant to 17 V.S.A. 2809, and each contribution in excess of $2,000 is punishable
by a $10,000 fine. 17 V.S.A. 2806. In addition, these contribution should have been reported
on Sorrells campaign finance reports, pursuant to 17 V.S.A. 2811.
COUNT TWO
17 V.S.A. 2831(a)
17 V.S.A. 2811
17 V.S.A. 2805
17 V.S.A. 2806
Failure of DAGA to Timely Register as a Vermont PAC
and Failure to File Campaign Finance Reports 11
Under Vermont law, organizations meeting the definition of a political committee
(PAC) must register within 10 days with the Secretary of States office pursuant to 17 V.S.A.
2831(a). A Vermont PAC must file periodic campaign finance reports with the Secretary of
States office listing their contributions and expenditures. 17 V.S.A. 2811(a). 12 During the
campaign of 2012, Vermont PACs were required to file their campaign finance reports on the
15th of each month starting on July 15, 2012 through the end of the year, depending on when

10

According to its website, [DAGA] is a national political organization formed to support the election of
Democrats to the office of attorney general in all of the states and territories of the United States. DAGA raises
money to provide financial support to Democratic candidates for attorney general. DAGA also provides political
consulting, technical assistance, candidate training, talent recruitment and other general political support services for
sitting Democratic attorneys general. DAGA also invites unlimited contributions from [c]orporations, PACs,
individuals and labor organizations. DAGA Website, About Us page; available at
http://www.democraticags.org/about_us.html .
11
This violation is separate and in addition to the coordination violations. Even if DAGA was found to not have
coordinated with the Sorrell campaign, it still violated Vermont law covering PAC registration, reporting and
contribution limits.
12
Vermont law provides that a federal PAC may satisfy Vermonts filing requirements by filing with the secretary
of state a copy of the portion of the FEC report relevant to Vermont activity and by designating an in-state agent in
the report. 17 V.S.A. 2832.
4

they formed and if they shut down their political activity. Each failure to timely file the required
reports is a violation of 17 V.S.A. 2811 (a).
During the 2012 election cycle, a Vermont PAC that did not make purely independent
expenditures was prohibited from accepting contributions in excess of $2,000. 17 V.S.A.
2805. General Sorrell has stated publicly and in court filings that a Vermont PAC that is related
to an entity that makes direct candidate contributions is subject to the $2,000 contribution limit.
In fact, in response to an October 20, 2014 court decision in a case where General Sorrell sued
the Republican Governors Association (RGA) alleging violations of 17 V.S.A. 2805, 2811,
and 2831, 13 he issued a press release describing and lauding the decision:
If a PAC wants to receive unlimited contributions, it must be functionally distinct
from PACs that contribute to candidates. Mere separation in name only is
insufficient protection against the possibility that funds may flow through the
independent group to candidates. 14
The court found that the RGA violated the law by failing to register as a Vermont PAC, failing to
file campaign finance reports, and accepting contributions in excess of the $2,000 limit for
political committees. After more than four years of litigation in which General Sorrell
repeatedly stressed the legal obligations and limitations of Vermont PACs, the RGA case was
settled on March 17, 2015 in a Stipulated Judgement Order in which the RGA paid a $40,000
penalty. 15 General Sorrell said that [t]he penalty in this case should send a strong message that
political committees need [sic] play by our rules. If PACs that work with candidates receive

