Monthly Archives: September 2016

Falafel Waffle: Compassion without substance

Unfortunately for Phil Scott, Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate in Rutland happened a mere few hours after federal officials had approved the settlement of Syrian refugees in that city.

I say “unfortunately” because that brought the refugee question front and center, and Scott did nothing to distinguish himself as a leader. In fact, he did quite the opposite: he took both sides on the question. In the process, he gave substantial deference to the opponents of the plan while undercutting its advocates. Many a dog whistle was blown.

His non-answer has been widely reported in the media, but I went back to the video and transcribed the whole thing. It’s worse than I thought.

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Phil Scott’s national buddies go negative

I knew it was just a matter of time.

“A Stronger Vermont,” the D.C.-based SuperPAC arm of the Republican Governors Association, has been dumping truckloads of cash into Vermont on behalf of Phil Scott. Officially, the RGA tally is over $500,000. But as Paul Heintz reports today, the RGA has transferred another $600,000 into ASV’s coffers, “bringing its total investment in the race to $1.2 million.” With a month and a half to go.

Until now, ASV’s ads have been right out of the Phil Scott playbook: sunny, warm scenes of Phil interacting with Real People, a comforting voice-over, and music designed to trigger an endorphin rush.

Today, ASV crossed over to the dark side, with its first TV ad attacking Sue Minter.

Check that. Attacking Peter Shumlin.

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Postscript: Waffle House

Since I posted my previous piece on Phil Scott’s out-of-state expenses, I’ve learned a little bit about how to use the Secretary of State’s campaign finance portal. And so, without having to hand-tabulate dozens and dozens of small expenses, I can painlessly report that the Scott campaign has used its VISA card to pay $27,321.32 in expenses.

That’s the VISA card issued by Capital One Bank.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Capital One Bank.

North Carolina as in HB2, the “Bathroom Bill” that forces transgender persons to use public restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate. And that also enshrines other forms of gender-based discrimination.

The passage of HB2 prompted many corporations and organizations to refrain from doing business in North Carolina. Even the ethics-challenged world of big-time sports has taken up the cause. And, of course, Governor Shumlin imposed a ban on official state travel to North Carolina.

And yet, Phil Scott’s campaign took out a credit card from a North Carolina bank.

Why?

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Leadership That Waffles: No More Buying Local

Let’s step into the Wayback Machine and travel back to 2012, when the earth was young and a dewey-eyed gent named Phil Scott was running for a second term as Lieutenant Governor. And his campaign went all-in on the idea of Buying Local. This, according to Project Vote Smart, comes from his 2012 campaign website:

During the summer of 2011, Lt. Governor Scott attended parades, fairs and farmers markets throughout the state, spreading the message “Buy Local: It’s not just for hippies anymore.”…

The Lieutenant Governor’s office offers an excellent opportunity to promote Vermont products and the Vermont brand. While it’s important to market Vermont outside the state, Lt. Governor Scott wants to make sure we don’t ignore the opportunities to market ourselves within our own communities.

(And by the way, “Candidate Scott” walks the walk: In all of his election campaigns, Phil Scott has worked exclusively with vendors and consultants within Vermont’s borders.)

He was still “walking the walk” as recently as last November, when he got a friendly front-page spread in the Burlington Free Press for his advocacy of Buying Local.

However…

Then he started seriously running for Governor. And all that Buying Local stuff went straight into the dumpster.

As of the last reporting deadline (September 1), the Scott campaign had spent $900,927.44. By my calculations, at least $411,266.52 went to out-of-state companies and contractors. And that doesn’t include the fact that, for some reason, his campaign’s VISA card was issued by North Carolina(!)-based Capitol One.

HB-2, anyone?

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About that vacancy on the state supreme court

Last week, longtime Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley announced he will retire at the end of his term, next March. There followed the predictable encomiums to his service and legal mind and his staunch liberalism, notably expressed in the 1999 civil unions decision.

You know the first thing that crossed my mind?

Who gets to fill the vacancy: Peter Shumlin or his successor?

Yeah, I immediately went to the politics. Vermont Political Observer through and through. The stakes aren’t nearly as high as for the U.S. Supreme Court, but there are definitely stakes. Presumably Phil Scott and Sue Minter would have different qualifications in mind if they got to name one of the Court’s five Justices.

I don’t know for sure; no one in the media has seen fit to inquire about the candidates’ judicial philosophy and their views of Vermont jurisprudence.

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Another batch of lies from the Koch factory

The black sheep of Vermont’s journalism family, Vermont Watchdog, took a short break from its incessant anti-renewable campaign and pooped out a single-source article alleging that Vermont is a fiscal disaster.

