Daily Archives: November 2, 2014

Freeploid Follies: Sunday Funday edition

So, what’s up with Vermont’s Largest (But Rapidly Shrinking) Newspaper? Rather a lot, really. As we await the likely post-Election Night bloodletting at the Freeploid, there are several items worthy of note…

— Today’s front-page article on the race for Governor, which features a passel o’Jes Plain Folks articulating their views on the Milne/Shumlin contest. And I do mean “Milne/Shumlin,” because once again, just like the ‘Loid’s poorly-written endorsement editorial, there was no mention whatsoever of Dan Feliciano. Well, he was mentioned at the end of the article, in a list of all seven candidates for Governor. Yep, Dan the Libertarian Man was lumped in with the Emily Peytons and Cris Ericsons of the world.

Now, I don’t think Feliciano’s getting much more than 5% of the vote, maybe even less. But he’s a credible candidate, and he deserves more consideration than the Freeploid is offering him. The endorsement editorial, which had no room for poor Dan, managed to set aside an entire paragraph for Peter Diamondstone of all people. You’d almost think the Freeploid was trying to give a helping hand to the Republican Party by banishing Feliciano from its pages.

— An editorial in today’s paper touched on a subject near and dear to the Freeploid’s heart: transparency. It slammed South Burlington city government for refusing to release information about filling a vacancy on city council. In the process, editorial writer Aki Soga twice mentioned the name of the interim Councilor.

And spelled it two different ways. “John Simson” and “John Simon.”

In consecutive paragraphs.

From which I conclude that the Freeploid wants the process to be open… but couldn’t care less about who’s actually on the council.

— Today’s Freeploid (for those who get home delivery) came wrapped in a plastic bag, as usual. But it wasn’t the normal transparent bag; it was a shiny plastic advertisement for the new LL Bean store opening next weekend in Burlington. Funny thing: it was only a week or so ago that the Freeploid ran an article about the upcoming opening of the Beanery.

I fully anticipate that we’re going to get an article on Friday or Saturday about the grand opening, with comments from grateful shoppers about the legendary outfitter (whose clothing, like Orvis’, has slipped in quality of late) finally coming to the Queen City. And if such a story does appear, it’ll be the last piece of a nice little News/Sales/News sandwich. Right in line with the Newsroom of the Future’s intentionally blurred line between editorial and advertising.

— What do you do when you plan to cover a protest and nobody comes? Well, if you’re the Freeploid, you run a big fat story anyway. On Wednesday, the ‘Loid ran a piece on one woman’s fight to save a cottonwood tree that’s in the path of a new bikeway on Burlington’s waterfront. She’d chained herself to the tree, and was collaring passersby in a (mostly failed) effort to solicit their support for her cause. On Saturday afternoon there was supposed to be a rally on her behalf…

… and only two people showed up. But the Freeploid had sent a reporter — a rare thing on weekends — and they were bound and determined to get a story out of it. And they did: a two-page opus about the non-protest, containing pretty much the same information that was in the Wednesday story. One woman wants to save the tree, hardly anybody else cares, and it has to come down to make way for the bike path. Sorry; we can’t save every tree.

— Finally, we note with regret the disemployment of veteran Freeploid reporter Tim Johnson, the second to be given the ziggy in the Newsroom of the Future era. As we’ve said before, we fully expect a parade of departures — voluntary and otherwise — as soon as Election Day is safely in the books.

 

Dirty Tricks Time, Part Deux

Gosh. Maybe, just maybe, the VTGOP is a little tiny bit concerned about Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s electoral prospects. Because party Vice Chair Brady Toensing, he of the mudslinging DC family law firm of DiGenova & Toensing (stepdad and Mom, respectively), is dipping into Mom’s bag of tricks: trying to drum up interest into a 20-year-old controversy about Prog/Dem candidate Dean Corren. And, wouldn’t ya know it, the Burlington Free Press’ Nancy Remsen took the bait.

Brady Toensing circulated 1994 newspaper clips that recounted the questions that had been raised about the housing reimbursements Corren and Terry Bouricius received while they served in the House of Representatives.

