Quick Guide: Vermont: Small Is Mighty

In this episode of State AG Pulse Vermont AG Charity Clark talks with Stephen Cobb and Ann-Marie Luciano about her background as both the descendant of generations of small-town Vermont grocers, and the first woman to hold the role of Vermont attorney general. She explains how both her passion for small businesses and her gender have informed her priorities since taking office across a broad range of issues, from consumer protection, the environment, and privacy rights to domestic violence and women’s reproductive health.

00:44: Stephen Cobb introduces himself, his partner Ann-Marie Luciano and Vermont AG, Charity Clark.

01:09: Stephen comments that General Clark’s background is somewhat unique, in that she is one of the few state AGs who also served in the office that they now have the pleasure of leading. He asks General Clark about her path to becoming the first female attorney general of Vermont, and how her prior roles have shaped her leadership style.

01:51: AG Clark details her career in politics, starting in the governor’s office. She talks about becoming first chief of staff in the AG’s office and the opportunity that presented to her to set standards for the role and what it needed to do.

03:36: Having served as chief of staff for 4 years enabled her to hit the ground running after she was elected, to propel the office in the right direction. One of the key changes she made was to unite the Environmental and Public Protection Divisions to encourage cross-pollination between environmental and consumer work.

05:30: Stephen asks AG Clark about her list of priorities going into her first term. AG Clark makes the point that as the descendant of small town Vermont grocers, she is very committed to protecting consumers and protecting the marketplace. In Vermont, businesses are considered to be consumers in statute and case law. Her philosophy is that helping small businesses also helps Vermont communities. She uses the example of her advocacy for a bill banning PFAS in cosmetics and menstrual products to illustrate her dedication to consumer issues, especially those related to women’s health and safety, as well as environmental issues.

08:36: Ann-Marie asks General Clark about her priorities for women’s reproductive rights, post Dobbs. AG Clark outlines her efforts to enshrine reproductive rights in Vermont’s constitution, known as the Liberty Amendment, which was voted for by every town in Vermont. She also describes her Safe Harbor Plan, to provide a haven for women whose right to an abortion was impacted by the Dobbs decision.

11:01: Stephen notes that women’s reproductive rights is an area where Democratic AGs across the country have been working together, and the increasing trend for state AGs to work together across the country, regardless of political affiliation. He asks General Clark about areas where she sees this happening.

12:22: Per AG Clark, President Trump’s extremist views served to catalyze collaboration. She points to the bipartisan multistate lawsuits to combat massive numbers of scam robocalls coming into Vermont and other states.

14:24: Ann-Marie asks about Vermont’s privacy laws, and steps General Clark is taking to investigate and address privacy issues in the absence of federal standards, given the patchwork of state laws across the country. AG Clark responds that it is important to her that every state to have their laws reflect their values. Vermont takes privacy very seriously. Her House Commerce Committee is taking the extraordinary step of meeting over the summer to codify Vermont’s values in this important area. She adds that the patchwork approach is going to make it challenging for businesses to comply, especially smaller businesses that operate in more than one state. Her office has, and will continue to, make sure that businesses are given every opportunity to learn about their privacy obligations and to comply.

19:48: Stephen asks General Clark for advice that she would give to businesses working not just in Vermont but nationally, when it comes to working with the state AG office.

20:38: General Clark prides her office on its accessibility, and encourages businesses to reach out and create a dialogue. Her view is that if businesses are repeatedly struggling to comply, then her office needs to make it easier for them.

22:12: Stephen asks about any unique initiatives in the office that General Clark would like to take a moment to highlight. For AG Clark, domestic violence is at the top of the list and is an area in which progress has been made. Installing private lactation facilities for office staff is another small but significant milestone with recruitment and retention benefits.

26:26: Stephen sums up the discussion and thanks General Clark for her time. Ann-Marie notes in closing that in addition to being the first woman AG and first chief, General Clark is descended from the first governor of Vermont.

To listen to the full podcast, click here. To listen to a particular section, open the recording and use the time stamps provided above to navigate to the desired part.