13

On October 25, 2010, General Sorrell filed a complaint against the RGA alleging the same violations as Count
Two of this Superseding Complaint. State of Vermont v. The Republican Governors Association, Docket No. 75910-10. Available at
http://ago.vermont.gov/assets/files/PressReleases/Civil/State%20of%20Vermont%20vs%20RGA%20Complaint.pdf
14
Press release available at http://ago.vermont.gov/focus/news/court-finds-republican-governors-associationviolated-campaign-finance-law.php
15
The settlement agreement in this case is available at
http://ago.vermont.gov/assets/files/PressReleases/Civil/State%20of%20Vermont%20vs%20RGA%20Stip%20Judg
ment%20Order.pdf
5

unlimited contributions, there is the appearance, if not a substantial risk, of corruption and undue
influence on the candidates by the large donors. 16
DAGA violated Vermont campaign finance reporting requirements and contribution
limits. DAGA, using the Democratic Attorneys General Association PAC (DAGA PAC),
contributed the maximum allowable amount of $6,000 to General Sorrell (on April 2, 2012 and
July 10, 2012). Ex. E, DAGAs 2012 Vermont Reports. According to the legal position taken
by General Sorrell in his case against the RGA, these direct contributions precluded DAGA from
then operating an independent expenditure only PAC in Vermont without abiding by the $2,000
contribution and $3,000 donation limits in the law.
Despite the legal limitations on DAGAs funding and operation of a PAC caused by its
direct contributions to General Sorrell, DAGA formed, ran, and fully funded CJF for the sole
purpose of supporting General Sorrells primary campaign. On August 9, 2012, DAGA filed a
federal form with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) creating CJF. Ex. F, FEC Form 1. 17
This FEC form was not filed in Vermont. The only contributions to CJF came from DAGA in
the form of two $100,000 contributions made on August 7 and August 9, 2012. The $200,000
total of these contributions was one hundred times greater than what was allowed under Vermont
law. 17 V.S.A. 2805.
In violation of 17 V.S.A. 2811, DAGA did not file paperwork in Vermont establishing
CJF as a PAC or the necessary financial reports until Monday, November 5, 2012, well after the
primary and just one day before the election. 18 Ex. G, CJFs 2012 Late-Filed Vermont
16

Available at http://ago.vermont.gov/focus/news/republican-governors-association-will-pay-penalty-for-campaignfinance-law-violations.php
17
Despite being formed to rescue General Sorrells faltering Vermont primary campaign, DAGA falsely certified to
the FEC that CJF was formed to support more than one Federal candidate. Ex. F at 2.
18
DAGA already had one PAC in Vermont and had filed reports, so it knew about Vermonts reporting
requirements and its contribution limits. A required October 2012 report for DAGA PAC, however, has never been
filed, which is yet another violation of Vermont law punishable by a $10,000 fine.
6

Reports. It is believed that CJF filed with the FEC in order to avoid having to file as a Vermont
PAC and abide by more restrictive rules. The sham FEC filing had the added benefit of possibly
concealing from Vermont citizens the identities of its donors and allowing General Sorrell to
escape questions, especially during the critical time before the primary when such questions
would hurt his campaign.
On October 1, 2012, the Vermont Republican Party submitted a detailed complaint to
General Sorrell (and previously to Governor Shumlin) about illegal coordination with CJF and
CJFs failure to report and file as a Vermont PAC. Internal emails show the complaint was
discussed at the highest levels of the Attorney Generals office. Ex. H, Sorrell campaign
related emails. Despite a conflict of interest and a request for an independent investigation,
General Sorrell ignored his ethical obligations and refused. 19
Just a few weeks, later, an October 24, 2012 newspaper story reported the CJF violations
and asked the Attorney Generals office if it would investigate. The Attorney Generals office
refused, falsely claiming that no complaint had been filed, thereby improperly shielding General
Sorrell and DAGA. 20
DAGAs intentional failure to file as a Vermont PAC and to timely file the required
reports violated Vermont law. 17 V.S.A. 2831(a) and 2811. The direct contributions by
DAGA, through its other PAC, to General Sorrell precluded its formation and use of an
unlimited-donation, independent expenditure PAC. CJFs subsequent acceptance and use of
$200,000 in support of General Sorrells primary campaign violated Vermonts $2,000
19

