Category Archives: Dean Corren

I’d say these two guys deserve each other

In this corner, wearing the red trunks, a compulsively litigious Vermont attorney who’s a partner in a D.C.-based law firm with a lengthy rap sheet as a conservative attack dog.

In the far corner, in the blue Spandex, Vermont’e Eternal General, who would have passed his sell-by date years ago if not for the voters’ generous attitude toward incumbency AND a last-ditch bailout from out-of-state donors in 2014.

And whoops, there’s the bell, and the guy with the legal authority wins by TKO.

Such was the result of VTGOP Vice Chair Brady Toensing’s most recent complaint against a liberal politician. Attorney General Bill Sorrell brusquely dismissed his argument that Bernie Sanders’ email blast was a material contribution to the State Senate candidacy of Rep. Chris Pearson, and thus subject to campaign finance limits.

But frankly, neither party covered himself in glory here. Toensing is exhibiting a pattern of politically-motivated legal filings, and Sorrell’s dismissal revealed the weakness of his relentless persecution of Dean Corren.

So, a pox on both their houses. May they spend the afterlife in whatever circle of Hell is reserved for lawyers, shackled together in a vat of fire.

Okay, maybe that’s too harsh. How about this: a featureless Limbo where they debate fine legal points for all eternity?

Yeah, that’ll do.

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Progressive Party: sovereign entity or barnacle?

Here’s an interesting factoid. Voters in the August 9 primary will have their choice of three ballots — Democratic, Republican, and Progressive.

The latter will be available statewide in printed form. And in most of our precincts, the entire Progressive ballot will contain precisely one name: Boots Wardinski, Capital City Farmers Market stalwart and Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s run for Lite-Guv twice before, both times on the Liberty Union ticket, with minimal result.

We are all paying (by one account, $80,000*) to put Boots Wardinski’s name on ballots that will be largely ignored by voters. Most Progressives won’t take a Progressive ballot because so many Progs are running in Democratic primaries. Like, for instance, real live actual Progressive David Zuckerman, running as a Dem for lieutenant governor — in a tough race against Democrats Shap Smith and Kesha Ram. How many Progs are going to pass up a chance to influence that race just to cast a vote for Boots Wardinski?

*According to the Secretary of State’s office, the total cost of this year’s primary ballots is roughly $160,000. One-third of that would be $53,333.33. So there’s your Boots Tax.)

Beyond the unfortunate use of public funds for all those straight-to-the-shredder Wardinski ballots, this raises an existential issue about the Progressive Party.

Is it gradually ceding its sovereignty, and turning into nothing more than a barnacle on the Democrats’ underside?

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High stakes for a low-heeled job

It may be Vermont’s “bucket of warm piss,” in the unexpurgated words of John Nance Garner, but the campaign for Lieutenant Governor is going to absolutely shatter all previous records. In fact, the record will almost certainly fall before the party primaries in August.

Two years ago, Phil Scott and Dean Corren combined to spend about $433,000 on their respective campaigns. That set a new high water mark for the post. So far this year, about $400,000 has been contributed to Lite-Guv hopefuls. And for goodness’ sake, it’s only March!

Democrat Brandon Riker managed to raise $188,000 before dropping out, which tells you something right there. A newbie candidate raises almost as much by March 15 as Phil Scott did for all of 2014 — and feels compelled to withdraw in spite of his bankroll.

The remaining Democratic candidates, Kesha Ram and David Zuckerman, are closing in on the $200,000 mark combined, with no end in sight.

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Phil Scott asks some dumb questions

Apparently our humble & lovable Lieutenant Governor still has a bug up his butt about public financing of election campaigns. You may recall that Phil Scott had never uttered a word about public financing* until Dean Corren qualified for public funds last year, forcing Scott to actually put some effort into his campaign. The experience was traumatic enough that it birthed a “philosophical objection” to public financing in Scott’s mind.

