Yesterday I brought you the curious conundrum of Peter Galbraith’s campaign treasurer: Roger Allbee, lifelong Republican and a member of Jim Douglas’ cabinet. Well, today we’ve got another interesting entry in the category.
For each of his candidacies for lieutenant governor and his current bid for governor, Phil Scott has had the same campaign treasurer: Glen Wright, CPA and former executive at giant accounting firm KPMG.
(Yes, the same KPMG that in 2005 admitted criminal wrongdoing in establishing fraudulent tax shelters to help rich clients dodge taxes.)
(Yes, the same KPMG that ran a tax-avoidance scheme in Canada for “high net worth” clients.)
(Yes, the same KPMG that was caught up in a 2013 insider trading scandal in which a senior partner used information gleaned from the firm’s audits of corporate clients to make a bundle on the stock market.)
(Yes, the same KPMG that served as external auditor for the scandal-plagued FIFA, and somehow missed all the signs of massive financial wrongdoing.)
Yes, the same KPMG that saw four senior partners arrested in Northern Ireland last fall on tax evasion charges.)
(And just for kicks, sex scandal.)
I digress, but boy, was it fun.
Glen Wright is a sixth-generation Vermonter who may still officially reside here, or possibly in Florida, I haven’t checked the tax records and voter rolls. But this is what I can tell you.
Back in 2009, Wright penned a widely-read essay entitled “Why We Have Abandoned Vermont,” describing his sad, sad, irreversible decision to change his residency to Florida.
… the tax burden in Vermont has become more than we are willing to bear. We can’t take it any more and are taking the only possible alternative: leaving Vermont.That is why we have informed Vermont Tax Commissioner Tom Pelham, Gov. James Douglas and legislative leaders that we have abandoned our Vermont residency and are now residents of Florida.
… Becoming Florida residents eliminates our entire state income-tax burden. We will also experience a significant reduction in our property taxes.
… My property taxes in Vermont last year were in excess of $12,000. My property taxes in Florida after claiming the homestead exemption will be $4,000.
First thought: $12,000 in annual property tax. Must be a nice little house.
Second thought: I guess he didn’t learn any of KPMG’s secret, illegal tax-avoidance schemes.
Third thought: Wait, can a Florida resident serve as an official on a Vermont campaign?
Well, it’s probably not illegal, but definitely looks funny.
However, in fact, Glen Wright did not abandon Vermont — at least not entirely. He has since taken a seat on what was then the Fletcher Allen Foundation board, and he and his wife are major benefactors to the UVM Hospital.
And, of course, he has served as Phil Scott’s campaign treasurer four consecutive times. So he probably still has that house in South Hero, the one with the $12,000 annual property tax bill. He presumably still has that house in Florida as well, the one with the $4,000 annual property tax bill.
Now really, how deep can your financial sufferings be if you have houses in two states with total property tax bills of $16,000?
Well, you know how the rich are. The more money they have, the more painfully their tax bills pinch their pocketbooks. Even though Vermont’s property tax system actually hits the middle class much, much harder than top earners.
But it’s funny, Glen Wright still hanging around at least part of the time and committing significant amounts of his time and resources to Vermont causes. Because he was stone cold determined that Vermont was going to Hell in a taxpayer-funded handbasket — and that was when Jim Douglas was governor!
So either he’s a complete hypocrite or, in fact, other factors outweighed taxation in his decision-making process. Which is in line with the numbers; people like Wright brandish anecdotal evidence of a mass out-migration, but the actual statistics don’t bear it out. I guess the rich folks who move to Vermont don’t write angry opinion pieces about it.
Here’s perhaps the most important thing about Wright’s position. What does it say about Phil Scott’s legislative priorities that he has such an avid tax complainer in his inner circle? As governor, would he seek to make our tax system less progressive?
And is this what Scott means by the “affordability crisis” — rich people whining about their tax bills?
And finally, what does it say about Phil Scott’s reputation as a regular, blue-collar kinda guy, that he has friends and confidants like Glen Wright?