Vt. Prof. Cond. Rules, Rule 1.11(d)(1) (Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer currently
serving as a public officer or employee . . . is subject to Rule[] 1.7 . . . ,); and Rule 1.7 ( a lawyer shall not
represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest
exists if * * * there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by . . .
a personal interest of the lawyer.).
20
Andy Bromage, Super PAC That Backed Sorrell Fails to File Mandatory Report, Seven Days, October 24, 2012;
available at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2012/10/24/super-pac-that-backed-sorrell-fails-tofile-mandatory-report.
7

contribution limit. 17 V.S.A. 2805. Each violation is punishable by a $10,000 fine, or if


sufficient evidence is discovered to prove a knowing and intentional violation, then criminal
sanctions of up to $1,000 and six months imprisonment are available. 17 V.S.A. 2806(a).
COUNT THREE
17 V.S.A. 2803(a)(3)
17 V.S.A. 2963(a)(3)
17 V.S.A. 2811
17 V.S.A. 2806
Failure to Properly Itemize Expenditures as
Explicitly Required by Vermont Campaign Finance Law
Vermonts campaign finance laws require that a candidate report each expenditure listed
by amount, date, to whom paid, for what purpose. 17 V.S.A. 2803(a)(3); 17 V.S.A.
2963(a)(3). General Sorrell has repeatedly failed to itemize expenditures as required by law. 21
Instead, on his certified reports, General Sorrell merely provided block amounts for his expenses.
He repeatedly failed to indicate the amount of each expenditure, the date, to whom it was paid,
and for what purpose. In just the last two election cycles (2012 and 2014), General Sorrell has
failed to properly account for expenditures on at least sixteen occasions, reimbursing himself
almost twenty thousand dollars without providing an explanation of the claimed expenses, as
required by law. 22
According to the Secretary of States office the core purpose of the campaign-finance
disclosure law is not just to know from where candidates are raising their money, but also to
understand where candidates are spending their money. 23 The laws reporting requirements also
help the public understand whether a candidate is improperly spending donations. It is
21

Paul Heintz, AWOL Pols: Vermont GOPers Take a Walk on Indiana Resolution, Seven Days, April 8, 2015;
available at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/awol-pols-vermont-gopers-take-a-walk-on-indianaresolution/Content?oid=2550508
22
Heintz, supra note 21.
23
Heintz, supra note 21.
8

impossible to discern whether a candidate who submits block expense claims for thousands of
dollars properly spent that money on his campaign or improperly on himself.
In addition to fines for each of these sixteen violations, 17 V.S.A. 2806 and 17 V.S.A.
2903, General Sorrell should correct his campaign finance reports, accounting for each
expenditure as required by law. 17 V.S.A. 2803(a)(3); 17 V.S.A. 2963(a)(3).
COUNT FOUR
17 V.S.A. 2944
17 V.S.A. 2961
17 V.S.A. 2806
Improper Use of State Resources and Failure to Report Campaign Contribution as a
Result of Improper Coordination with a Publicly-Funded Candidate for Statewide Office
Under Vermont law, campaign expenditures made on behalf of a candidate must be
reported as contributions to the candidate if they were facilitated by, solicited by or approved by
the candidate or the candidates political committee. 17 V.S.A. 2944. These types of
expenditures are commonly referred to as coordinated expenditures and are considered
contributions to the candidate. Id.
General Sorrell used state resources, including his administrative assistant and state email
accounts, to coordinate a September 15, 2014 campaign event at McCaffreys Sunoco in
Burlington with fellow Democrat and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Dean Corren. In
response to allegations, General Sorrell has publicly claimed that this event, arranged with the
campaign of a fellow Democrat, was not a campaign event. 24 But evidence, including emails
obtained from his office pursuant to Vermonts Open Records Laws, demonstrates that this event
was purely political. Mr. Corren held no state office or any other official position. Mr. Correns

