Evidence of Bruce Lisman’s appeal (hint: microscopic)

This week’s “Fair Game” column by Paul Heintz had some notable tidings near the end: Campaign for Vermont, the public policy nonprofit founded — and almost exclusively funded — by Bruce Lisman, appears to be on its last legs.

Now that Lisman is fully ensconced in his campaign — and has turned off the $1.35 million spigot that funded CFV — the organization appears to have fallen on tough times. Earlier this month, policy and operations manager Ben Kinsley decamped to the Lisman campaign. And now executive director Cyrus Patten says he’s on his way out the door.

According to Patten, who apparently isn’t averse to spilling bad news now that he’s out the door, CFV has a mere $40,000 left in the bank.

Lisman and Patten were constantly bragging about CFV’s alleged influence in the Statehouse and its progress in building an independent political movement, but there was precious little objective evidence to support their claims. After Lisman stopped writing the big checks, Patten claimed that an aggressive fundraising/membership campaign was starting to pay dividends.

Guess that was just a steamin’ pile of bullshit.

No hard feelings toward Mr. Patten; he was merely doing his job. I wish him luck in his new post, working for a political action committee focused on campaign finance reform. But the near-collapse of CFV proves something I’d maintained for a long time: the organization had precious little support outside of Bruce Lisman’s wallet and a select slice of Vermont elites.

Which calls into question the very foundation of Lisman’s candidacy for governor. After his return to Vermont from a decades-long career in the canyons of Wall Street, he embarked on a two-year statewide listening tour that, he claims, helped him reconnect with the Common Folk and fashion an agenda for a new kind of advocacy group. He then spent the better part of four years fronting that group and gaining a whole lot of uncritical media attention that, in retrospect, he didn’t deserve.

And then he let it loose. And now, only a few months later, it’s sinking fast.

So tell me. Where is the evidence that Bruce Lisman is a power player in Vermont politics? Outside of his own mind, that is?

And where does CFV’s near-collapse leave his candidacy?

Lisman may be able to make the Republican primary a little interesting if he pours his Bear Stearns millions into the effort. But he hasn’t managed to build a grassroots movement in the last six years; why should we believe he can do so in the next several months, when he’s up against Phil Scott, the most popular Republican since Jim Douglas?

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