Daily Archives: July 15, 2014

My second favorite factoid from campaign finance filing day

Most, if not all, of Vermont’s counties have Republican Committees. Some of them raise and spend substantial amounts of money (more on that tomorrow, if I’m lucky). Most of the money is local and stays that way.

But Caledonia County’s Republican Committee raised a rather measly $1200 this reporting period.

All from one single donation.

The benefactor: Philip Morris USA.

Question: Why is a global cigarette giant interested in li’l ol’ Caledonia County?



My very favorite factoid from the July campaign finance reports

To judge by his newly-filed campaign spending report, Senator Joe Benning isn’t losing much sleep at night about his bid for re-election. He raised a measly $300, and spent about half of it.

But there’s a fascinating line item on his Expenditures page: $41.22 spent at Ocean State Job Lots for “Parade Candy.”

Okay. Ocean State Job Lots specializes in “closeout and overstock merchandise.” So, Senator Joe was handing out cut-rate goodies to the kids.

And… wait for it… the store is located in Woodsville, NH, just across the border from Wells River, VT.

Not only did Senator Joe pass out cheap seconds to parade-goers, he bought the stuff in New Hampshire — thus avoiding Vermont sales tax.

Update. As you can see below, my little post drew very serious responses from Joe Benning himself and another Northeast Kingdom reader, pointing out that Ocean State is based in Woodsville but also has a store in Saint Johnsbury. And, in fact, Benning did buy his cut-rate candy in Vermont. It was an honest mistake, the product of quickly reading dozens and dozens of finance reports and just as quickly Googling items like Ocean State’s location. My apologies. And thanks for reading.

Scott Milne’s first campaign finance report is in

Drumroll please…

Milne raised a total of $20,420 so far.

(Apparently he needs a little practice with the form; he reported $20,420 in gifts over $100, and another $20,420 in gifts under $100, for a grand total of, yep, $20,420. Oh,well.)

The fundraising total includes $900 from the candidate or immediate family. And $355 in loans forgiven.

The good news is, he’s only spent $600 so far (printing and T-shirts), so he’s still got some money left.

Odd factoid: Pretty much half of his total comes from a single, out-of-state family: the Boieses. David II, David III, Robin, Mary, and Jonathan Boies gave $2,000 apiece to Milne for Governor. Boies II is the famous lawyer of marriage-equality fame; the others are his wife and children. Go figure.

And only $1800 of his campaign kitty came from Vermont donors. $1200 of that is from people named Milne. Let’s say the candidate has yet to establish broad appeal, shall we?

Odd factoid #2: Virtually all of Milne’s donations came in on the same day: last Friday, July 11. Until then, his campaign had raised a mere $5,100.

Milne fever… catch it!

Early afternoon thoughts on campaign finance filing day

First, a couple newsworthy Tweets from VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld. He reports that the Scott Milne campaign will report roughly $20,000 in contributions, and that Phil Scott will report about $50,000. Milne’s total is awfully pitiful; Scott’s still got a ways to go to catch up with Dean Corren, who qualifies for up to $200,000 in public financing.

As of 1 p.m., neither candidate had actually filed. Other notes:

— The aforementioned Corren reported just under $20,000 in donations from 862 donors. No single donation is worth more than $50. That’s an impressive show of organization and appeal.

— If you want a snapshot of the relative financial pull of the Democrats and Republicans, take a look at their respective House campaign operations. The Dems have raised a daunting $108,000 for their House campaign kitty and spent almost all of that. Notable on the expense ledger are salaries for two campaign staffers — just for the House campaign. (The Repubs, at last check, had one paid staffer for the entire state party. Might be two.) The Republicans’ House campaign operation has raised a paltry $12,000 and spent about 5K.

— Most of the House Dems’ money has come from two sources: State Representatives financially supporting a joint campaign, and corporations and their PACs. Big bucks from MVP Health Care, the Association of Vermont Credit Unions, the Vermont Realtor PAC, New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the Corrections Corporation of America (yuck), among others.

— You know which PAC has taken in more money than the Republicans’ House campaign? The Common Sense Leadership PAC, the brainchild of House Minority Leader Don Turner. He’s raised $26,000 for this cycle and spent $12,000. None of it on donations to House candidates. He has paid $2700 to consultant Shayne Spence, and $900 to Johnston Consulting. Why he’s wasting money on Darcie Johnston’s “expertise” only he can say. Turner raised $10,000 of his money in $2000 increments from two stalwart Republican families: the Vallees and the Pizzagallis.

— In the closely-watched State Senate race in Windham County, Joan Bowman has reported donations totaling $1500. But about three-quarters of that is from herself or her family. Bowman is one of four Democrats running for two Senate nominations in August: the others are incumbent Jeanette White, former Douglas Administration cabinet member “Artful” Roger Allbee, and newcomer Becca Balint. It’ll be interesting to see how much Balint takes in; from the outside, it looks like she and Bowman are in a face-off for the non-White, non-Allbee votes.

Bill Doyle doesn’t have to lift a finger, and isn’t. He’s sitting on a balance of $6,500 from previous campaigns. He’s raised $100 this year and spent nothing. I think he’s rightly confident.

Pat McDonald, the former Republican State Rep who’s now running for one of Washington County’s three seats, has racked up a noteworthy $10,000 in donations. She’s spent about half of that.

Doug Hoffer has raised a modest $4400 and spent most of it. Well, he is essentially unopposed in his bid for a second term as Auditor. The bulk of his spending was in two contributions to the state Democratic organization: $1500 to the party, and $2250 to the Dems’ “coordinated campaign.” I guess Doug’s taking this “Prog running as a Prog/Dem” thing seriously.

