The wonderful folks who brought you the CovidCruiser bus to the January 6 insurrection are back in business, baby! Now it’s the KKK Traveling Road Show, featuring a select group of speakers who are convinced that Critical Race Theory is the worst thing since, I dunno, Sputnik?
No, Burisma. Let’s go with Burisma.
The Klar Klan Kruiser is the brainchild of Gregory Thayer, a Rutland accountant and QAnon-adjacent conspiratorialist. It’s making stops tonight (Wednesday 7/14) in Barre and Friday in St. Albans. In each venue, a series of speakers will rant and rave about CRT for what’s likely to be a small audience of like-minded folks.
So who’s on the guest list for tonight? Well, Thayer himself, former gubernatorial candidate John Klar, Our Lady of the CovidCruiser Ellie Martin, “Former Educators” Martha Hafner and Alice Flanders, and first-term Rep. Samantha Lefebvre (R-Orange).
The latter is the subject of this post.
During her campaign, Lefebvre depicted herself as a garden-variety Republican not too far to the right of Phil Scott. Her campaign website describes her, wholesomely, as “Wife, mom, small business owner, landlord, healthcare worker.” The top issues are affordability, local control of schools, public sector pension reform, and the importance of transparency and efficiency in state government. Sounds pretty benign, right?
Turns out she was a far-right stealth candidate who wore moderate’s clothing to enhance her electability. But once ensconced at the (virtual) Statehouse, she revealed herself to be a Donald Trump election truther. And now she’s speaking out against critical race theory. Oh boy.
Lefebvre also ran a stealth campaign in terms of fundraising. She filed the legally required campaign finance reports on the first day of July, August, September and October, and none after that. She has now ignored five deadlines: 10/15, 10/30, 11/17, 12/15 and the beginning of this month. So we have no idea how much money she received in the campaign’s home stretch, where it came from, and how she spent it.
Here’s what we know from the reports she bothered to file. As of October 1, she had raised a total of $3,592.70. Who were her donors? On July 1, she reported total fundraising of $100, including $75 from “self or family.” By August 1, she’d raised another $597.70, including $500 from Sharmayne Atwood of Bolton. Atwood is not a donor of any repute; that $500 was apparently her only donation to any legislative candidate.
On September 1, two very familiar names pop up in Lefebvre’s filing. Lenore Broughton of Burlington, generous contributor to far-right politicians and causes, kicked in $250. And Carol Frenier, extremely conservative spouse of extremely conservative former state rep Bob Frenier, donated $150.
The next (and final) filing reported $2,250 in fundraising. Virtually all of that — $2,080 — came from Dan and Alicia Cunningham of Burlington. (She also got $145 from the Orange County Republican Committee.) The Cunninghams were very active Republican donors last year. They gave max gifts of $1,040 to 10 Republican House candidates from all over the state. Most were very conservative first-timers including Lefebvre, Art Peterson and Sally Achey. (All three defeated Dem or Prog incumbents.) They each gave $1,040 to Lefebvre.
Dan is a financial advisor, Alicia is a doctor. They are the latest of a specific type of Vermont Republican donor: They give the max amount to a bunch of House candidates. A typical House race only costs a few grand, so a $1,040 contribution makes a huge difference. Broughton and a handful of other Republican donors have adopted this strategy in recent years.
One final tidbit. In committee deliberations, Lefebvre espoused Trump’s view of the 2020 election. On the House floor, she was one of a small number of Republicans to vote “no” on a resolution condemning the January 6 insurrection. We don’t know this directly from her; when Seven Days‘ Kevin McCallum was doing a story on the resolution, she refused to disclose her vote. Or, as he put it, she “took the novel position that she was under no obligation to tell the media, including Seven Days, how she voted, but would tell constituents.”
How convenient. And a bit inconsistent. She was perfectly happy to raise virtually all of her campaign cash from non-constituents, and she’s more than willing to share her views on critical race theory outside her district. But reporters? That’s where she draws the line.
Lefebvre’s apparent violations of campaign finance law have so far drawn no official response. Of course, the Secretary of State has no enforcement powers nor the capacity to audit campaign finance reports. Funny, isn’t it? The people who wrote the law are the ones directly affected by it. In cases touching their own interests, our legislators tend to be extremely forgiving with violators. If Lefebvre never files another campaign finance report, there’s a pretty good chance she’ll get away with it.