A new report from a government accounting watchdog group finds that Vermont has a debt of $3.9 billion, despite claims of having a balanced budget.

The Financial State of the States 2015 report, released this month by Chicago-based Truth in Accounting, debunks the myth that states balance their budgets.

Okay, first of all, any “accounting” group that doesn’t know the difference between a balanced budget and long-term indebtedness ought to be drummed out of the bean-counter fraternity. Every large entity, government or private sector, carries a certain amount of debt on its books. Routine.

So, who are these incompetent clowns at “Truth in Accounting”?

Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

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Journalism in defiance of press release

Round of applause for the Burlington Free Press’ April Burbank, who filed an appropriately skeptical report on Scott Milne’s umpty-billionth attack on Sen. Pat Leahy’s integrity.

The subject of his latest sally was, once again, EB-5. In a press release and news conference, MIlne played his favorite hits and added a couple new verses while depicting Leahy as The Great And Powerful Wizard of EB-5.

Unfortunately for Milne’s desired narrative, Burbank began her story thusly:

Scott Milne said he’s “not ready” to discuss specific policies he would pursue if elected to the U.S. Senate, other than ethical questions he has raised about his opponent, Sen. Patrick Leahy.

Yeah, boy, is he “not ready.”

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The Dems’ attacks are no better than the Repubs’

Recently, I made sport of VTGOP chair David Sunderland for issuing yet another baseless attack on Secretary of State Jim Condos. Seems only fair that I should point out that the Vermont Democratic Party’s attacks are just as poorly-aimed and baseless.

Two recent examples: The Dems trying to make hay over Phil Scott’s fundraising, and their thinly-evidenced claim that the Scott campaign is in cahoots with the Republican Governors Association. Both attacks are poorly-considered, and both will fail to resonate.

The more recent first. The VTDems filed an official complaint with the attorney general’s office, charging improper collusion between Scott and the RGA’s SuperPAC. By law, SuperPACs can promote or attack candidates, but their efforts must be completely independent of any candidate’s campaign.

The SuperPAC, “A Stronger Vermont,” has been running positive ads about Scott. The Dems’ complaint sits on a tenuous foundation: the fact that an RGA film crew has been filming in close proximity to Scott, which means he must have been aware of the camera crew and their provenance.

Yeah, well, maybe. But that doesn’t prove anything.

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Phil’s Conflict (UPDATED)

UPDATE: He did it! He chose Option 1A — he will sell his share in Dubois Construction if he wins the governorship. Full credit to him for doing the right thing. And no, I don’t feel sorry for him possibly having to exit the family firm he’s spent most of his adult life in; his share of the firm is worth two and a half million dollars. That’ll buy an awful lot of binkies. 

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Kudos to Mr. Leadership Phil Scott for unveiling his conflict-of-interest fix at the friendliest possible venue — his construction firm’s annual picnic. Ah yes: burgers, dogs, potato salad, Daddy Pops, frisbees, sack races, football tossin’, and the long-awaited announcement of how he will handle the inherent conflict of owning a firm that regularly bids on state contracts.

“One of these things is not like the others…”

This isn’t the first time he’s tried to settle this particular issue, which tells me his past solutions have failed to satisfy. The fact that he’ll make this announcement before a crowd of family, friends, and folks on his payroll doesn’t fill me with confidence about how he’ll handle it this time.

Heck, I don’t know if he’ll even take questions. Even if there is an opportunity, the occasion certainly won’t be conducive to aggressive questioning; any reporters who get uppity are likely to be shouted down by the Scottophiliac audience.

All of which leads me to expect some kind of half-assed, modestly tweaked version of his laughable “blind trust.” If so, well, he might have to try yet again.

In my mind, there are only two credible choices for him. That is, if he really wants to eliminate any appearance of conflict. I don’t expect him to choose either one.

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That’s right, the woman is smarter

Takeaways from today’s gubernatorial debate on women’s issues, viewable here

1. Bill Lee has nothing to contribute to this campaign.

2. Phil Scott offers empathy, but no ideas or policies on women’s issues.

3. Sue Minter’s getting good at this.

And finally, and most importantly,

4. This debate shows why we need more women in political office.

Let’s take ‘em in order.

Firstly, Bill Lee is a joke of a candidate, even by the oddball standards of Vermont small-party politics. He arrived late, delaying the start of the debate by about 15 minutes. He’d done nothing to prepare. He had little to say on the issues. His answers meandered all over the place. At one point, he appeared to utterly forget the question and just rambled on until his time was up. And here are a few examples of the Spaceman’s forthcoming entry in Bartlett’s:

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