The Strange Tale of Kid Swastika and the Scummy Consultant

There’s a curious whiff of white nationalism around the Scott Milne campaign. The fresh-faced youngster above, Kolby Lamarche, is Milne’s director of field and digital operations. Lamarche became notorious back in 2017 when he used a Hindu swastika as his profile picture on his school email account. The Hindu version is slightly different from the Nazi swastika, but more than close enough to trigger the reaction he got — and seemed to welcome at the time.

Next we have Texas-based Harris Media, which has collected $16,000 from the Milne campaign for graphic design and online advertising. In recent years, Harris has created campaign advertising for some of Europe’s finest ultra-nationalists, including France’s Front Nationale and Germany’s Alternative fur Deutschland.

Is Milne is secretly assembling an All-Star team of neo-Nazis? Of course not. But the hiring decisions seem… shall we say… curious at best, and stupendously ignorant at worst. I mean, why go out of your way to hire a teenager and an out-of-state consultancy that might create bad publicity? Especially when you’re trying to wrap yourself in the Phil Scott cloak of plausible moderation?

You can understand the confusion. Nazi left, Hindu right.

For those just joining us, Lamarche was a freshman in Burlington High School in 2017 when he adopted the Hindu symbol for his school email account. He explained it as an attempt to “educate” people and got real huffy about the blowback he received. In fact, he garnered the support of conservative attack-dog attorney Brady Toensing, who threatened to sue the student newspaper over its coverage of Lamarche.

Because after all, the real victim in all of this is the conservative provocateur, right?

But c’mon. If he didn’t know what he was doing, he should have. Through no fault of the global Hindu community, the swastika is poison. It’s an instantaneously recognizable and uniquely potent symbol of hate and death. Use at your own risk.

I can imagine what Milne’s defense would be. “He was very young,” “he didn’t know what he was doing,” “he’s matured since then.”

Perhaps. But Lamarche is still a teenager, and the swastika debacle happened only three years ago. Maybe a little more time should pass before he’s fully rehabilitated.

It’s obvious that Republicans don’t think so. After all, in 2019 — a mere two years removed from his swastika dalliance — Lamarche became chair of the Burlington city party committee. That may say more about the dire straits of city Republicans than the star quality of Lamarche, but there he is.

So maybe he’s such a political talent that it’s worth some bad publicity. Maybe he has a conservative message that will win over a new generation. We can check that; Lamarche was interviewed last October on WCAX-TV by then-anchor Galen Ettlin. Here’s how he explained why he was attracted to the Republican Party.

It’s kind of a big tent party, as a lot of people know and say. So my ideas may not always align with my fellow Republicans, but at the end of the day we can all identify as Republicans because we are a big tent. And so, that’s my, that’s my main reason for wanting to be in the Republican party, is because it’s a big tent and I know my ideas are allowed, whatever they may be.

Yeah, that’s about as bland and unoriginal as it could be. Doesn’t sound like a budding genius.

So why is he on Team Milne? Well, he’s that rarest of all political fauna, a Republican under age 50 who wants to work for the cause. To put it another way, his biggest ability is availability.

It also bespeaks an attitude in Republican circles that’s willing to extend forgiveness to one of their own, and downplay or ignore the harm he did to others.

I’m not saying Lamarche deserves permanent exile. Second chances, fine. But after only three years? I wouldn’t do it. But I’m not on the campaign.

Now let’s turn to Harris Media. Go back a dozen years or so, and Vincent Harris was himself a young political star, dubbed “the man who invented the Republican Internet” and considered the best conservative digital strategist around. But it seems his early success went to his head; he gained a reputation for glad-handing but failing to follow through. His firm was fired by 2016 Senate candidate Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Those familiar with the fallout cited inattention to detail, clashes over money, and assignments being dumped on junior staffers. Around this time, Harris’ time away from the job also was causing concern. Two former employees said his trip to Burning Man late in the summer of 2016 was a particularly sore spot among clients.

His domestic fortunes failing, Harris turned to the international arena. He found success shilling for right-wing parties in Europe, thanks to fear-stoking advertisements about immigration and damn-the-torpedoes attacks on establishment politicos.

In other words, exporting the worst of Trumpism across the pond.

I have no idea why Team Milne went out of its way to hire a Texas firm with a dirty reputation — and specifically, a reputation for hardcore conservative attack ads. Again, it’s very much at odds with the campaign’s primary goal: tying Milne as closely as possible to Phil Scott. In fact, Milne’s first TV ad of the general election season features Phil Scott and nothing but Phil Scott. The governor’s voice narrates the entire spot; Milne is seen but not heard.

My interpretation, which is nothing but guesswork: Milne’s team includes Jim Barnett, the former JIm Douglas hatchetman who went on to rise in Republican consultancy circles. Presumably Barnett knows Harris Media, and is perhaps steering some business its way as it attempts to rebuild its domestic reputation.

Sixteen thousand dollars isn’t a lot of money by statewide campaign standards, but it’s a heavy investment for Team Milne. In fact, Harris accounts for fully one-half of Milne’s total expenditures as of September 1.

It’s strange. It seems like the downside of hiring Lamarche and Harris is not worth the potential upside. Neither seems irreplaceable to me. But hey, for better or worse, Scott Milne has always marched to the beat of his own drum. I’m sure he couldn’t care less about what I think, or what anybody else in #vtpoli thinks. Good luck to him. He’ll need it.

2 thoughts on “The Strange Tale of Kid Swastika and the Scummy Consultant

  1. walter h moses

    A question: Is the James Barnett mentioned the same guy that got so outraged when Jim Jeffords left the GOP over Bush’s refusal to fund special education? He really was in a snit. As I recall he left Vermont and joined the GOP presidential effort. He always seem to be a follower and a loser.

    Reply

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