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.


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?

Tens of thousands of expenses have been paid on that VISA card. Capitol One collected all the fees and interest. If you added those to his out-of-state total, more than 50 percent of his total expenditures violated Scott’s “Buy Local” mantra.

Let’s run down the names, just to prove I’m not blowing smoke.

0ptimus Consulting (Washington, D.C.): $208,616

Public Opinion Strategies (suburban D.C.): $55,500

SPG, LLC (suburban D.C.): $43,000

Spectrum Marketing (Manchester, NH): $36,679.31

SCM Associates (Dublin, NH): $29,160.25

Erik Mason (campaign staffer, lives in Tampa, FL): $21,000

David Kelley Consulting (Marlborough, MA): $11,572.58

Acadia Insurance Co. (Philadelphia, PA): $4,059.00  (This is for workers’ comp insurance. The Scott campaign buys staff health insurance through Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Vermont.) 

Right Voter LLC (Indiana): $1,659.38

Now, some of these goods or services might have been unavailable or difficult to source within Vermont. But the scope and size of Scott’s out-of-state expenditures bespeaks a lack of concern for Buying Local, formerly a point of pride for Scott’s campaigns. I mean, why get your VISA card from North Carolina?

I should also mention the hypocrisy of Scott sourcing his consulting services, media buys, polling, robocalls, and the like from that den of iniquity, Washington, D.C. After all, I seem to remember him whining constantly about Bruce Lisman’s “D.C.-style tactics.”

Welcome to the Brave New World, where that humble Son of the Green Mountains, Phil Scott, is not only dipping his toe into the murky waters of Washington — he’s diving in headfirst.

All of this omits the most out-of-state aspect of the Phil Scott effort: the unprecedented flood of outside dollars ($500,000 and counting) from the Washington-based Republican Governors Association that’s funding a glossy multimedia ad campaign.

(If you see a mailer or TV ad that discloses “A Stronger Vermont” as the source, that’s the RGA at work. “A Stronger Vermont” shares office space with the D.C. headquarters of the RGA.)

And yes, there’s no known coordination between the official Scott campaign and the RGA. But the fact that Scott is sitting back and enjoying the fruits of Washington-style politics is a 180-degree turnaround from the humble workingman of song and story. One has to wonder if the prospective Governor Phil Scott will be influenced or tainted in any way by his deep engagement with the D.C. cesspit.


4 thoughts on “Leadership That Waffles: No More Buying Local

  1. Robert Haskins

    I’m no Scott staffer, but as someone familiar with the operational composition of modern day campaigning, you’re wholly off target here. Well I’ll give you the Visa card complaint, but outsourcing the resources you’ve identified to groups outside of Vermont is necessary. This small state doesn’t have the campaign infrastructure today’s well financed candidates require. Add in the woeful condition of the VTGOP lead by the Keystone Cops duo of Bartley & Sunderland, you’d be looking for help outside our borders too.

    For what’s worth, Eric Mason, who used to be a Vermont resident for years, is in Vermont full-time now. As usual the devil is in the details and what you see online isn’t the entire story.

    Asking Scott to run a campaign with one hand tied behind his back against an opponent with resources and the heralded VTDEM ground game is ridiculous.

    Let’s look inside Minter’s glass house shall we?

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Well, last point first: Minter’s not the one who bragged about running a purely Made In Vermont campaign, so that’s off the table.

      As for Erik Mason, all I can tell is his mailing address. It’s still Tampa.

      As for the general comment, I allowed that some goods and services might only be available outside Vermont. But some of the out-of-state items don’t qualify. Like the credit card, and the New Hampshire firm he used for tens of thousands in postage and printing, and the workers’ comp carrier. To me, that says the Scott campaign isn’t giving much thought to buying local.


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