You know, I’ve been complimentary of Lt. Gov. Molly Gray in the past. I’ve called her a history-making candidate who managed to win her very first election in a statewide contest. That’s an extremely rare feat. And now she’s a credible candidate for a seat in the U.S. Congress who’s earned the support of many party luminaries. Not bad at all.
But now? I’ve about had my fill.
Last night I wrote about her misleading attack on her closest rival, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint. Well, today Gray doubled down on the bullshit.
A reminder that this is about Super PAC money, which both candidates have forsworn. But Balint has been slammed for having a “red box” on her website. A red box is a link to talking points and images that could be used by Super PACs who want to run pro-Balint ads of their own. (The red box seems to be gone from Balint’s site; instead, there’s a link to a “digital toolkit” of talking points and images meant to be used by Balint supporters and not, I suppose, by any Super PAC that happened to wander by.)
Red box or no, Gray isn’t letting up. In fact, her campaign sent out a fundraising email blast today that fired all the rhetorical guns. You can see the full email at the end of this post.
It begins by accusing “our opponent” of “inviting dark money Super PACs into this primary.” Which is a stretch at best. But then it gets worse.
She writes of knowing “first-hand how harmful Super PAC spending can be in Vermont elections,” noting that outside Republicans spent more than $200,000 to try to defeat her in the 2020 race for lieutenant governor.
Here’s the thing. As was pointed out by Twitter acquaintance Josh Lisenby, Gray also benefited from Super PAC-funded attack ads against her 2020 opponent, Scott Milne. The anti-Milne TV spot can still be viewed on YouTube.
Gray’s workaround for this inconvenient fact? The email says she “didn’t welcome Super PAC spending then, and she doesn’t now.”
Well, saying she “didn’t welcome” the support is meaningless. Super PACs, by definition, don’t need a candidate’s approval to step into a race. In fact, it’s illegal for a Super PAC to coordinate in any way with a candidate. Molly Gray can refuse to “welcome” Super PACs all she wants, but that won’t step them for a New York minute if decide to step in. Gov. Phil Scott doesn’t “welcome” outside Super PACs, but he benefited heavily from their spending in his first two runs for governor.
The email equates any Super PAC spending with “dark money” that “will flood the airwaves and drown out the voices of Vermonters.” First, as I wrote previously, Gray is guilty of tarring all Super PACs as inherently evil, when in fact there are liberal and progressive Super PACs aplenty. And LGBTQ+ Super PACs who might back Balint.
The broad rhetoric about “dark money” obscures the difference between your typical Koch Brothers outfit and, say, the Equality PAC or the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, established by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and devoted to advancing gun safety legislation.
Progressive Super PACs have been a necessary addition to the political armory as a counterbalance to all the conservative Super PACs that litter the post-Citizens United landscape. To forswear all Super PAC money is to disarm yourself in the middle of a gunfight.
I sure as hell wouldn’t do it. I’d respond to Gray by saying, “So you don’t want gun control advocacy in Vermont? You don’t want LGBTQ+ advocacy? You don’t want labor unions to help you keep our Congressional seat in Democratic hands?” But hey, I’m not Becca Balint, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
The sad thing is, this is apparently the best that Molly Gray can do. Gin up a fake controversy and repeatedly batter her opponent with it. It’s… there’s a name for it…
Oh yeah. Negative campaigning. We don’t like that, do we?
Here’s the Gray campaign email: