Campaign finance filing day always brings out a mild strain of Vermont nativism, as candidates rush to claim a Real People Badge of Honor by touting contributions from small donors and authentic Vermonters and throwing shade on opponents who dare to import their campaign cash.
This week, Republicans are touting the fact that Phil Scott took in more cash from Vermonters than anyone else (not including Bruce Lisman’s self-funding). More than three-fourths of Scott’s money is Vermont green.
The most flatlander-oriented campaign, on the other hand, is Matt Dunne’s. He raised $322,000 in Other People’s Money, thanks in large part to his years in the tech industry. Shocking! Dunne’s bankroll is as much California pastel as Green Mountain Green.
Which, honestly, who cares?
Well, the media do — on campaign finance filing day, at least. The writers of political press releases certainly make a big deal of it, seeking that real-deal Green Mountainicity.
In that category, Dunne campaign manager Nick Charyk takes the honors for Most Ambitious Overreach:
“We have Vermonters from every county engaged and invested in Matt’s vision of an economy that works for all Vermonters and all of Vermont,” he said.
Wow, three Vermonts in one brief sentence. Not bad for a guy getting paid in California currency.
But hey, it’s all part of the dance. In the end, it won’t convince a single voter. We shall little note nor long remember the fine print of campaign finance filings — and I say that as a habitual visitor to the Secretary of State’s website.
Besides, we all know that every candidate and operative would gladly accept outside donations whenever offered. There’s no doubt that Vermont Republicans would love to take a dip on that sweet, sweet Koch brothers/Sheldon Adelson/Foster Friess money pit. I’ll betcha Phil Scott hasn’t turned down a single check.
In fact, there’s one way in which our Lite-Guv actually fails the authenticity test. He raised more money than his counterparts from business and corporate sources — “about $137,000 in contributions from 104 businesses and groups,” says the Burlington Free Press.
That’s more than $1,000 per business and interest group. Hmm, maybe I was too hasty giving Nick Charyk that Most Ambitious Overreach award.
“This is truly a grassroots campaign in every way. Supporters come from every corner of Vermont,” [Phil Scott] campaign coordinator Brittney Wilson said.
Well yeah, if you iconsider the Pizzagallis and Pomerleaus and Vermont’s general contractors as “grassroots.”
And when the rubber hits the newly-resurfaced road, which is more likely to influence an officeholder: money from outside Vermont, or money from the state’s movers and shakers?
To put it another way, who’s more likely to call the corner office for a favor: a guy in Silicon Valley, or a Vermont road contractor bidding on a highway project?
(Background: Phil Scott is a former president and longtime member of the contractors’ association. And he eagerly embraced them at his campaign kickoff, which was piggybacked on their annual convention. Best of friends they are, and right generous with their campaign checks.)
Lesson: When pondering the implications of political fundraising, look beyond simple geography. And whatever you do, ignore campaign press releases.