*Correction: I’ve been informed that Scott has voiced objections on previous occasions. Sen. Joe Benning: ” I first heard him expressing his disagreement with public financing of campaigns when I met him back in 2010.” I thank the Senator for taking the time to write. I’d still like to know if Scott had ever expressed his disagreement on the public record, but clearly his concerns precede his 2014 campaign.

On Tuesday, Scott grabbed an opportunity to again state his “philosophical objection” to public financing, and raise a series of far-fetched questions about the law’s workings.

His testimony before the Senate Government Operations Committee drew no attention in the media because it was immediately followed by Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s appearance, in which he belatedly acquiesced to calls for an independent probe of his campaign finances. Yeah, that kinda overshadowed everything else.

Also, Scott’s remarks were immediately dismissed by the committee, which had convened to consider a single technical change in the law; there was no time for broader questions.

But before it vanishes into the mists of history, let’s recount some of Phil Scott’s testimony.

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The Eternal General Strikes Back (Warning: SATIRE)

Y'know, this picture works with almost any song lyric.

Y’know, this picture works with almost any song lyric.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, having come under intense criticism for his handling of campaign finance prosecutions and his own questionable compliance with the law, came out in true Two-Fisted Attorney General fashion late Friday.

(Warning: SATIRE.)

In a hastily-called news conference, Sorrell announced the filing of several new accusations against Dean Corren, last year’s Democratic and Progressive candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

Sorrell had previously charged Corren with violating the state’s public financing law by accepting tangible assistance from the Democratic Party, namely an email blast with an estimated value of $255. Sorrell’s proposed punishment for this crime: a total of $72,000 in fines and reimbursements.

“I have been accused of excessive zeal in this prosecution,” said Sorrell, a brace of assistant and deputy Attorneys General forming a semi-circle behind him. “To the contrary, I have uncovered even more violations by Mr. Corren. Taken together, they paint a clear and unmistakable picture of a rogue campaign.”

Among the new charges against Corren:

— At a Democratic State Committee meeting, Corren sneezed and a party official loaned him a handkerchief. “A tissue would have been within the bounds of the law,” noted Sorrell, “but a piece of haberdashery is clearly a significant gift that Mr. Corren could have potentially used throughout the remainder of his campaign.”

(Warning: more SATIRE… after the jump.)
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Money can’t buy me love

"I'm not dead yet!" said a soft, muffled voice.

“I’m not dead yet!” said a soft, muffled voice.

The race for Governor of Vermont had all the makings of “Bambi Vs. Godzilla II: The Re-Flattening.” Scott MIlne was a badly underfunded candidate who ran a goofy, error-filled campaign, while Peter Shumlin was the consummate political pro with a huge bankroll and a far stronger party apparatus.

And yet, here we are in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, and the race is technically too close to call. Shumlin’s almost certain to finish first, but with an embarrassingly small margin. This election is a crippling blow to his dream of single-payer health care, and to whatever his hopes were for the rest of his political career. No longer is he the guy who outsmarted a tough Democratic field and Brian Dubie in 2010, romped to re-election two years later, and built a fundraising operation the likes of which had never been seen in Vermont; he is now, and forever will be, the guy who spent nine hundred thousand bucks and almost lost to Scott Freakin’ Milne, who now looks like 2014’s answer to Fred Tuttle. Which would put Shumlin in the role of Jack McMullen, ugh.

The lessons of that Beatles lyric will also have to be learned at Democratic Party headquarters, where much money was spent and a lot of smart people were paid to run a campaign machine capable of overcoming all the obstacles in their path. Myself, I put a lot of stock in that operation, and I was wrong. The Dems have some serious soul-searching to do. How could they have such a strong grassroots organization, and yet be so out of touch with the grass roots?

In terms of issues, my diagnosis is that the Democrats (and the Progressives) misread the electorate, failing to address the issue of the year — property taxes. There was a fatal degree of hubris in the Shumlin Administration’s continually trotting out fresh issues, all of which were worthy of attention — but which diverted the government away from the lunchpail concerns of real folks.