24

Paul Heintz, Big Fish: Sorrell Nets Corren, but Did He Catch the Wrong Guy, Seven Days, April 1, 2015;
available at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/big-fish-sorrell-nets-corren-but-did-he-catch-the-wrongguy/Content?oid=2546959.
9

campaign used its email list to generate attendance, 25 publicity, and support for this event.
Emails with draft press releases were sent to General Sorrells state account, including a media
advisory that described the event as political:
Two Democratic candidates for statewide office have joined forces to highlight
the inflated gas prices paid by people who live and work in Chittenden County
and beyond.
Ex. I. Other emails obtained from General Sorrells office indicate that he requested edits to
these press releases and that he was advised that the Corren Campaign (using publicly-provided
campaign funds) was preparing posters with photos to be used at this joint campaign event. In
fact, General Sorrell was sent draft copies of these posters that were about to be sent to Kinkos
and asked to respond if you want any tweaks. Id.
Emails also indicate that the staff of United States Senator Bernard Sanders was
substantively involved in the organization of this campaign event. Id. This involvement raises
the question of the extent of that involvement and whether taxpayer-paid senate staff assisted
with a state campaign. It should also be asked whether Senator Sanders utilized campaign
resources, such as his campaign email list, to help generate publicity for this campaign event.
The value of the donation of campaign props, staff time, and the use of Corren Campaign
email accounts to generate attendance, constituted an in-kind contribution to the Sorrell
Campaign pursuant to 17 V.S.A. 2944 and should have been, but was not, reported on Sorrells
campaign finance reports, pursuant to 17 V.S.A. 2961.

25

Ironically, General Sorrell recently filed a complaint against Mr. Corren based entirely on Mr. Correns failure to
report the value of an email list used on his behalf.
10

COUNT FIVE
13 V.S.A. 1102 (Public Officers or Employees Accepting Bribes)
18 U.S.C. 1341 (mail fraud)
18 U.S.C. 1343 (wire fraud)
Apparent Improper Solicitation and Receipt of Donations and
Other Benefits from Plaintiff Attorneys and Lobbyists in Exchange for Official Action
Under Vermont law, a public official shall not, directly or indirectly, corruptly, ask,
demand, exact, solicit, accept, receive or agree to receive a gift or gratuity with the
understanding that he or she will be influenced thereby in any finding, decision, report or opinion
in any matter within his or her official capacity or employment. 13 V.S.A. 1102; See also 18
U.S.C. 1341 (mail fraud) and 18 U.S.C. 1343 (wire fraud) (prohibiting fraudulent schemes to
intentionally deprive citizens of honest services).
As revealed in stories in Seven Days 26 and The New York Times, 27 General Sorrell
frequently attends events at lavish, five-star resorts sponsored by the DAGA. These gilded
junkets are paid for by attorneys, lobbyists, and other special interests who are trying to influence
the official actions of the Attorneys General who attend. On the surface, DAGA is an
organization that supports Democratic candidates for state attorney general. But, in practice, it
exists to support officials who give access to and support its biggest donors. Evidence of this can
be found in the way DAGA supported General Sorrell during the 2012 AG primary race in
Vermont. Additional evidence can be found in many other benefits given to General Sorrell.
General Sorrell obtained and sought favors such as free campaign publicity stunts, travel
expenses, as well as fundraising junkets and vacations disguised as seminars. Evidence of this
misconduct is illustrated by emails with DAGA officials and other special interests in which

26

Heintz, supra note 24.


Eric Lipton, Courting Favor, New York Times, December 2014; available at
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/us/politics/attorneys-general.html?_r=0
27

