Category Archives: Campaign finance

The Good Senator from ALEC

An unknown number of Vermont Republican state lawmakers are affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative organization that promotes model legislation for statehouses across the country.  The most recent estimate came from State Rep. Bob Helm (R-Fair Haven), ALEC’s state chair, who figured there were about 20 Vermont lawmakers on the ALEC rolls.

Which is about one-third of all Republicans in the Statehouse.

But of all those 20-odd people, there’s one who has benefited from ALEC’s largesse more than any other Vermonter. And you probably wouldn’t be able to guess who it is.

Kevin Mullin, Republican from Rutland, not especially known for being a hardliner. Indeed, like a beige house with beige trim, his blandness is his most distinguishing characteristic. Well, that and being Norm McAllister’s clueless roomie.

(The Rutland area seems to be a hive of ALEC activity. In addition to Mullin and Helm, Sen. Peg Flory is also on the ALEC list, as are a couple of former Rutland-area lawmakers. Is it something in the water?)

We can’t tell exactly how much Mullin has dipped his snout into the ALEC trough because for the past several years, the group has refused to release information about its members, its “scholarships” and free travel to ALEC meetings and conferences, usually held at top-flight hotels and resorts.

See, it became too embarrassing to its beneficiaries.

But the figures are still out there for 2009 and before. And boy howdy, has Sen. Mullin cashed in.

Continue reading

Advertisements

A moment of dismay, dissipated

I was skimming around in campaign finance reports the other day*, when I came across something that made me say “Hmm.” And here it is:

Lisman donation

This is taken from the latest campaign finance filing of Common Sense Leadership PAC, House Minority Leader Don Turner’s slush fund political action committee. It indicates that one Bruce Lisman made a donation of $4,000 to CSLPAC on October 11.

Bruce Lisman. Of 716 Kipling Street, Houston, Texas.

Oh please, say it ain’t so, Bruce. Say you haven’t left us for a warm-weather tax haven. Especially after a campaign full of bumpf about what a true-blue Son of Vermont you were.

Reinforcing my curiosity were the fact that Lisman’s Twitter feed has been inactive since August 10, his campaign’s Facebook page was last updated on August 15, and his campaign website has been consigned to the same Internet purgatory populated by the remnants of AngelFire and GeoCities.

(Kids, ask your parents.)

Fortunately, I’ve been reassured by Lisman’s costly campaign manager, Shawn Shouldice:

Have no fear Bruce is still very much in Vermont.

Whew.

Continue reading

Big donors, big money in targeted House districts

Two years ago, the Republican State Leadership Committee funneled $370,000 into Vermont, backing candidates in close races for the Vermont House. The VTGOP won several of those seats and took away the Democrats’ supermajority status.

So far this year, the RSLC has spent a lot less. But a handful of closer-to-home moneybags have taken matters into their own hands. They’ve donated more than $100,000 to individual Republican House candidates and House Minority Leader Don Turner’s political action committee.

In the small-dollar world of State House campaigns, that’s a huge amount of money.

First, a hat tip to Green Mountain Daily’s Sue Prent, who reported on the Franklin County iteration of this phenomenon a couple weeks ago. Turns out, it’s only part of a bigger pattern. But because the money is broadly dispersed, the pattern has attracted little attention.

Two of the donors are familiar names to anyone who follows Vermont politics. The other two might be new to you.

Continue reading

Bernie Steps Up (and Pat Already Has)

Time for a follow-up to my recent post about the lack of support for Sue Minter from Vermont’s Congressional delegation. First, the good news:

Yep, that’s Bernie Sanders deigning to appear at not one, but two rallies on behalf of Sue Minter and the Democratic ticket. I’ll step out on a short limb here and predict that we’ll see more such events before Election Day. Extra added bonus: the involvement of Rights & Democracy. It’s nice to see them make the smart political calculation that a moderately liberal Democrat is a better choice than a questionably center-right Republican.

This erases the only question surrounding Bernie’s endorsement of the Democratic ticket last week: would he step up, step out, and make a public effort on their behalf? The answer is a developing but hearty “Yes!”

And now, the senior Senator from Vermont, Pat Leahy. Last week, I wondered why he hadn’t been more public with his backing of Minter. Well, that post generated a response from the Leahy camp listing all the times and places that the good Senator had appeared with Minter or acted on her behalf.

Continue reading

Campaign finance according to Deb Bucknam

The Republican candidate for Attorney General, Deb Bucknam, has a… shall we say unique… approach to the issue of money in politics. The problem, in her eyes, isn’t corporate donations or Citizens United or the Koch Brothers or dark-money SuperPACs or outside interests flooding Vermont with their barely regulated and lavishly funded nonprofits.

None of that. The real problem is Pat Leahy.

Hey. You in the back, stop laughing.

Bucknam laid out her reasoning, if that’s what you can call it, in an interview with Chris Lenois of Brattleboro’s WKVT Radio. (The interview also ran on Brattleboro’s community access cable channel and can be seen here.)

It should be noted that elsewhere, Bucknam has offered a full-throated defense of the Citizens United decision. In fact, she claims that overturning Citizens United would inevitably involve limiting the First Amendment rights of all Americans.

Back to the Lenois interview. He asked a question about regulating money in politics.  She began by asserting that money is a necessary part of politics and trying to regulate it is doomed to failure. But she sees one ray of hope:

If we limited — not donors so much — but candidates themselves, how a candidate can spend the money they receive, that may help solve the money in politics problem.

At this point, I was honesty puzzled. What in the Sam Hill was she driving at?

Continue reading

Party of One

The leader of the State House’s perpetually undersized Republican caucus is feeling his oats.

[House] Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, said he believes the Republican Party can increase its presence in the chamber from the current 53 seats to 76 — a majority.

I understand it’s part of his job to put on a brave face, but there is no way on God’s green Earth that the Republicans rack up a net gain of 23 House seats. After all, 2014 was a horrible year for Vermont Democrats; their ticket-topper was the roundly unpopular Peter Shumlin, there was no race for President or U.S. Senator, and turnout was dramatically depressed. And even with all that in their favor, the VTGOP only managed a net gain of eight seats in the House.

Eight.

And 2016 should be a bounceback year for the House Democrats. (More on this below.)

There’s also the inconvenient fact that the House Republicans’ campaign warchest appears to be in the red. According to its most recent campaign finance filing, the Vermont House Republican PAC has raised $5,095 this campaign cycle and spent $7,832.74. That dip into penury was triggered by an Attorney General’s ruling that the PAC had improperly accepted contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session. It had to return $3,000 in donations and pay a $2,000 fine.

So, no help there. But it’s not like the VHRPAC is alone. Pretty much every Republican aside from Phil Scott is begging for spare change.

Continue reading

The big-money tsunami has arrived

Fun Fact, courtesy of Seven DaysPaul Heintz:

[Phil Scott] has yet to run any television advertising in the general election.

That might come as a surprise to anyone who watches TV in Vermont. We’ve seen a plethora of spots in support of Scott and against Sue Minter.

And every last one of ‘em was bought and paid for by a Washington, D.C.-based SuperPAC, ironically named “A Stronger Vermont.”

ASV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Governors Association, has spent more than $1.2 million in Vermont. With five weeks to go, it seems certain to exceed $2 million.

Continue reading