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Vermont GOP wants Sorrell to look into possible union bullying

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 10, 2012

MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - The Vermont Republican Party is asking state Attorney General William Sorrell to investigate a possible case of union bullying.

This week, the Burlington Free Press reported that state Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell accused a union official of "strong-arm tactics."

Campbell, a Democrat, alleges that Ben Johnson, president of Vermont's AFL-CIO, came to his office in December to lobby for a bill that would allow child care workers to unionize.

The senator, who has blocked the bill, told the newspaper that Johnson pushed a piece of paper across his desk with the amount of money union activists had spent on Senate candidates.

"He said this is how much we put into PACs and the number of phone calls we made," Campbell told the Free Press Tuesday. "I slid it back and said you seem like a nice guy and I'm going to pretend it didn't happen."

The senator alleges Johnson came back last month and was just as "obnoxious."

Johnson told the newspaper he did not directly ask for anything in return.

Paul Carroccio, acting chair of the state's GOP, was troubled over the revelation and issued a statement Wednesday, asking for Sorrell to investigate.

"This type of behavior is reprehensible, and has no place in the Vermont Statehouse. Bullying and intimidating lawmakers as they consider bills is not the Vermont way, and all Vermonters should be shocked and appalled at the actions of this special interest group," he said.

"This despicable behavior cannot and should not be swept under the rug."

Carroccio said he wants Sorrell to determine whether any state laws were broken.

"Should his investigation point to a possible violation of federal law -- such as the Hobbs Act -- I would ask that he refer this matter to the proper federal authorities," he said.

"The message must be clear: this type of behavior will not be tolerated in Vermont."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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