So, finally, we get our second window into the money game behind the primary campaigns. A few toplines:
— Bruce Lisman is spending gobs of cash and getting bupkis in return
— Phil Scott’s chugging along; will have to pick up the pace after the primary
— Sue Minter pulls ahead in the Democratic fundraising game
— Matt Dunne’s early momentum slows a bit
— Peter Galbraith is keeping his own campaign alive. Barely
And now, the details.
Wall Street millionaire Bruce Lisman has put $1.6 million of his own money into his campaign, raised precious little money from others, and has been spending at a blistering pace. He’s raised more than $1.8 million, but he has less than $200,000 cash on hand.
Well, he can always write more checks.
But let’s stop for a moment and savor the fact that Bruce Lisman has already spent more money than any gubernatorial candidate in Vermont history — and the primary is still three and a half weeks away. And he places dismally in the available polls.
Speaking of which, we couldn’t help noticing that back on April 28, Lisman put out $15,000 for an opinion poll. Somehow I think if there was any good news in it, his campaign would have managed to leak it to the media. But no, radio silence.
He has continued to spend heavily on advertising, staff, and the bewildering array of consultancies noted in a previous post. Short version: Tens of thousands going out the door for “consultant services” and the like, much of it going to firms with close connections to campaign manager Shawn Shouldice or Lisman’s former associates in Campaign for Vermont. Cozy!
Shouldice, by the way, continues to draw her monthly stipend of $14,500 — paid through Capital Connections, her Montpelier lobby shop. Reminder: that works out to an annual salary of $174,000.
Nice work if you can get it.
And oh, looky here, it’s the Republican kiss of death: Lisman paid Darcie Johnston’s consulting firm $7,846 for “Campaign Computer Equip.” Johnston hooks onto at least one campaign every election season, but she hasn’t backed a winner since before Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party.
The fascinating numbers ($3,500 to the Burlington Country Club for his ill-considered fundraiser with Steve Forbes) are actually few and far between. Scanning page after page after page of expenses large and small is a dreary task that almost — almost — makes you feel sorry for the guy. As I wrote in my rundown of his March fundraising report:
Overall, the Lisman for Governor campaign finance report has the aroma of a guy “making it rain” in a strip club. Dollars flying everywhere, yours for the taking.
Soon it will be closing time, and I don’t think Bruce is gonna “get lucky.”
The little engine that’s not even trying
Phil Scott, meanwhile, is either turning in an underwhelming financial performance or he hasn’t bothered to try. I suspect it’s more the latter; he isn’t seriously challenged by Lisman, so there’s no pressing reason to raise or spend large amounts of money. Also, his fundraising pace accelerated in the last couple of weeks — lots of four-figure checks from well-heeled Republicans.
(He took in $18,600 from people named Vallee, including The Gas Man, Rodolphe “Skip” Vallee. And his company kicked in another 4K, bringing the family total to a cool $22,600.)
He raised $350K between mid-March and mid-July, bringing his total to $764,000. He has raised less than the other major candidates (I don’t count Peter Galbraith in that group), but he’s also spent less, so he still has about $370,000 in the bank (including 90K left over from his Lite-Guv campaign fund).
His campaign proudly points out that the vast majority of his money comes from within Vermont. Which is noble and all, but he’ll be competing with a general election candidate (either Minter or Dunne) with proven fundraising draw inside Vermont and elsewhere. He will have to raise more money, and quite a bit more, to compete with either one.
Can he do that? Or will he hit the ceiling for Republican cash in Vermont?
Here’s another question on the relative purity of the Vermont green. The vast majority of Scott’s takings for this period were in large contributions — nearly $320,000 in gifts of $100 or more. He only received $30,598 in small contributions.
The question: Would you rather have a governor beholden to the rich and powerful right here in Vermont, or a governor who spread around his/her fundraising, and thus is less directly beholden to any single interest group?
The answer is a lot less clear-cut than Phil Scott would have you believe.
A few random notes:
— Ken Squier, owner of WDEV Radio, donated $1,000. Over the past couple of years, his station’s daytime programming has assumed a strongly Republican lean with the hiring of Mike Smith to replace Mark Johnson and the transformation of the formerly liberal 1:00 pm hour into a variety platform.
— That very model of a loyal Democrat, Dick Mazza, gave the maximum $4,000 and his wife Dorothy kicked in $3,200. Once again I ask, what would Dick Mazza have to do to get himself in trouble with his caucus? Murder a fellow Democrat in the well of the Senate?
— He’s accepted $4,000 in in-kind donations from his own company, DuBois Construction, for the use of company vehicles in his campaign. Nice to have a fleet on call, eh? Especially those big, manly pickup trucks and construction rigs.
— He’s paying $1,500 a month in office rent to the Associated General Contractors of Vermont, of which he is a longstanding member and a past president. I wonder if they’re giving him a discount?
— In mid-May, he paid $23,500 to a Virginia firm for polling work. He’s kept the results to himself. But presumably it informed his go-slow approach to campaigning — including very little on mass media.
— Hey, ol’ buddy Tayt Brooks is on the Phil Scott payroll! Starting in May, he’s been cashing biweekly paychecks of $2,307. I guess the Tayter’s squandering of Lenore Broughton’s money in “Vermonters First” really impressed the hard-nosed business-owning candidate.
— He’s paid at least $9,000 in salary to Erik Mason, who lives in Tampa, Florida. Telecommuting?
— Compared to Bruce Lisman, Phil’s running a tight ship re: consultant firms. He has paid a few thousand bucks each to a handful of firms, but nowhere near the Consultancy Clown Car that’s draining Lisman’s checkbook.
Okay, this post has already gotten awfully lengthy. I’m going to post my thoughts on the Democratic candidates in a separate piece, Coming Soon!