Daily Archives: March 5, 2015

A self-selected “champion”?

Now that we’ve caught up with Campaign for Vermont’s effort to co-opt our town clerks, let’s check in with CFV founder and funder Bruce Lisman.

Well, Bruce is doing pretty much what he’s been doing — just on his own platform, the humbly named “brucelismanvt.com.” Same faux-centrist pro-business rhetoric, same slightly constipated looking smile on his face.

Bruce is blogging now, but you can’t just click over and read it; you have to “subscribe.” I’d rather die.

It’s not a paid subscription; all you have to do is provide Lisman with your contact information. Yep, he’s building a mailing list.

Running for Governor? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bruce Lisman will never be Governor of Vermont. He’s not terribly well known, in spite of his travels around the state; he’s a lousy campaigner and public speaker; and most importantly of all, Phil Scott stands squarely in his path. Scott is a much better advocate of pretty much the same policy ideas. He’s far better known, he’s a more effective speaker and a proven fundraiser, and he has a major party structure behind him.

Lisman is also Tweeting, occasionally. His latest 120-character opus:

Oh, so we need a “champion,” do we? Got someone in mind, Bruce?

Advocacy Group Seeks Public-Sector Proxies

Campaign for Vermont, the Bruce Lisman-funded public policy organization, recently sent out an interesting email blast.

The missive, dated February 25, was sent to all of Vermont’s town clerks; it asked the clerks to use their public standing on behalf of CFV:

As a staple within your community, you have the unique vantage point to facilitate the exchange of ideas. Additionally, because of your role in local government, you have the chance to experience and therefore critique many policies. To this end, Campaign for Vermont (CFV) would like to share the attached economic position paper and our newly released economic indicators report.

Ah, the generosity of these folks, freely sharing the fruits of their labor. And what do they want the clerks to do in return?

…we are excited to have you read our ideas, use your community connections to evaluate the effectiveness and legitimacy of our proposals, as well as provide feedback to Campaign for Vermont. We encourage you to share this document with business leaders in your community.

Oh. Hm. So CFV wants our publicly-elected, publicly-paid clerks to become unpaid shills for its flackery.

I doubt that CFV will get much out of this; most clerks, I imagine, simply trashed the message. As they should; this smells a bit funny to me, asking an officeholder who is supposed to be an objective arbiter of elections to become an advocate. Even if the request comes from a “nonpartisan” group.

I asked Secretary of State Jim Condos for his reaction. “It’s not illegal but it may put a clerk in a difficult position,” he wrote in an email. “It’s not something we would recommend that the clerk do, in the interest of maintaining an appearance of impartiality.” He further suggested that such a request “would be better for selectboard and city council members.”

For all I know, CFV did send the same request to those officials. I happened to receive the clerks’ email.

So, not illegal but unwise. And, it seems to me, just a little bit desperate. CFV is trying to establish broad visibility without Lisman and ease its dependence on the mighty Lisman wallet. Its executive director Cyrus Patten has been busily roaming the halls of the Statehouse, which is good, but it looks like he may have taken a step too far in trying to connect with the general public.

Single-payer price tag: the dollars matter less than what they bought

Another fine “Fair Game” column by Seven Days politimeister Paul Heintz, most of which is an attempt to put a price tag on Gov. Shumlin’s failed pursuit of single-payer health care.

The takeaway number: $2 million. But that comes with some major cutouts; if you changed the ground rules, you could come up with a much higher number.

Heintz sought that number for ten weeks before the administration finally came up with it. And after all that time, all they did was add up two numbers: $597,000 to ten consultants, and $1.33 million spent on the governor’s Office of Health Care Reform.

However… the consultants and the OHCR weren’t the only people who put in time on single-payer. Work was also done by staffers in “10 offices, departments and agencies.” There was lobbying and flackery on behalf of single-payer. And many millions were spent on the Green Mountain Care Board and other entities that might not have existed, or been nearly so expensive, if not for their work on single-payer.

So, $2 million. Or a lot more, your choice.

The big question, though: was that too much? And the answer is, it depends.

If it was spent well and wisely, then $2 million or even $20 million would be a perfectly reasonable investment in research on a huge policy initiative. If it was spent poorly, then $2 million or $2,000 would be a waste.

So it depends. If you oppose single-payer, it’s an outrage. If you favor single-payer and believe the governor did his best, it’s reasonable.

And if, like me and many other single-payer supporters, you have your doubts regarding the administration’s performance, then that $2 million figure will make you a bit more queasy about the whole enterprise.

Urp.