Category Archives: ethics

Skunk at the party

The abrupt end of Norm McAllister’s first trial on sex-crime charges — a case of prosecutorial overreach, malfeasance, or cowardice, or a combo platter of all three — creates a world-class headache for Franklin County Republicans.

DoonesburyGuiltyMcAllister’s second trial is vaguely scheduled for sometime this fall, and will be conducted by the same legal Dream Team that flushed the first case down the sewer. Between now and then, we’ve got ourselves a primary vote and maybe a general election. McAllister has filed for re-election, and there’s nothing to stop him from carrying on.

Well, shame, perhaps. But he’s already proven he has precious little of that commodity. Remember the Franklin County Legislative Breakfast in January, when the recently suspended McAllister not only showed up, but tried to chair the meeting?

There will be a three-way Republican primary for two Franklin County ballot spots, featuring incumbent Dustin Degree, incumbent in-limbo McAllister, and State Rep. Carolyn Branagan.

It wouldn’t be a surprise, at all, if the esteemed ranks of Franklin County Republicans renominated McAllister despite the massive and unmistakable aroma surrounding him. Vermonters are, after all, strongly inclined to support incumbents — or too lazy to do their homework, take your pick.

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The Watchdog labors mightily and brings forth a mouse

The readership of this blog has been growing rapidly of late. Part of the new crowd, to judge from the Comments and my Twitter feed, is comprised of conservatives who apparently read this stuff as a form of aerobic exercise: Stimulate the heart rate through aggravation.

One brave Tweeter recently responded to my disparaging comments about Phil Scott’s letter touting “concerning reports,” anonymous, that the Shumlin administration was trying to shoehorn political job-holders into regular state positions.

Scott has kept quiet about the letter ever since, so methinks he realized he had no evidence beyond, according to his office, one single inside source.

(Either that, or somebody told him to STFU because Jim Douglas did exactly that during his exit from office.)

This Tweeter referred to a report on Vermont Watchdog about the allegations, and cited it as the kind of quality journalism that I’d failed to produce.

Well, as you already know, Watchdog is a place where they spell “quality” with a “K”, but I thought I’d better take a look at the article.

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Something you should know about that Bernie allegation

The Burlington College closure has a chance of causing trouble for the Bernie Sanders campaign, since his wife Jane played a key role in sinking the college under a mountain of debt. There are whispers of a federal probe, and now Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck reports that VTGOP Vice Chair Brady Toensing claims to have “new information” linking Senator Sanders to the case.

“I was recently approached and informed that Senator Bernie Sanders’ office improperly pressured People’s United Bank to approve the loan application,” Toensing said in letters to U.S. Attorney Eric Miller and to Fred Gibson Jr., the acting inspector general of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

There is cause for skepticism aplenty; Toensing is a Republican official, and he refuses to say anything more about his sources or his new information.

But there’s one more thing you should know, and Hallenbeck didn’t catch it.

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Good Ol’ Norm: Bloodied but not unbowed

Heh-heh. Just as I predicted, Senator-in-Purgatory Norm McAllister has filed petitions to run for re-election.

Heh-heh-heh. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Sorry. Political junkies get a little excited at the prospect of chaos among the comfortable class. And I bet the Franklin County GOP is wetting its collective pants.

VTDigger broke the news; McAllister dropped off his petitions at the Franklin County courthouse this morning, and (showing uncommon restraint for him) was not immediately available for comment.

Need I remind you: McAllister faces two trials on numerous sex-crime charges; he allegedly coerced women (over whom he exercised some measure of control) to have sex with him. He was arrested on the Statehouse grounds in the last days of the 2015 session; the Senate then spent the entire off-session with its head stuck in the sand, hoping Norm would just go away. When he didn’t, the Senate decided to suspend him for the remainder of the session.

So now that he’s thrown his hat in the ring, let the speculation begin…

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Corporate cash: a marginally relevant issue

A single issue dominated the Democratic gubernatorial race this past week. It’s an issue that’s way, way, waaaaaay down on my priority list for this campaign.

Corporate contributions.

I know, I know, “corporate” has become synonymous with “evil” in Vermont liberal circles, and “corporate contributions” synonymous with “evil money in politics.” Let me explain, please.

There is a severe problem with money in American politics. Some of this is corporate, a lot of it comes from the pockets of our richest citizens. Bernie Sanders has made campaign finance reform one of the centerpieces of his presidential campaign, and I applaud him for that.

Vermont, however, is a different story.

There is precious little corporate cash in our politics. Look: When Dunne returned his corporate contributions, he lost $16,000. That’s a drop in the bucket; he’s raised more than half a million dollars for his campaign. Minter is now returning $11,000 to corporate donors; her warchest is also somewhere north of a half million.

I do believe there’s too much money in Vermont politics, but there are at least three items that concern me more than corporate largesse.

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You can’t blame the ethics issue on the media

Jeanette White never wanted ethics reform.

The Putney Democrat and chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee made that clear, over and over again. And she blamed a tried-and-true scapegoat for bringing it up:

The issue of ethics and the lack of an ethics commission has been of great interest over the last year or so to the media. How many Vermonters are passionate about the issue is not clear…

Which was obvious bulldookie at the time. But now I’ve got evidence from an unexpected source.

Researchers at Illinois State University have been involved in a lengthy study of corruption in state politics. They took an unusual approach: seeking the perceptions of reporters covering state politics and corruption issues. They reasoned that corruption cases are handled differently in different states, so rates of indictment and conviction might be grossly misleading. Just because, for instance, New York has pursued several high-profile cases doesn’t mean its politics are more corrupt than, say, New Jersey’s. Perception-based studies have their own limitations, but it’s a different way to evaluate what’s going on.

Turns out that in Vermont, reporters see the state as fundamentally clean, untainted by political sleaze. Vermont ranked near the top in most categories, and overall was one of the “cleanest” states in the country in the eyes of our own allegedly cynical media corps.

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Private lives and public figures

 

I got a girlfriend that’s better than that
She has the smoke in her eyes
She’s moving up, going right through my house
She’s gonna give me surprise

— Talking Heads, “Girlfriend is Better”

So. In his latest “Fair Game” column, Seven Days’ Paul Heintz let slip a little secret that pretty much everyone under the Golden Dome knew about but didn’t mention in polite company. Right there in Paragraph 29:

[John] Campbell’s girlfriend, Rep. Patti Komline (R-Dorset), also opposes the bill.

Gasp! Horrors! The Ladies’ Auxiliary clutches their pearls as one!

(Is Paul OK? Was he struck down by lightning?)

(Guess not.)

Used to be, in the broader world of politics, personal relationships were off limts. Even when, say, the Kennedy Boys were sharing the charms of Marilyn Monroe. Allegedly.

That wall has been largely breached in national politics, at least when there’s a substantive reason to report the private peccadillos of pols. But it remains intact here in Vermont. And maybe it shouldn’t.

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