Curious item landed in my inbox this morning: an email from Scott Milne.
Well, not a personal email — it was a blast message to his mailing list, entitled:
Scott Milne challenges Pat Leahy to get money out of politics.
The message slams Leahy for holding a fundraising event over the weekend, at which attendees were (according to Milne) charged “$5,000 for face time with Vermont’s senior Senator.” Milne compares this unfavorably with Leahy’s predecessor, St. George Aiken, who “spent $17.09 on his entire last campaign for the Senate in 1968 [and] spent a total $4,423.03 for all six of his U.S. Senate campaigns combined.”
Well, in 1968 Aiken occupied both the Republican and Democratic slots on the ballot, and managed to win re-election with, ahem, 99.9 percent of the vote, which makes me think he wasted seventeen bucks. The bulk of his career took place when the GOP absolutely ruled the roost in Vermont. But I can just hear Milne say, “Leahy is as bulletproof as Aiken; why raise money at all?” To which Leahy would reasonably reply, “In politics, you never know.” Especially since conservative groups have begun to spend money on Vermont elections. It’s only prudent for Leahy to build up a warchest.
But the biggest question raised by Milne’s email is simply, Why? Why is he attacking Pat Leahy?
If this were any politician not named Scott Milne, the answer would be obvious: he’s going to run for U.S. Senate. In Milne’s case, it might simply mean he got out of bed this morning and decided to write a letter.
But it’s intriguing, especially since his email challenges Leahy “to run a $100 campaign and to demand outside money stay out of Vermont in the 2016 Senate race.” To put it another way, “Please tie both hands behind your back and I’ll challenge you to a fight.”
There is a fundamental problem with Milne’s attempt to position Leahy as a supporter of the status quo: Pat Leahy would like nothing more than to get money out of politics. He has been a champion of a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. In the meantime, though, he has to play a very rough game by the existing rules.
Milne is asking Leahy to unilaterally disarm on the eve of battle. He knows Leahy will do no such thing. (He won’t ask Phil Scott to follow Aiken’s example in running for governor.) But if he can present himself as Vermont’s own David going up against Senator Goliath? That’s not a bad way to frame a candidacy. It’s not a winning argument, but anyone challenging our very senior Senator won’t have a lot of arguments to choose from.