Daily Archives: June 4, 2015

Bob Helm’s blurred face gets more unwelcome airtime

Hey, remember State Rep. Bob Helm’s (R-ALEC) star turn in a hidden-camera video? The one recorded at an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting at a tony Savannah resort?

The one where he happily acknowledged that his expenses had been comped by lobbyists? And further, that he had solicited lobbyist donations for other lawmakers to attend the conference?

Yeah, well, the video has gotten another airing on Atlanta’s Channel 11, which has done a follow-up to its earlier piece on the toxic combo platter of lobbyists, lawmakers, big money and secrecy that characterizes an ALEC conference. This time, investigative reporter Brendan Keefe documented ALEC’s inadequate and misleading response to his original report. He used the opportunity to re-air some absolutely wonderful footage of his encounters with ALEC officials and his ultimate eviction from the hotel — where he was a paying guest — by uniformed sheriff’s deputies doing security for ALEC.

The video is recommended viewing. But here’s a transcript of a key passage, in which Keefe tries to interview a guy who ought to be prepared for such an eventuality — ALEC’s Vice President of Communications, Bill Meierling. The encounter takes place in the opulent lobby of the Hyatt Regency Savannah Hotel, and Meierling’s obvious discomfiture at being buttonholed by a persistent reporter is just wonderful.

Keefe: Can we do an interview with you?

Meierling: Actually, no.

K: Why not?

M: Um, if you’ll please turn the camera off.

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Sometimes, “Throw The Bastards Out” seems like the best option

Well, the reaction has been fast, furious, and predictable. Legislative leaders are, for the most part, decidedly cool to the idea of an independent Ethics Commission. This, in spite of a legislative session that saw, in the words of VTDigger’s Anne Galloway, “one outrage followed another in the waning days.”

Still, State Rep. David Deen, chair of the secretive House Ethics Panel, managed to pull a Sergeant Schultz:

“I think putting something like this in place when we seemingly don’t have a major problem I’m aware of makes me wonder, are you stimulating complaints? Are you creating a problem where one doesn’t exist?”

“Seemingly don’t have a major problem”? I think I owe an apology to Sergeant Schultz.

And then there was the chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, the gatekeeper for potential ethics reform:

When Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham, heard about the plan, her first response was “No, no, no, that’s not going to happen.”

Good grief.

It’s things like this that make me believe we’d be better off if we fired all 30 state senators and replaced them with Vermonters chosen by lottery.

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The Same-Day Boogeyman

Removing barriers to voter participation: it’s an issue that’s long overdue for some serious attention. Vermont’s new law, allowing same-day voter registration, is a nice start.

What else? Well, there’s no good reason other than tradition to hold elections on Tuesdays. Especially in Vermont, where polling places close at 7 p.m. That’s not much time for working folk to get to the polls.

But if you want to keep your Tuesday voting because Grandfather’s Light Bulb, then I’d suggest adoption of Hillary Clinton’s proposal for at least 20 days of early voting. That would give everyone a full opportunity to participate. Early voting has allowed many more to exercise their right when it’s been adopted.

“This is, I think, a moment when we should be expanding the franchise,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said in an interview. “What we see in state after state is this effort by conservatives to restrict the right to vote.”

Of course, the new law is being greeted with whining and carping from Vermonters with no apparent interest in getting more people to vote. Accounts of the bill becoming law were lightly sprinkled with comments from town clerks alleging that we’re opening the door to voter fraud.

Ah, voter fraud, favored chimera of conservatives. The Bush Administration bent its Justice Department to the task of rooting out voter fraud. And after eight full years of effort, they found a mere handful of cases. In a time when hundreds of millions of ballots were cast.

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