Vermont Right to Life Practices the Art of Not Being Seen

The folks at Vermont Right to Life know they’re up against it. Vermont voters will have their say in November on Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment protecting reproductive rights, and they will almost certainly pass it by a wide margin. Right to Life knows this. So they are setting out to campaign in stealth mode. Like the many conservative school board candidates I’ve written about, VRTL has abandoned its real agenda in favor of a whitewashed, seemingly inoffensive suite of arguments.

They’ve even launched a new organization, Vermonters for Good Government. Now, doesn’t that sound like something we can all get behind?

But a brief perusal of VfGG’s website shows that their vision of “good government” consists of one thing: Defeating Proposition 5. But they aren’t doing it by shouting about how fetuses are human beings, no sir. They simply want to expose “the implications of swift changes to the Vermont Constitution.”

Swift, ha. The amendment process takes a full two four* years. Ain’t nothing “swift” about Prop 5.

*The amendment must be approved in two successive bienniums, not two successive years.

But wait, there’s more! These people are the real feminists, don’t ya know? VfGG warns of “the unseen, harmful impact of Prop 5 on the health and well-being of young girls, women, our communities, our healthcare system…” And they close by saying they are nothing more than guardians of the Vermont Constitution.

How do I know VfGG and VRTL are one and the same? First, according to the Secretary of State’s nonprofit registry, the principals of VfGG include two prominent figures in the right to life movement, Sharon Toborg and Norman Smith. And second, the VRTL Twitter account is promoting an event sponsored by VfGG.

That event, by the way, is a campaign strategy session led by a notorious figure in far-right politics.

John Tate, per VRTL’s bumpf, has “over 40 years of political experience in fundraising, direct mail, political strategy, and grassroots activism.”

VRTL fails to mention his conviction on a bribery charge in 2016. But hey, don’t worry, he got a full pardon!

By President Trump.

In the dying days of his administration.

Nothing shady about that, at all.

Anyway, even if he hadn’t gotten batch-pardoned along with Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, a measly little bribery conviction won’t stop him from prospering in conservative circles. Hell, it’s practically a badge of honor.

Most of Tate’s political activity in recent years has been on behalf of Ron and Rand Paul. He heads Campaign for Liberty, a 501c4 organization founded by Ron, and he is founder and president of America’s Liberty PAC, a super PAC that supported Rand’s 2016 bid for the White House. You know, the one where he got steamrolled by Trump?

Anyway, that’s the poisoned well that Vermonters for Good Government is drawing on.

Let’s turn to the Secretary of State’s nonprofit registry. Vermonters for Good Government, Inc., has three listed principals: Toborg, Smith, and Peter Gummere. Toborg is one of the leaders of VRTL. Smith is an attorney who has, among other things, testified before the Legislature against Prop 5 and against the right-to-die legislation that became law several years ago. Gummere is a deacon in the Catholic Church; he testified before the Legislature on H.57, the abortion rights law that preceded Prop 5.

There are three other registered organizations linked to VfGG. Vermonters for Good Government Action Fund, Vermonters for Good Government PAC, and Vermonters for the Common Good. All three refer back to VfGG, Inc.

All four organizations list as their address 76 Lincoln Street in Essex Junction. Here, thanks to Trulia, is that edifice in all its glory.

76 Lincoln Street is also the address of Smith’s law firm. And also, cross my heart and hope to die, the Burundian American Association of Vermont.

Strange bedfellows.

So don’t be surprised if we hear little or nothing from Vermont Right to Life about this imminent threat to their raison d’être. They’ll be busy campaigning under the Vermonters for Good Government monicker, and maybe also Vermonters for the Common Good.

They’re gonna lose anyway. But it’s kind of heartening to realize that they know it themselves. Otherwise, why the sad effort to Not Be Seen?


3 thoughts on “Vermont Right to Life Practices the Art of Not Being Seen

  1. latenac

    This explains the push poll I was recently called about. A series of statements a lot like what you’ve seen to see if one would make me less likely to vote for Prop 5.

  2. Robin Scheu


    Changing the constitution takes 4 years, not 2 as you’ve written. It has to pass both the House and the Senate twice over two consecutive bienniums (so two different legislatures) and then it goes to the voters the November of the end of the second biennium.

    This process began in 2019.


    Rep Robin Scheu

    Sent from my iPhone



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