— Former Republican Representative Oliver Olsen, on the comeback trail as an Independent, is raking in the cash (by House standards). He’s raised $5,700, and spent almost nothing.

— Who hasn’t been a candidate in four years, but keeps on filing campaign finance reports? Matt Dunne, that’s who. He filed as “not a candidate” and reported a carry-over surplus of $2,856.54.

— Former Democratic State Senator Bill Carris, who resigned for health reasons in 2012 (Eldred French was appointed to fill out his term), has liquidated his campaign funds. He had $9400 on hand, and distributed it to a variety of candidates and the state Democratic Party. Notable gifts: $2000 to Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, $1000 to French’s re-election campaign, and $1800 to his son William Tracy Carris, who’s also running for a Democratic nomination in Rutland County, which has a total of three Senate seats.

— Perhaps the most active of Republican groups so far, at least in terms of supporting candidates, is the Green Mountain Republican Senatorial Committee, which has raised over $15,000 and given healthy start-up contributions of $1500 each to Senator Kevin Mullin and Senate candidate Brian Cullamore, both of Rutland county; and $1,000 apiece to Senator Norm McAllister and Senate hopefuls Dustin Degree, Pat McDonald, Joy Limoge, and Bob Frenier.

I’ll be watching the filings all afternoon. (What a life.) More updates later. Stay tuned!


Is the VTGOP broke?

Click the link to see the Vermont Republican State Committee’s campaign finance report for July 15. Do you see what I see?

I see a party with a negative balance. More expenses than revenues for this campaign cycle so far.


The key numbers:

Total contributions, campaign to date: $61,367.32.

Total expenditures, campaign to date: $62,523.00.

Negative eleven hundred bucks, amirite?

Now, the VTGOP also files with the Federal Elections Commission; its most recent filing came in mid-June, and showed a balance of $36,430.25. I’m not smart enough to know the difference between the state and federal filings; I can say that either way, the bottom line is kinda pitiful. Still gonna be a long slog for “Super Dave” Sunderland as he tries to rebuild from the inglorious days of Angry Jack.

Also, there’s a curious fact in today’s state filings: while the state GOP is bereft of funds, quite a few local and county GOP organizations are rollin’ in it. Well, by Vermont Republican standards anyway. There seem to be a lot of die-hard Republicans who are supporting their local colleagues/cronies, but aren’t doing so for the state organization.

I’m still pondering the meaning of that. And I’ve got some other notes on deadline day coming along shortly. Stay tuned!

Only in #VT: Military Vets for Namaste

You probably wouldn’t ever see this story in, say, Texas or Mississippi.

A large donation from Manchester Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6471 has enabled the Vermont Veterans’ Home to expand its Namaste program.

This included buying furnishings for the Namaste room, which has a scenic view of the landscape and pond in back of the home.

The Namaste program is aimed at “giving non-pharmacological intervention to anxiety, dementia behaviors,” according to Vets’ Home CEO Melissa Jackson. She reports “incredible success” with the program.

Still, for most VFW chapters, I suspect the name itself would be a deal-breaker. Somebody’d think it was Muslim; others would blanch at the idea of inculcating ideas from Eastern religion into our troubled vets. Hey, whaddya doin’ in that Nam-assty room — training American double agents?

Instead, when presented with the idea, the Manchester Post responded with a $40,000 donation.

Hats off to VFW Post 6471 for their generosity. Maybe in the future I’ll be a little less quick to judge, or dismiss, “old-fashioned” community groups like theirs.

You know, sometimes Them Damn Bureaucrats come in real handy.

The daily work of government is unremarkable, in the literal sense: it’s not worth remarking on. The roads are plowed, the mail is delivered, services rendered, benefits distributed, contracts are signed and executed. We don’t even think about the vast majority of what government does.

It’s only on those relatively rare occasions when government (1) fails to function properly, or (2) impinges on something you or I want to do, that we notice. And take umbrage.

Which is how government bureaucracy, which does many things quietly and well, becomes a symbol of dysfunction and denial. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, and there ought to be a constant striving to make it work better. But it works pretty darn well most of the time. And once in a while, its quiet function becomes very loudly and obviously useful.

Case in point: one of this summer’s construction projects in Montpelier is a reworking of the sidewalks around the intersection of Elm, Court, and School Streets. This is the corner where the Uncommon Market, that fine little grocery/deli, plies its trade. The main goal of the project is to make the intersection ADA-compliant; it will also make the Market itself more accessible.

But the project’s been put on hold because a routine inspection found something unexpected. The city’s Assistant Public Works Director (now there’s a grand old bureaucratic job title) Tom McArdle explained in a letter to all concerned parties:

Soon after the project was begun, we were made aware of a potential public and contractor safety issue concerning an adjacent brick building housing the Uncommon Market. …the brick wall appeared to be pulling away from the structure and may come tumbling down.

Oopsie. A structural engineer was summoned. The findings:

… it was determined that the brick exterior wall had partially detached from the building and separated from the underlying structure. From that inspection, the structural engineer reported that the wall is in imminent danger of at least a limited collapse and recommended the public sidewalk and parking lane remain closed with fall protection. The engineer further advised that any significant vibration from construction activities could trigger a collapse.

Double oopsie with nuts.

So the project is on hold and the area near the wall has been blocked off. The building’s owner will have to arrange for repairs, and then the project will be rescheduled.

And the lesson, my children? If it wasn’t for this routine inspection by some damn government bureaucrat, that wall most likely would have collapsed on its own. It could have caused injuries or even deaths, and it would have mightily inconvenienced the building’s occupants — the Market and the apartment dwellers on the upper floors.

Instead, we should see an orderly, preventive repair.

The bureaucracy. It works.