Daily Archives: December 8, 2014

Mahatma makes a boo-boo

I’m in the process of doing a full write-up of Scott Milne’s news conference this morning. But while I was putting it together, I came across something I couldn’t resist sharing right away.

In his prepared remarks, he called on state lawmakers to vote for Governor in accordance with their “constitutional oath,” which he quoted in the following way:

… in giving my “vote or suffrage touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, [I] will do it so as in [my] conscience [I] shall judge will most conduce to the best… as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person.”

Small problem, bucko.

That is the Voter’s Oath, which can be found on Vermont’s voter registration form.

There are two Oaths in the state constitution (Section 56) that officeholders must swear: the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office. They read like this:

The Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance

You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will be true and faithful to the State of Vermont and that you will not, directly or indirectly, do any act or thing injurious to the Constitution or Government thereof. (If an affirmation) Under the pains and penalties of perjury.

The Oath or Affirmation of Office

You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will faithfully execute the office of ____ for the ____ of ____ and will therein do equal right and justice to all persons, to the best of your judgment and ability, according to law. (If an oath) So help you God. (If an affirmation) Under the pains and penalties of perjury.

If he’d found the right Oaths, Milne could perhaps have made a case that lawmakers should vote against Gov. Shumlin to avoid doing “any act or thing injurious to the Constitution or Government,” but that’s not the argument he made.

It was obvious from his news conference that he’d spent a lot of time researching Vermont history and government. But apparently he didn’t quite spend enough time.

As ever, if anyone has contrary information I will happily correct this post.

 

Addendum. Members of the House and Senate actually take a longer oath than that cited in the constitution. However, (1) it does not contain the language cited by Milne, and (2) it’s part of the Legislative Rules, not the Constitution. So Milne remains wrong. 

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The Milne campaign: Rhetorically aggressive, tactically passive

(This is a brief update post. I’ll have a longer take later today.)

Well, at least he didn’t postpone again.

Scott Milne emerged from his secret undisclosed location and saw his shadow, so we’ll have six more weeks of campaigning.

Not really. He did announce, as expected, that he would carry the gubernatorial race forward into the Legislature. But the announcement was curiously bifurcated: he laid out a strongly-worded case against Governor Shumlin seemingly borrowed from Roget’s entry for “disaster.”

An incomplete sampling: “real trouble,” “poor leadership,” “wreaking havoc,” “arrogant,” “deaf,” “botched,” and, of course, “disaster.”

At the same time, seeking to tamp down talk of a looming Constitutional crisis, he also allowed as to how “If Peter Shumlin gets elected, life will go on.”

Beyond that, Milne called on the Legislature to elect him Governor, but he said he’s had little contact with any lawmakers and has no plans to actively solicit their votes: “I don’t think it should be a PR campaign.”

Curiously, he appears to have abandoned his earlier rationale that lawmakers should vote with their constituents. Now, he’s citing the state Constitution and arguing that each lawmaker should vote as he or she sees fit, regardless of personal or political interests.

In addition, he said he’s made little or no moves to prepare for his potential election as governor. When asked if he’d done any work on a budget, which the governor will have to present two weeks after his inauguration, he displayed a blank sheet of paper.

All in all, it was a typically Milne performance.  A bit strange, a lot inconsistent, and reliant on his own brand of logic.

That’s it for now. More later.

No smoking guns in the Gruber file

Now I know how Neal Goswami’s been spending his spare time lately:

The Vermont Press Bureau obtained nearly 2,400 pages of emails between Jonathan Gruber and state officials that detail the work Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist, has been doing for the administration.

Woof. That’s a lot of emails to wade through. The result of all that work was published in the Sunday edition of the Mitchell Family Organ. (The article is paywalled; if you don’t subscribe, Get Thee To A Library.)

So what did he find? More impolitic comments about stupid voters and conservative pundits? Arrogant pronouncements over how he’s gonna pull the wool over our eyes?

Er, no.

Emails… highlight the administration’s work since the summer preparing a long-awaited financing plan for Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed universal, publicly financed health care plan.

… In a July 7 email to Michael Costa, Shumlin’s deputy director of health reform and the tax expert spearheading the administration’s financing plan, Gruber expressed unbridled enthusiasm at the opportunity to help the state craft a single-payer health care plan.

In short, the emails depict a top-shelf policy expert avidly engaged in a very difficult project, and using his economic model to test countless iterations of single-payer.

And seeing Vermont as a ground-breaking opportunity: “I think we have a chance to make history here,” he said in a July email.

Goswami describes a lengthy, painstaking process that seems to validate Gov. Shumlin’s claims that he couldn’t release his plan because it wasn’t ready yet. This was, the emails show, a long, tough slog. Which still continues; reform chief Robin Lunge expressed confidence that the plan would be ready by late December, but only after an all-out effort.

It’s a fascinating read if you’re a policy wonk. But it doesn’t provide provide any new evidence for legitimate attacks on Gruber or single-payer.

Which is not to say there’s no room for illegitimate, partisan attacks:

Many emails that included details of the administration’s plan were redacted, with the administration citing executive privilege.

“Aha!”, I can almost hear Darcie Johnston crying. “Redacted! Cover-up!”

Partisans will certainly look at it that way. Especially since, according to Goswami, the Shumlin administration had an interesting rationale for adding a provision to Gruber’s contract stating that he “may advise the Governor on policy matters.”

That provision was added, not because Gruber would actually provide any policy advice, but simply to lay the foundation for a claim of executive privilege.

Lunge… said the clause in the contract was included to protect her policy advice to the governor. Gruber has not contributed policy advice to the governor, according to Lunge.

Got that? Lunge generated policy ideas… Gruber ran them through his model… and Lunge used his information to shape her policy ideas. But since she had to give her policy ideas to Gruber, his work must be privileged.

It makes sense, but it also provides fertile ground for conspiracy theories.

And it creates some concerns about government transparency: Lunge told Goswami that “the same provision is also included with other contractors.”

If that’s true, then we ought to be less worried about Jonathan Gruber and single-payer, and more worried about broadening claims of executive privilege.