Molly Gray is on notice: If she wants to be lieutenant governor, she’s gonna have to fight for it.
First came Scott Milne’s roundhouse attacks in Thursday’s VTDigger debate (more on that in a separate post). Now comes a big-money investment in Milne from the D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee.
National Republicans have yet to throw any real money at Gov. Phil Scott, presumably because they are convinced he doesn’t need it. But clearly they see an opportunity to take the Lite-Guvship and position Milne as Scott’s successor.
RSLC Vermont, an independent political action committee, has reported a mass media buy totaling $209,500, the bulk of it on a TV ad blitz in support of Milne. Yep, in a single shot, the big boys put down as much cash as an entire LG campaign used to cost.
So much for Gray’s financial advantage over Milne. And this was a single expenditure; there’s a virtually unlimited supply of cash where that came from. For these folks, $200,000 is pocket change.
The RSLC is a key component of the conservative effort to buy American politics lock, stock and Supreme Court. Atop its list of donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is the Judicial Crisis Network, the far-right organization spearheading the drive to install conservative-minded judges and, ahem, Supreme Court Justices. Other big-dollar RSLC backers include the US Chamber of Commerce, tobacco giant Altria Group, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Governors Association, PhRMA, Amway, Koch Industries, and good old Blue Cross-Blue Shield. (Aww, and Big Blue always sounds so kind and community-spirited in its ad campaigns.)
Yeah, the same people who fueled the rise of Donald Trump, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, and are doing their best to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a Brett Kavanagh thinkalike, are here in Vermont promoting the putative moderate Scott Milne.
But hey, RSLC Vermont is an independent PAC with no connection to the Milne campaign, so he has plausible deniability — just like Phil Scott, whose rise to the governorship has been fueled by outside conservative interests. In both 2016 and 2018, the Republican Governors Association spent far more on Scott than did the candidate himself.
The money went to Flexpoint Media, a D.C.-based consultancy headed by Tim Cameron, former Newt Gingrich associate and digital strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. According to the CRP, Flexpoint has taken in $25 million in revenue this election cycle — more than half of it from the NRSC.
Flexpoint’s client list features a few high-profile officeholders like Sens. Ben Sasse and Thom Tillis, and a whole lot of ultraconservatives who were too batshit to win Republican primaries in states like Texas, Alabama and Tennessee. For example, Chris Ekstrom, who looks exactly like a caricature of a wealthy Texan:
Ekstrom moved from Dallas to Wichita Falls just to run for an open Congressional seat, but lost the primary. Afterward, he graciously referred to district voters as “village idiots.”
In short, Flexpoint has strong ties to national Republican power circles, but it’s kind of a B-list consultancy serving candidates who are trying to out-Trump Trump. And are losing in conservative districts.
That’s the outfit now doing the ad buys for Scott Milne.
In his past two campaigns, Milne has been quite the provocateur. He spent his 2018 senatorial campaign bashing Pat Leahy and his almost-successful 2014 gubernatorial campaign slamming Peter Shumlin. Now he’s cosplaying “Phil Scott Republican.” But keep an eye on where he spends his money, and who’s spending big on his behalf.