Sorrell vs. the record, part 2: Campaign reimbursements

Sorry for the delay in this continuing series; it’s tough work, slogging through a solid hour of Bill Sorrell. He is remarkably inarticulate for such a prominent figure.

SorrellDoggAnyway, I’m taking a closer look at Our Eternal General’s comments in an interview
with VTDigger’s Mark Johnson. I think it’s worthwhile because this was the first time Sorrell has been quizzed at length about allegations of campaign finance funny business and excessive coziness with high-powered lawyers soliciting state contracts.

Part 1 compared Sorrell’s remarks with the public record about the MTBE lawsuit. Today, we turn to Sorrell’s fuzzy reporting of expense reimbursements by his campaign fund to himself.

The matter was raised last spring by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz:

Several times a year, candidates must publicly disclose each campaign expenditure they make, “listed by amount, date, to whom paid, for what purpose,” according to state law.

A review of Sorrell’s recent filings shows that he has routinely ignored the rules. Sixteen times over the past four years, Sorrell’s campaign has reimbursed him for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars’ worth of expenses paid out of his own pocket. In each instance, the campaign provided only a vague explanation of what Sorrell bought with the campaign cash — and never once did it disclose who it paid.

Sorrell’s response: Hey, a lot of people do it that way.

Verbatim transcript:

Go back to the 2010, ’12, and ’14 races, and what you’ll find, among other things, Brian Dubie’s campaign, and I’m not picking on him, because I don’t think he violated the law. He had just under, I think, $15,000 in, quote, reimbursements in his, that’s all that he was the description.

Then Governor Douglas, before he decided not to run, had reimbursements, I forget the amount. Matt Dunne, one of the gubernatorial candidates in 2010, over $15,000 in quote reimbursements. …And then if you want to look at ’12 and ’14, I think you’ll see Phil Scott was some thousands of dollars of reimbursements, Peter Shumlin, ahh, and, and others. And, uhh, so this wasn’t just Bill Sorrell violating, you know, trying to hide what the reimbursements were for.

Sorry, that’s how Vermont’s Top Attorney talks. But on the basic point, I must report, he’s pretty much correct. Secretary of State Jim Condos:

I think the law is written that you should have some detail. The fact is, it was never really challenged before. …I don’t see this as a major issue.

Okay, so Sorrell is right?

Well, yes and no. He technically violated the law, but so have many others. The bigger problem, however, is Sorrell’s double standard. He has brought the hammer down on other candidates (Dean Corren, Brian Dubie) for violations that are arguably at least as technical and picayune as his own. Indeed, he has proudly positioned himself as a guardian of campaign-law purity. Except, y’know, when it comes to himself.

Like in September of 2014, when he held a press conference with Dean Corren on the subject of high gas prices in Chittenden County. A curious incident, considering Sorrell’s dogged pursuit of Corren for allegedly violating public-financing rules by accepting in-kind contributions from the Vermont Democratic Party. Sorrell has defended himself by arguing that his appearance was “part of his consumer-protection work as attorney general, not as a candidate.”

Which, hahaha, he was running for re-election and it was the height of campaign season. Plus, even if he was there purely in his official capacity, wasn’t he guilty of giving an impermissible benefit to Corren, who was nothing but a candidate?

This is yet another illustration of a fundamental fact about Sorrell: his head is so far up his own ass, he can see light at the end of the esophagus*. On campaign finance reporting, he may not be guilty of breaking the law — at least the spirit of the law, as it is very generously interpreted by Vermont politicos — but his judgment and perspective are so skewed that his ability to be an impartial arbiter must be questioned.

I guess that’s what happens when you hold an office for that long, and usually romp to re-election. You start thinking you’re above reproach. Which is a very dangerous thing for a politician to believe.

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4 thoughts on “Sorrell vs. the record, part 2: Campaign reimbursements

  1. Steve Beck

    Probably should unsubscribe from this blog! The more I read it, the more cynical I become. I think the world is such a despicable place and then I read your blog and my head explodes because it is despicable everywhere. Even in little ole VT. And then you throw in the commentary from the VPR brigade and it is like that is it. I have had it with everything I am becoming a hermit. Please keep up the good work.

    Reply
  2. newzjunqie

    I really really hope he doesn’t change mind and run and I really really hope Donovan cleans up the VT AG office. Sorrell displays a disgusting degree of priviledge and supposed entitlement.

    Reply
  3. newzjunqie

    Thanks jvwalt for exposing your readers to the truth as brutal as it can be, as opposed to milquetoast msm committed and dedicated to keeping all barefoot and stupid.

    Maintaining a comfortably low bar, the keepers of the gate to blissful ignorance as opposed to informed thinking, tell only part of the story, partly the result of pack-style lazy reporting. Their owners, whether corporate or so-called family owned are the real culprits here. Allows them to service the gullible public under a greatly lowered standard in the monkey-see monkey-do world where no one really stands out. Those types of readers are a dying breed as consciousness seeks truth, whereas being spoonfed-not so much.

    There are still shining stars in msm. Valley News deserves alot of credit for their investigative journalism and committment to informing their readers. May be because a large part of readership is in the Dartmouth University and health care sector crowd of the more educated and informed.

    Plain to see how that’s working out for the rest of them.

    Reply
  4. Michael McGarghan (@McGarghan)

    If only this was on the main news outlets and TV for others to see. Shouldn’t he be made an example of for the position to which he has been holding and keeping others accountable? What a disgrace to give such a response: “Hey, a lot of people do it that way”. Does he disrespect the people and office so much as to bring such shame and he should resign immediately over something he knew was wrong and knows now he got caught at.
    The Governor should appoint a special prosecutor to look into the AG’s possible wrong doings!
    We deserve nothing less.

    Reply

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