Writing my most recent post on the continuing troubles inside the Vermont Republican Party brought me back to a subject I’d been ignoring: the VTGOP’s monthly finance reports to the Federal Elections Commission. Even though the VTGOP is a state party, most of its activities are now classified as “federal” under FEC rules.
The last time I looked over the filings was a few months ago. There have been three new reports since then, and some curiosities emerge after close examination.
Remember when Jeff Bartley was hired as VTGOP Executive Director last December? Them’s was good times.
Bartley was chosen in a last-minute election announced slightly more than 24 hours before the Dec. 1 [state Republican Committee] meeting. Insiders say the decision was rushed to leave no time for other candidates to come forward or for a search process to take place. Bartley was confirmed by a 6-4 vote of executive committee members.
Three of those “No” votes came from prominent conservatives with ties to former party chair Jack Lindley: Mark Snelling, Wendy Wilton, and Randy Brock. After the vote, Snelling resigned as party treasurer.
At the time, VTDigger reported that Bartley would draw an annual salary of $50,000.
Funny thing about that. As of the end of June, according to FEC filings, Bartley had already drawn $37,516 in salary. That projects out to an annual salary of about $75,000.
He’s been drawing the same amount in every paycheck since January. Which begs the question, whatever did he do to earn a 50% raise less than a month after he was hired in a hastily-called, controversial vote?
This, from the party of fiscal responsibility.
Here’s another ponderable. Republican National Committeewoman Susie Hudson continues to draw a $1,250 monthly stipend for “fundraising consulting.” Customarily, these RNC postings are cushy gigs for big donors and party loyalists. I suspect it’s quite unusual for one of these Committeefolk to draw a retainer from the state party.
Since last December, Hudson has received a total of $10,500 from the VTGOP as a fundraising consultant. This is, I remind you, the same Susie Hudson who in January accepted a free trip to Israel courtesy of the American Family Association, a far-right Christian group known for its fierce anti-gay, anti-choice, ultraconservative rhetoric. Not a good look for a VTGOP trying to distance itself from the Nut Brigade of national conservatism.
But that’s not all. In July (the most recent month reported to date), Hudson double-dipped: she got her standard #1,250 as a consultant, plus another $968.88 listed as “payroll.”
July was an awful month for VTGOP fundraising; the party netted less than $2,000. Which means they paid more to their “fundraising consultant” than they actually received in donations.
This, from the party of fiscal responsibility.
(The VTGOP has also been paying Ben Garrow for the past few months, although he does not appear on the party’s online staff listing. He was a “field consultant” at $2,400 a month for May and June, and he graduated to “Payroll” in July, earning almost $2,000. Garrow, from what I can gather, is a young Republican from St. Albans way.)
All the while, the VTGOP continues to seriously underperform in fundraising and organization. It had a very successful 2014 election, but has failed to generate any momentum from that strong showing. Instead, it’s been deficit spending throughout this year — a time when it should be laying the groundwork for an active effort in 2016.
You know, if Phil Scott is serious about leadership, and about building a Republican Party beyond his own formidable shadow, he might want to take a real hard look at what’s going on inside the party. He might want to ask what, exactly, Jeff Bartley did to deserve a 50% raise. And what, exactly, Susie Hudson is actually producing as a “fundraising consultant” for a party that’s almost broke. Heck, he might even decide it’s time to make a few changes on the bridge of this political Titanic.
And he might want to work his magical Rolodex on behalf of the VTGOP as well as his own campaign.
Of course, he’s got Bruce Lisman to worry about, so maybe he’s not so concerned with party-building. But that was Jim Douglas’ biggest failing: when he left office, the VTGOP was at its nadir. It’s been struggling to find its way ever since. If Phil Scott wants a legacy in addition to a victory lap, he’ll need a strong Republican Party at his back. Does he have the stones to pitch in and try to fix things?
Postscript. When a party reports an expenditure to the FEC, it has to provide any supporting information in a “memo.” The VTGOP’s memos do not appear in their online FEC filings. Another Greatest Hit from the party of fiscal responsibility.