Our Lieutenant Governor and putative gubernatorial front-runner, Phil Scott, released his financials on Monday. He’s worth three million dollars and some change.
Which sounds like a lot, but then you get to the details. The vast majority of his wealth — more than 80 percent of it — consists of his half-share in DuBois Construction, the family contracting firm that does a lot of business with the state of Vermont.
Now I understand why he’s been so reluctant to part ways with DuBois, even at risk of ethical entanglements: that firm IS his financial lifeline. Which, if he were less than a thoroughly honest man, would provide ample temptation to stack the deck in favor of DuBois when state contracts go out for bid.
Might be nice to have an Ethics Commission to handle such things, but c’est la vie.
I’m not usually too big on candidates’ financials; releasing them is a formality, and it’s extremely rare that they contain any surprises. But there was one number that stuck out like a sore thumb: his retirement and savings accounts add up to $192,290.
A hundred and ninety thousand dollars, any financial advisor will tell you, is barely a start toward a comfortable retirement. In fact, it’s grossly inadequate for a man in his late 50s.
Jeanette White never wanted ethics reform.
The Putney Democrat and chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee made that clear, over and over again. And she blamed a tried-and-true scapegoat for bringing it up:
The issue of ethics and the lack of an ethics commission has been of great interest over the last year or so to the media. How many Vermonters are passionate about the issue is not clear…
Which was obvious bulldookie at the time. But now I’ve got evidence from an unexpected source.
Researchers at Illinois State University have been involved in a lengthy study of corruption in state politics. They took an unusual approach: seeking the perceptions of reporters covering state politics and corruption issues. They reasoned that corruption cases are handled differently in different states, so rates of indictment and conviction might be grossly misleading. Just because, for instance, New York has pursued several high-profile cases doesn’t mean its politics are more corrupt than, say, New Jersey’s. Perception-based studies have their own limitations, but it’s a different way to evaluate what’s going on.
Turns out that in Vermont, reporters see the state as fundamentally clean, untainted by political sleaze. Vermont ranked near the top in most categories, and overall was one of the “cleanest” states in the country in the eyes of our own allegedly cynical media corps.