11

General Sorrell is offered a publicity event with Facebook camouflaged as official business
(April 4, 2012 email); a cover-picture on InsideCounsel magazine (November 18, 2013 email);
cocktails and dinners (numerous emails); and the use of a ski house (to which Sorrell replies
Colorado skiing would be fun!)(February 7, 2014 email). Ex. J. 28 In another instance,
General Sorrell asked a law firm to pay his airfare from CA to Portland, OR and then to Philly
29
In return, emails indicate General Sorrell granted his benefactors high-level access and
attention for Five Hour Energy, AT&T, Comcast, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Uber,
Facebook, and the credit/debit card industry. Ex. J. 30 Additionally, according to an article in
Seven Days, in May 2013, he filed an unprecedented lawsuit against patent troll MPHJ
Technologies, pleasing [Dickstein Shapiros] many corporate victims. 31 Dickstein Shapiro has
donated thousands to General Sorrell and this lawsuit opened the door to even more benefits,
such as expensive trips and a magazine cover shot.
General Sorrell also has admitted collecting envelopes of money from and giving special
access to special interest contributors. 32 In fact, the timeline of General Sorrells solicitation and
receipt of thousands of dollars of cash and favorable official action raise serious questions that
call out for an investigation. In cases involving government officials, a jury can infer guilt from
evidence of benefits received and subsequent favorable treatment. United States v. Annabi, 560
28

Emails in this exhibit were obtained from General Sorrell pursuant to Vermont Public Records Act and are in
chronological order.
29
Paul Heintz, Neighbor in Need: Did Campbell Lobby His Way Into a Job, Seven Days, April 29, 2015; available
at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/neighbor-in-need-did-campbell-lobby-his-way-into-ajob/Content?oid=2570675
30
See also Paul Heintz, Unregistered Lobbyists Forged Close Relationships with Sorrell, Seven Days, May 11,
2015; available at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2015/05/11/unregistered-lobbyists-forgedclose-relationships-with-sorrell
31
Heintz, supra note 30.
32
Paul Heintz, Traveling Salesman: Shumlin Pitches Himself Coast to Coast, Seven Days, March 19, 2014;
available at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/traveling-salesman-shumlin-pitches-himself-coast-tocoast/Content?oid=2337314
12

Fed. Appx. 69, 72 (2d Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Bruno, 661 F.3d 733, 744 (2d Cir.
2011)).
General Sorrell attended a DAGA fundraiser in December 2013 in which he collected
$10,000 in campaign contributions from Mike Messina and attorneys from the law firm, Baron &
Budd. 33 34 At that same fundraiser, General Sorrell met with Mr. Messina and his wife, Patricia
Madrid, about retaining their client, Baron & Budd, to file a lawsuit against gasoline refiners on
behalf of Vermont. That suit promised the potential of millions of dollars in contingency fees for
these attorneys. The next month Messina and Madrid met with General Sorrell in Vermont about
retaining their clients. 35 Soon thereafter, Vermont retained Baron & Budd, giving it and other
attorneys, including Messina, a right to a contingent fee of twenty-five percent (25%) on the
recovery. 36
An earlier article from March 2014 describes how General Sorrell agreed to a meeting
with two attorneys seeking support from him regarding a client issue only after he had solicited
and accepted $1,500 in campaign contributions. 37 General Sorrell has claimed hes not for sale
for $500, but conceded, in another article discussing campaign finance matters, that those who
receive contributions for their campaigns have IOUs to those donors and that he gives special
treatment to those who donate to his campaign: I mean, I return virtually all phone calls, but I
certainly appreciate those who support my campaigns. General Sorrell showed his appreciation

33

Heintz, supra note 24.


Paul Heintz, Gasoline Scheme: Sorrells Suit Could Bring Loot to Donors, Seven Days, April 15, 2015;
available at http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/gasoline-scheme-sorrells-suit-could-bring-loot-todonors/Content?oid=2553621
35
Eric Lipton, Lawyers Create Big Paydays by Coaxing Attorneys General to Sue, New York Times, December
18, 2014; available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/us/politics/lawyers-create-big-paydays-by-coaxingattorneys-general-to-sue-.html.
36
http://www.scribd.com/doc/261971857/State-of-Vermont-contract-with-Baron-Budd
37
Heintz, supra note 33.
34

