We all know that the world of Vermont conservative politics is a small one. Recently, I was doing some campaign finance research when I came across an example of exactly how small a world it really is.
The object of my research was far-right megadonor Lenore Broughton. I’m tracking her state and federal campaign contributions for an upcoming post.
Most of Broughton’s activity is on the federal level, and she supports exactly the kind of politicians you’d expect: Donald Trump, Lauren Boebert, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Ron Johnson, etc. But that’s a tale for another day. On the state level in the 2020 election cycle and the 2022 cycle (so far), she’s made four separate donations.
She gave $5,000 to the Vermont Republican State Committee. She gave $500 to the Rutland County Republican Committee. And she cut two checks totaling $8,050 to something called Right for Vermont.
This is where we turn into the cul-de-sac. It’ll be a short but entertaining ride.
So, what is Right for Vermont? It’s a political action committee run by former VTGOP chair Deb Billado. It’s a tiny operation; it would hardly exist at all except for the oft-misplaced largesse of Lenore Broughton, who loves her a conservative lost cause.
In the 2020 cycle, Right for Vermont received a total of $4,050.16 in donations. All but 16 cents of that was from Broughton. I think the remainder was interest income, or maybe Billado found some change in the sofa cushions. The PAC spent about $2,400 on advertisements in local newspapers: the Burlington Area News Group, which operates seven weeklies, and the North Avenue News, a free mass-distributed monthly.
In the 2022 cycle, as of the last reporting deadline of March 15, Right for Vermont had received a total of $6,040. And here’s where it gets really sad. Broughton was directly or indirectly responsible for all but $300 of that. She donated $4,000 directly and $1,740 by way of True North Reports, the seldom-read right-wing “news” site she chooses to underwrite.
As for the other $300, it came from Deb Billado herself. Yeesh.
Why a “news” outlet is giving political donations, I don’t know. Was it a way for Broughton to sidestep personal donation limits? Probably; the limit for any single source donation to a PAC is $4,210. By laundering money through that paragon of journalism True North Reports, she’s been able to give RFV substantially more.
On to expenditures. So far this cycle, RFV has given $1,000 to none other than notorious transphobe Christoper-Aaron Felker. It’s also bought $740 worth of radio ads from Vox AM/FM.
Hmm, those two expenditures add up to $1,740 — exactly the amount donated by, or through, True North Reports. I’m sure that’s a coincidence.
Otherwise, Right for Vermont spent a total of $4,397 for consulting services and web development to the Stowe-based Water Cooler Communications.
Y’know, most political action committees don’t spend more than half their takings on consulting services. Well the scammy ones do, but not the serious ones. Now, maybe Billado has big plans and Water Cooler is laying a foundation, but she’s taking a damn long time to get anywhere.
And here’s where we hit the end of the cul-de-sac. According to its state corporate registration, the principals of Water Cooler Communications are Rob Roper, former head of the Ethan Allen Institute, and Ben Kinsley, formerly of Campaign for Vermont and currently repping the weird, scammy, not-quite-there Senate campaign of Brock Pierce.
This tight little Broughton/Billado/Roper roundelay could only happen in the insular bubble-world of Vermont conservatism. What has it produced? Well, It’s moved small amounts of money around from pocket to pocket with little to show for it. Heck, “little” is probably a generous assessment.
I suppose I should be happy with this state of affairs. After all, Broughton has enough money to bankroll a strong conservative push in Vermont — if only she had an idea of how to spend it. She wouldn’t turn Vermont red or anything, but she could cause a lot of trouble.
As far as I’m concerned, she can go on squandering her grandfather’s fortune on True North Reports and the political sagacity of the likes of Billado and Roper.
“As far as I’m concerned, she can go on squandering her grandfather’s fortune on True North Reports and the political sagacity of the likes of Billado and Roper.”
Thanks for doing this piece and the research for it. I hope that this gets out in the open more too, so we can see were the money financing these people is coming from and who is behind it, and get familiar with names like Broughton.