While we wait for the final September 1 campaign finance reports to trickle in, here’s a little thing I noticed. Bruce Lisman, failed (and self-funded) candidate for governor, founder of Campaign for Vermont, and former Bear Stearns executive who may have been portrayed as a real dummy in the movie version of “The Big Short,” has made a total of three donations* to Vermont candidates so far this year.
*Update! Phil Scott just reported a $1,000 contribution from Lisman. So, four.
Together, they could serve as the dictionary definition of “mixed bag.” Let’s see if you can discern a pattern here.
He gave $500 to Sen. Joe Benning’s campaign for lieutenant governor. Not surprising at all.
He gave $500 to Patricia Preston’s hopeless bid for LG as a sort of centrist.
So far we’ve got what used to be called a mainline Republican and a moderate Democrat. *Plus a putatively moderate Republican.
third fourth gift? $1,000 to “Farmer” John Klar’s campaign for state senate.
I mean, Klar is trying to position himself as a fiscal sharpie, which is right up Lisman’s alley. But that positioning is doomed to fail because of Klar’s long trail of inflammatory opinion pieces that loudly display his nativism, racism, anti-abortionism, and LGBTQ+-phobia. His 2020 campaign for governor was based on staunch criticism of Gov. Phil Scott as a fake Republican.
Oh, and he made a big stink when the city of Montpelier allowed “BLACK LIVES MATTER” to be painted on State Street. He wanted to add “Liberty and Justice for All” to the display because he thinks the BLM movement is radical and anti-American. He threatened to sue when the city turned him down.
Lisman’s gift is a big one in Senate campaign terms. It helped Klar put together a sizable $21,000 war chest (obligatory “war chest” reference, check), one of the biggest Senate campaign funds anywhere in the state. It’s also the only donation Lisman has made to a candidate for the state legislature.
Now, a thousand bucks is pocket change for a retired Wall Street panjandrum. But it’s certainly curious. I don’t have an explanation.
On a related topic, it’s a real pain to try to track individual donors in the Secretary of State’s campaign finance system. Every time a name or address is spelled differently or the tiniest typo is inserted, it creates a new file for the individual. When you look up Bruce Lisman, you have to wade through 21 separate files. In some, he’s listed as “Lisman, Bruce.” In others, it’s “Lisman, Bruce M.” Once it’s in all caps. There are variations on his street address, there’s a PO Box number, there’s one address in Houston, Texas for some reason.
Most of the files are empty, but you have to open them all one at a time to make sure you catch all his activity. Lenore Broughton is even worse; she’s got 44 separate files. Makes me wonder if donors are deliberately misspelling things or making minor changes to name or address just to make it harder for people like me to follow their political giving.
The Federal Elections Commission doesn’t have this problem. There must be a way to fix this. Maybe Secretary of State In Waiting Sarah Copeland Hanzas can figure it out.