13

to certain high-level donors by granting special access and a state government contract
potentially worth millions.
COUNT SIX
Conflict of Interest with Official Duties to State of Vermont
In addition to campaign contributions and financial favors from special interests and
lobbyists, General Sorrell received legal representation from an attorney who also had a case
pending before his office. Making matters potentially worse, this attorney may have provided
these legal services free of charge to General Sorrell.
On January 23, 2013, an expedited, limited purpose hearing was held for a court to
review whether the 2012 CJF expenditures were related expenditure[s] made on behalf of an
opposing candidate. 17 V.S.A. 2944. 38 According to the opinion in that case, during that
hearing, General Sorrell was represented by Attorney Richard Cassidy. The courts decision
from the limited-purpose hearing was issued on January 28, 2013.
Two days after the issuance of this decision, on January 30, 2013, General Sorrells
office, under his name, signed a seven-page Assurance of Discontinuance with two clients
represented by Attorney Cassidy. In re John Bucci and Jeremie Arrobas, Docket No. 111-2-13
WNCV. 39 Therefore, General Sorrells personal attorney had a matter pending before General
Sorrells office while representing General Sorrell, an indisputable conflict of interest.

38

Section 2944 was created so there would potentially be some sort of negative publicity available to act as a
deterrent for illegal coordination. In practice, however, the deterrent is ineffective and the process is meaningless.
There was no discovery for this hearing (compelled or otherwise) into whether General Sorrell illegally coordinated
with a PAC. Indeed, the allegations detailed in COUNT ONE have not been investigated at all. The decision that
came from this hearing was based entirely on the public record. No emails or documents were obtained or
examined. No one was deposed. General Sorrell was never even put under oath or examined in any way. In fact, no
witnesses to any of the events at issue were ever examined. The only witness to testify at the hearing was the
petitioner, Jack McMullen, and he witnessed nothing. But General Sorrel is now attempting to taint this process by
publicly misrepresenting the scope of this hearing and the meaning of this ruling.
39
Available at http://ago.vermont.gov/assets/files/Online%20Services%20Assurance%20Of%20Discontinuance.pdf
14

The Bucci and Arrobas case requires annual reporting into 2016 and the Washington
Superior Court retain[s] jurisdiction for purposes of enforcing this Assurance of
Discontinuance. Therefore, this case is still pending before General Sorrells office. Yet an
internal email indicates that Attorney Cassidy continued to advise General Sorrell after the
hearing. (Ex. H, see January 30, 2013 email from Rudarakanchana and April 24, 2013
email to Attorney from Sorrell seeking advice). Most recently, General Sorrell said in a May
5, 2015 radio interview that he continues to be represented by Attorney Cassidy regarding these
matters. 40
The value of these legal services is unknown as is whether General Sorrell personally
paid for these services. However, none of his campaign finance reports from this time period
indicate any payments for these or other legal services. In addition to determining whether
General Sorrell paid for personal legal services, this inquiry should review how an attorney with
a matter pending in General Sorrells office was able at the same time to represent General
Sorrell. There is no way for an attorney (or law firm) with business in the Office of the Attorney
General to be able to represent the Attorney General, regardless of whether that attorney is paid,
without creating a conflict of interest. Either way, allowing his personal attorney to represent his
personal interests while at the same time representing clients in his office violates General
Sorrells ethical duties to the State of Vermont.
PENALTIES
General Sorrell has insisted in court papers that candidates are personally and strictly
liable for any violation that occurs during a campaign and he routinely seeks the maximum
penalties against other candidates even for technical, inadvertent violations of Vermont

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The Mark Johnson Show, May 5, 2015; available at http://vtdigger.org/2015/05/05/the-mark-johnson-showattorney-general-bill-sorrell/


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campaign laws. Under the law, each violation is subject to fine of up to $10,000. 17 V.S.A.
2806 and 2903. General Sorrell would also be required to correct his inaccurate and improper
campaign finance reports. If found guilty of violations of the fraud and bribery charges, General
Sorrell would be subject to significant criminal and civil penalties under either federal or state
law. DAGA would be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. If sufficient
evidence is discovered to prove the violations were knowing and intentional, then criminal
penalties are available. 17 V.S.A. 2806(a).

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