A method is provided for the polymerization of olefins substituted with a functional group using a transition metal catalyst that, by virtue of one or more stabilizing groups incorporated within the catalyst structure, "fixes" the stereoconfiguration of each olefinic monomer relative to the transition metal complex during each successive reaction in the polymerization process. The invention substantially reduces the likelihood of olefin rearrangement at the active site of the catalyst during polymerization. In one particular embodiment, the functional group is a polar, electron-donating group and the stabilizing group is a Lewis acid substituent; examples of polymers that can be prepared with such a system include poly(vinyl acetate), poly(vinyl alcohol), and poly(vinyl ethers). Novel complexes and catalyst systems useful in the polymerization method are also provided.

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