Running update: Sen. Brian Campion, named below as having failed to file, did actually file. Four other lawmakers — Sen. Phil Baruth and Reps. Martin Lalonde, Emily Long and Seth Chase — say they zeroed out their accounts after the 2020 election and have neither raised nor spent more than $500 since, so they don’t have to file.
Updated update. I haven’t heard from any more lawmakers (so far), but I’ve written a second post explaining this exemption in more detail.
Well, if Jim Condos won’t do it, and Sarah Mearhoff won’t do it, I guess I have to.
Allow me to explain.
Last Friday, VTDigger’s always informative Final Reading kicked off with an item about lawmakers failing to abide by the law. Specifically, dozens of them have yet to file campaign finance reports that were due on March 15. Secretary of State Condos sent an email to lawmakers asking that they comply but refused to identify the scofflaws, saying “I can’t be their babysitter,” which kind of implies that they need one. Reporter Mearhoff also demurred from naming names, but teasingly said “I know who you are.”
Gee, and here I thought it was a reporter’s job to tell us what they know. Maybe space reasons? After all, the list of noncompliers is 69 names long. That’s almost 40% of the 180 “public servants” in the Legislature. Forty percent.
Mearhoff also reminded us that when the Legislature wrote the law, it refused to include any penalties for failing to file. That’s pretty standard fare for laws touching on their own interests; lawmakers jealously guard their privileges when it comes to campaign finance and ethics and reapportionment and such. Which leaves us with the plastic épée of public shaming, which rarely manages to penetrate a lawmaker’s skin.
Before I get to naming names, I should say that any mistakes are my responsibility and I will gladly make corrections if any of those listed below can show that they did, in fact, file as required by law. Also, this list was made on the morning of April 5; any reports filed after that are not reflected below.
By my count, 11 of our 30 distinguished senators couldn’t be bothered to file. They include some of the brightest, and some of the dimmest, bulbs in the drawer. In alphabetical order:
Phil Baruth, Christopher Bray, Randy Brock, Brian Campion, Alison Clarkson, Russ Ingalls, Mark MacDonald, Dick Mazza, Dick McCormack, Corey Parent, Andrew Perchlik, Dick Sears, Bobby Starr.
Couldn’t help noticing that the 10 of the 11 miscreants are men, whereas nine of the compliers are women. Sexist tropes about housework come to mind.
Four Three chairs of Senate policy committees — Bray, Campion, Mazza, and Sears — haven’t filed.
Three people not seeking re-election because they are running for higher office nonetheless managed to file reports for their state Senate accounts. Gold stars for Becca Balint, Joe Benning, and Kesha Ram Hinsdale.
Some of the Senate’s least useful members did not file. The hopeful interpretation is maybe they’re not running for re-election and actually opening the door for new blood. Highest hopes are on McCormack, one of Windsor County’s three senators, what with state Rep. Becca White now running for Senate. She’d be miles better than McCormack, whose greatest asset these days is his well-developed sense of entitlement.
“Not running for re-election,” by the way, is no excuse for not filing. You can file a “No Activity” report if you’ve raised and spent less than the minimum since last July. And you can officially close down your campaign account at any time.
Over to the House. Again, bright lights and dim bulbs alike. There are 58 names here, so take a deep breath…
Janet Ancel, Peter Anthony, John Arrison, Scott Beck, Thomas Bock, Pat Brennan, Nelson Brownell, Thomas Burditt, Mollie Burke,
Seth Chase, Kevin “Coach” Christie, Selene Colburn, Hal Colston, Peter Conlon, Tim Corcoran, Kate Donnally, Caleb Elder, Peter Fagan, Ken Goslant, Rodney Graham, James Gregoire, Mary Hooper, Jay Hooper, John Kascenska, Charlie Kimbell, Warren Kitzmiller, Larry Labor, Rob LaClair, Martin LaLonde, Paul Lefebvre, Felisha Leffler, Bill Lippert, Emily Long, Marcia Martel, James Mattos, Curt McCormack, Mary Morrissey, Barbara Murphy, Robert Norris, Terry Norris, William Notte, John Palasik, Joseph Parsons, Henry Pearl, Art Peterson, Ann Pugh, Carl Rosenquist, Taylor Small, Brian Smith, Harvey Smith, Gabrielle Stebbins, Vicky Strong, Linda Joy Sullivan, Heather Surprenant, Tom Terenzini, George Till, Casey Toof, Matthew Walker, Kate Webb, and Terri Lynn Williams.
Six (!) committee chairs are on the list, including the money committee chairs. That’s Ancel, Burke, Mary Hooper, Lippert, Pugh, and Webb.
One caucus chair, Progressive Selene Colburn, has yet to file.
Let’s turn the spotlight on Linda Joy Sullivan, who likes to present herself as a House watchdog and a stickler for proper order. She hasn’t filed yet.
The two Republicans who were slotted in the same Rutland district via reapportionment, Peter Fagan and Tom Terenzini, both failed to file. Both are subjects of retirement rumors, but again, intent to retire is no excuse.
It must be said that this is kind of the legislative equivalent of littering or going five miles per hour over the speed limit. Not exactly a capital crime, pun not intended. Also, I have to acknowledge that as much as I’ve reported on campaign finance over the years, I can’t cite a case where it had any discernible effect on a candidate’s prospects. People just don’t care. Except for political reporters.
Still. As minimal as the offense may be, it remains an offense. Keeping good records and filing periodic reports is simply not that difficult, certainly not at the minimal level of most House and Senate campaigns. Even if it was difficult, damn it, it’s the law.
You might expect the people who write our laws to feel themselves bound by the statutes they enact. They obviously don’t. Let’s remember that the next time a lawmaker speaks earnestly about the sacredness of the process or the people’s trust. These folks don’t even take their own rhetoric seriously.