When last we left The Mystery Of The Ineffective But Long-Tenured Attorney General, the state’s top executive was backing away from any sort of involvement. Governor Shumlin said he hadn’t read the complaint against Bill Sorrell, and gosh darn it, he wouldn’t be able to until sometime after adjournment.
Reminded me of the old joke about the guy at the sold-out hotel. “If the Pope showed up, would you have a room for him?” “Of course.” “Well, His Holiness isn’t coming, so give me his room.”
The point being, if Shumlin thought Sorrell’s adventures with campaign finance law were a big deal, he’d damn well find the time, toot suite.
As a matter of ethics and good government, I think he’s wrong. Even if he believes Sorrell to be innocent, there are big and numerous enough questions that we can’t just take Sorrell’s word for it anymore. The Governor should call for an independent counsel.
However… as a matter of politics, I see what he’s doing.
Disclaimer: This is my own inference, not based on any inside contact with the corner office.
It’s an open secret in Statehouse and Democratic circles that Bill Sorrell is done for. Nobody likes him, and almost everyone wants him gone. But politically, they don’t want to set up a firing squad for one of their most prominent figures. (And one with strong ties to Howard Dean.) So they’re assuming/hoping that Sorrell will finally take the hint and opt for a dignified retirement. And if he doesn’t, they’re hoping/assuming that TJ Donovan will step up and challenge him in the primary. It’s widely believed that Donovan would wipe the floor with Sorrell, although it’s very easy to say that and a lot harder to actually mount the challenge.
To indulge in a bit of Kremlinology, Sorrell was conspicuous by his absence from Shumlin’s press conference this week. The subject was employment rules and law regarding those with criminal records. Donovan was there, and got a chance to speak. Bobby Sand was there. Dick Sears was there in his capacity as Senate Judiciary chair.
In all, there were more than a dozen people clustered around Shumlin.
Now, maybe he was out of town. (DAGA wingding?) But there was nothing date-sensitive about the presser; they could have scheduled it for Sorrell. If they wanted to.
Between that and the feedback I’m getting, I’d say Bill Sorrell is in for a solid year of very strong hints and conveniently turned backs. As a purely political matter, they want him to jump — but they don’t want to push him. Because what’s better: seeing a top Democratic officeholder go down in the flames of scandal, or sending him off with a gold watch?
Can’t say I like it, but it makes sense.