Seven Shades of Nothing

After a couple of big surprises Wednesday morning, the rest of Campaign Finance Filing Day was rather a damp squib. Nothing much was revealed. Unless, that is, the “nothing” is in itself significant.

And I wouldn’t be a political blogger if I couldn’t make something from nothing.

And so, theVPO presents the top seven nothings and what they might mean.

In the race for Governor, four of the five top prospective candidates did nothing. A marginal hopeful did the same. As for the potential Democratic faceoff for Attorney General, neither incumbent Bill Sorrell not declared challenger TJ Donovan reported any new activity.

None of this is terribly surprising. Among those potential gubernatorial candidates, only Matt Dunne had an existing campaign structure (dormant since 2010) to accept donations. And by Vermont standards, it’s still extremely early for anyone to be beating the bushes.

The two likeliest Democratic candidates for governor not named Dunne, Shap Smith and Sue Minter, didn’t seek funds for a corner-office run. Smith reported a bit of fundraising for his State House campaign kitty, easily transferable should the need arise. This leaves Dunne with a sizeable lead — but there’s a lot of time to catch up. In this regard, Dunne’s dollar total is less significant than his ability to quickly sign up a brace of top-tier liberal donors in Vermont and in Silicon Valley.

On the Republican side, the losing 2012 nominee, Randy Brock, didn’t report anything. The putative front-runner, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, didn’t do any new fundraising — but he has nearly $100,000 left over from his 2014 campaign, so he’s definitely in no hurry.

And then there’s Dan Feliciano, former Libertarian turned kinda Republican, who’s been pondering a second run for governor.

He filed something called a FINAL REPORT, which sounds awfully, well, final. But here’s the oddly recursive language on the campaign filing form:

This is my FINAL REPORT for the current Campaign Cycle and closes out my current campaign by indicating the disposition of any surplus or debt, and all contributions and expenditures for this cycle are accounted for.

Note: A FINAL REPORT is required to close out a campaign. This does NOT mean that your account must be closed.

In case you’re wondering, this filing date is part of the 2016 Campaign Cycle. Which would seem to indicate he’s out of the race. But then the next line reads thusly:

I have $ 89.63 surplus from the current campaign and this amount will be carried forward to the new campaign.

“New campaign,” hmm. I sent out a Tweet seeking additional information:

Neither Feliciano nor his former campaign manager Darcie Johnston responded. In fact, both of them have been running largely silent on Twitter of late. So who knows?

And, considering that he drew only 4% of the vote in 2014, who really cares?

Which brings us to the potential race for Attorney General. Donovan, who has declared his candidacy, did no active fundraising. A few days ago, he transferred the remaining balance in his State’s Attorney campaign account, some $27,000, into his freshly-minted AG campaign fund.

Sorrell did no fundraising, but he’s got a balance of $41,000 left over from 2014. He spent $1300, so his cash on hand slipped to less than $40,000. Under “Details of Expenditures,” he entered another classic Sorrellian payment of $456.79 to himself for “Reimbursement.” As you may recall, one of his alleged sins against campaign finance law is a pattern of very vague reimbursements to self. Glad to see he’s keeping up with his own tradition.

He also spent $711 to the bigshot law firm of Hoff, Curtis, Pacht, Cassidy & Frame, which probably bought an hour or so of their time. The purpose: reviewing his past campaign finance reports, presumably in connection with the ongoing independent investigation of his activities.

The fact that Sorrell didn’t raise any funds is not at all surprising, since he hasn’t decided whether he’s running or not, and he has a track record of doing things only when he really has to. Donovan’s in no rush either; with the number of Democrats who are clearly itching to be rid of Sorrell, the challenger will have no trouble raising funds when he needs them.

In the long view, the off-year July 15 deadline is nothing big. Most campaigns won’t kick into gear until this fall. Unfortunately, we won’t get another snapshot of campaign fundraising until mid-March of next year. That’s a long time to wait, especially with Dunne off to a strong start and Lieutenant Governor wannabe Brandon Riker flexing his family’s financial muscle and threatening to pre-empt the Democratic field.

Under the circumstances, it would be nice to have more frequent reports in the races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. But we won’t get them.

2 thoughts on “Seven Shades of Nothing

  1. Jim Condos

    John, you state… “Under the circumstances, it would be nice to have more frequent reports in the races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. But we won’t get them.”

    Before this year there were even fewer disclosure dates. The legislature added 3 this past year including the one in March, in October, and November to better align with the actual election cycle.

    In the interest of transparency, I asked for quarterly reports in the off year up until the July of election year but the legislature felt that was too many.

  2. John A. Burgess, Sr.

    As usual Jim Condos was on the front line in the battle for transparency and disclosure. The legislature and the incumbent Gov. failed to follow his lead.


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