Category Archives: Campaign finance

Aside From the Pandemic, It’s a Great Time to be Phil Scott

The last pre-primary campaign finance reports are in, and the big winner is… yep… Your Governor, Phil Scott.

Not that he raised much money. In fact, he raised so little that it’s clear he feels no urgency whatsoever. (Of course, he’s spending minimal time campaigning as long as the pandemic still hovers, but c’mon, if he had to raise money he’d find ways to do it.)

The latest fundraising reports cover the month of July, basically. During that time, Scott raised a mere $19,000 — bringing his campaign total to $99,000. (Numbers of more than four figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.) Even more telling is how much money he spent: A measly $1,133 for the entire month.

(Interesting entry in Scott’s “Expenses” column: $218.44 in fees to ActBlue. Which means the Democrats’ number-one online fundraising tool is serving as a conduit for Phil Scott?)

Scott is not afraid of John Klar. He’s not afraid of Rebecca Holcombe or David Zuckerman. He’s not afraid, period.

The other gubernatorial reports reinforce Scott’s apparent bulletproofness. Whoever wins the Democratic primary is going to emerge with little or no money in the bank, and the national Democratic donors aren’t coming to the rescue.

After the jump: The Dems’ respective hauls and the race for Lite-Guv.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Phil Scott’s national buddies go negative

I knew it was just a matter of time.

“A Stronger Vermont,” the D.C.-based SuperPAC arm of the Republican Governors Association, has been dumping truckloads of cash into Vermont on behalf of Phil Scott. Officially, the RGA tally is over $500,000. But as Paul Heintz reports today, the RGA has transferred another $600,000 into ASV’s coffers, “bringing its total investment in the race to $1.2 million.” With a month and a half to go.

Until now, ASV’s ads have been right out of the Phil Scott playbook: sunny, warm scenes of Phil interacting with Real People, a comforting voice-over, and music designed to trigger an endorphin rush.

Today, ASV crossed over to the dark side, with its first TV ad attacking Sue Minter.

Check that. Attacking Peter Shumlin.

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Postscript: Waffle House

Since I posted my previous piece on Phil Scott’s out-of-state expenses, I’ve learned a little bit about how to use the Secretary of State’s campaign finance portal. And so, without having to hand-tabulate dozens and dozens of small expenses, I can painlessly report that the Scott campaign has used its VISA card to pay $27,321.32 in expenses.

That’s the VISA card issued by Capital One Bank.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Capital One Bank.

North Carolina as in HB2, the “Bathroom Bill” that forces transgender persons to use public restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate. And that also enshrines other forms of gender-based discrimination.

The passage of HB2 prompted many corporations and organizations to refrain from doing business in North Carolina. Even the ethics-challenged world of big-time sports has taken up the cause. And, of course, Governor Shumlin imposed a ban on official state travel to North Carolina.

And yet, Phil Scott’s campaign took out a credit card from a North Carolina bank.

Why?

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