The pair had rented an apartment in Montpelier during the legislative session, but didn’t always stay there, commuting back to Burlington instead. Still they collected the full housing allowance, Toensing said, and called it a taxpayer scam.

Corren calls it a “phony accusation,” and says “I reported everything exactly as it was required.”

Professional Nice Guy Phil Scott’s campaign wants nothing to do with Toensing’s charge, at least publicly:

Patti Komline, Scott’s campaign manager, disavowed any knowledge or involvement in the information Toensing distributed.

“Disavowed any knowledge” is fortuitous phrasing on Remsen’s part; it comes from the opening to the old “Mission: Impossible” TV show, where the head of the black-ops team gets his orders via audiotape, which blows up five seconds after the tape says “Should you be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.” Likewise, Ms. Komline.

The Corren stuff has already been aired pretty thoroughly. It happened 20 years ago; Corren continued to serve in the Legislature for six more years, apparently without any more expenses problems. It’s clearly irrelevant to Corren’s fitness to serve in 2014.

Besides, I would think the VTGOP would be a little more forgiving about 20-year-old ethics charges, considering that in 2012, it happily gave its Auditor General nomination to Vince Illuzzi.

As you may recall, at the very moment when Corren had to clear up questions about housing reimbursements, Illuzzi’s license to practice law was under suspension over ethics charges. It had been suspended the previous year, and wasn’t reinstated until 1998. Illuzzi was lucky at that; the state bar’s Professional Conduct Board had recommended that Illuzzi be stripped of his law license for good.

Illuzzi had been charged with: using his public office to influence court proceedings, conduct prejudicial to administration of justice, and conduct displaying a lack of fitness to practice law. In a settlement, he stipulated to his guilt.

So I ask you, in a hypothetical faceoff between 1990s ethical questions, which is worse: having a candidate for Lieutenant Governor who faced questions about housing reimbursements, or having a candidate for Auditor who was officially accused of using his office to influence court cases and “displaying a lack of fitness to practice law”?

I know where my money is on that one.

But it is nice to see the VTGOP treating Dean Corren as enough of a threat that they feel the need to slime his reputation.

Oh boy, oh boy, it’s last-minute dirty tricks time

The Republicans are targeting potentially vulnerable Democratic lawmakers with a mailer repeating the conservative lie that the Shumlin Administration wants to “take over” Medicare.

I’ve seen two mailers, identical except for the specific candidates involved. One is for Addison County Republican hopeful Valerie Mullin, and it targets incumbent Dems Mike Fisher and David Sharpe. The other is on behalf of Republican John Mattison, who’s challenging incumbent Herb Russell of Rutland City.

The Mullin flyer bears the return address of “Friends of Valerie Mullin,” her campaign committee, but it clearly was not produced by her campaign because, as I said, it’s identical to the Mattison flyer.

I’ve only seen these two, but it wouldn’t surprise me if identical mailers hadn’t been sent in all districts where a Republican has a chance to knock off a Democratic lawmaker.

So let’s review. In Act 48, the 2011 health care reform bill, there was a provision calling for the state to pursue administration of Medicare as part of single-payer health care. This provision is what’s called “session law,” and was intended as a guideline rather than a mandate.

“In 2011, we asked the administration to entertain lots of things, but it was in the context of ‘tell us whether you can do this,’” said Rep. Mike Fisher (D-Lincoln), who was on the House Health Care Committee when it drafted Act 48.

Administration officials subsequently discovered that the feds wouldn’t allow Vermont to manage Medicare. It was impossible in any case, because Medicare for the entire Northeast is in a single administrative district. Vermont would have had to take over the entire region, which was clearly out of the question. This year, Act 48 was amended and the provision was dropped.

Which hasn’t stopped the desperate Republicans from repeating the lie. And now they’ve produced mailers trumpeting the lie.

Bottom of the barrel, guys. Bottom of the barrel.

Here’s a picture of one flyer, for your edification:

MattisonMedicare

 

The Mullin flyer is identical except for the names of the candidates.