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.

4 thoughts on “My very favorite factoid from the July campaign finance reports

  1. NEK Observer

    This story would be interesting if it were true. Anyone with a first grade education can see that his disclosure form states that he spent the money in his own county – at the ST. JOHNSBURY Ocean State Job Lot.

    Methinks an apology is the least you can do at this point for not taking one second to read the entirety of a single line on the form.

  2. Sen. Joe Benning

    Sorry to bust your bubble JV. You didn’t check your facts. If you had dug a little deeper you would have found that Ocean State Job Lots does indeed have a store in Woodsville, NH, but they also have one on Memorial Drive in St. Johnsbury, VT. If you actually checked my campaign finance report while trying to make this non-story a story, I’m surprised you didn’t notice the address of the Job Lots where I spent the money. If you had you would have noticed the latter one is where I bought the candy. Nice try though!

    Oh, and by the way, when the St. J store doesn’t have enough candy, I might also go to Woodsville’s store. It’s not because I’m trying to avoid taxes, it’s because nobody else around here sells candy in bulk that’s individually wrapped for parade throwing. (Spend some time in the Kingdom for a while and you’ll see what I mean.) That store also employs a few of my constituents. In addition Woodsville, since you probably don’t know this, combines with Wells River for one of the biggest of our more than seven parades (that I can remember while typing this) in my district. My district covers all of Caledonia County and the six northernmost towns in Orange County, so I travel a great deal and throw a lot of candy during an election. And yes, I do everything I can to spend as little as is necessary to get the job done. (I even know some Democrats and Progressives who share that philosophy with me at the statehouse!) Come to Lyndonville’s Stars & Stripes parade this Saturday and I’ll happily throw you some candy!

    In closing, I know we politicians are fair game for bloggers from all walks of life. While we may have differences of opinion on how Vermont should progress, I hope all of us at least try to be accurate in our statements. (I know, I’m not perfect either.) I do hope you’ll use some of that acerbic wit of yours (really wish I’d copyrighted that phrase!) to question why a whole lot of people seem to be accepting/spending obscene amounts of money in other races, rather than picking on somebody who spent forty bucks at Job Lots for two parades worth of candy just because you take joy at picking on Republicans. You’re better than that.

  3. NEK Observer

    It was a mistake, but not at all an honest mistake. Failing to read the entirety of the single-line entry that you took Senator Benning to task over is at best the ultimate demonstration of laziness. An honest mistake implies at least a small amount of effort was put forth. Failing to read the remainder of merely one line of text can’t be considered putting forth any effort at all.

    Even if you hadn’t read the entire line on the form, it’s laughable that you think that the gas required to drive to Woodsville was worth a savings of about $2.50 in sales tax. We are talking about a 60 mile or greater round trip for Senator Benning.

    If you want your blog to be respected, at least demonstrate some degree of thought. Don’t put forth made up controversy when a mere twenty seconds of thought would have led you to conclude that none existed.

    And to correct you yet again, Ocean State Job Lots is based in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, not Woodsville, New Hampshire. It’s a chain of 113 stores in the northeast.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Boy, you spent an awful lot of time and energy (and anger) on a simple mistake on a relatively minor item on a blogpost. That, in itself, is a measure of respect, and I appreciate it. If you didn’t think my words had power, you wouldn’t spend any time arguing.

      As for your point, yes, I should have taken more care. If you saw me at work yesterday, you would have seen me spending hours going over hundreds of campaign finance reports and checking hundreds of references and turning out a large quantity of verbiage. If Ocean State is the only mistake I made, I think I did pretty well.

      Which is not to excuse a baseless jab at Senator Benning. I was wrong, and I’ve apologized. I think you, and the good Senator, might spend a lot more time worrying about the other stuff from yesterday — the fact that the VTGOP is still underfunded, out-organized, and ill-prepared for a competitive campaign. And, believe it or not, I’d like to see a competitive VTGOP; as long as the Dems have little to worry about, they could very easily get lazy if not corrupt. I’d hate to see that happen.


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