You know, all those people who get to vote.

Property taxes were #1 on that list. And the Democratic majority was seen as unwilling or unable to tackle the issue.

Aside from property taxes, the second biggest problem (in my humble and sometimes dead wrong opinion) is the feeble economic recovery, featuring endless stagnation for the working and middle classes. This is not Governor Shumlin’s fault; it’s the way America’s economy is going. But he gets credit when times are good, and takes the blame when they’re not. Times are still tough for a lot of Vermont voters. I’m not sold that Vermonters favor the Republican prescription of cutting taxes and regulation, but they do have to see some tangible benefits from a Democratic administration.

Finally, if 2012 showcased Peter Shumlin’s good side — the solid helmsman who kept things running after Tropical Storm Irene and steered Vermont on his chosen course — then 2014 showed him at his worst: the all-too-polished politico who says whatever he thinks people want to hear, who can’t be trusted, who’s not nearly as good at day-to-day operation as he is at crisis management, and who is, frankly, seen as arrogant and unwilling to listen to those who disagree with him.

Scott Milne was, literally and figuratively, the anti-Shumlin. He got a lot of votes merely because he was Not Peter Shumlin. But beyond that, his extreme lack of polish — which seemed to be a fatal flaw — actually made him seem authentic, especially in contrast to Shumlin, the political animal. That’s why I compare him to Fred Tuttle.

But the avatar of out-of-touch liberalism was Dean Corren, the spectacularly failed Prog/Dem candidate for Lieutenant Governor. He qualified for public financing, which gave him enough money to run a competitive race. And he failed to come anywhere close to Cass Gekas’ late-starting, underfunded campaign in 2012. Corren had good ideas, but again, they were untethered to the everyday concerns of voters. It was the worst possible year for a rather prickly Progressive policy wonk with blue-sky ideas on energy and health care. And Phil Scott was his worst possible opponent.

I’m sure somebody will accuse me of lipsticking the pig here, but this could turn out to be a very good thing for the Democrats. It ought to kick the complacency out of them, and the hubris out of the governor’s office. They’ll have to take a serious look at how it all went wrong and try to fix it. If they do, they can reform and refocus themselves without the usual necessary step of actually losing power.

On the other hand, we could be in for a period of infighting, mutual recrimination, and descent into actual defeat in two years’ time. One thing’s for sure: a lot of potentially good Republican candidates sat this one out because they thought there was no chance.

They won’t make that mistake again.

Yep, I was wrong.

dunce-cap-599x320Yesterday’s elections turned out to be a lot more favorable for Vermont Republicans — or, to put it more accurately, unfavorable for Vermont Democrats — than I thought.

My fearless, not to mention feckless, predictions were:

— Governor Shumlin would easily clear the 50% barrier.

WRONG! As of early Wednesday morning, he still has a mathematical chance of losing to Scott Milne, and there’s no way he’ll get 50%.

— Dean Corren would come closer to unseating Lt. Gov. Phil Scott than Cass Gekas did two years ago, finishing in the mid-40s.

WRONG! Scott cruised, with better than 62% of the vote. Corren was depantsed AND wedgied, finishing with a mere 36%.

— Republicans would have to be satisfied with a bare minimum of legislative gains.

WRONG! They took two Senate seats and at least seven in the House. A couple of races are still hanging, and they might even reach Phil Scott’s seemingly rose-colored projection of double-digit gains.

I wasn’t completely shut out. The Republicans failed to mount serious challenges in the Washington and Orange County senate contests, and Dan Feliciano stumbled to a very poor finish. He couldn’t even gain automatic ballot status for the Libertarian Party.

But those are mere bagatelles. On the big races, I was as thoroughly depantsed as Dean Corren.

And now I learn from my mistakes, or try to. Explanations in my next post. But first, where’s that crow pie? I’ve got a hankering’ for some crow pie!