Category Archives: Transparency

Phil Scott would like a more convenient governorship

“Leadership” is a touchstone of the Phil Scott campaign, repeated ad nauseam as if the more often you say it, the more true it becomes. And from what I can tell of his plans for the governor’s office, his version of “leadership” involves tipping the balance of power in his favor.

Whether that’s a good thing or not, I can’t say; but I doubt he’s going to openly campaign on the idea that the governor needs more power.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

First, his proposal for a 90-day limit on legislative sessions. Assuming he means 90 calendar days rather than business days, the legislature would adjourn in early April. Unless they continue to recess for Town Meeting Week, in which case either (1) it’s not really 90 days, or (b) recess wouldn’t come until mid-April, which isn’t all that different from the current session length.

But let’s say that his intent is to have legislative sessions largely (or entirely) confined to January through March. In which case, lawmakers have significantly less time to finish their business. That means fewer bills passed and less legislative oversight of the executive branch.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Who’s been messing with Peter Galbraith’s Wikipedia page?

Way, way back in the spring of 2012, it came to light that an anonymous South Burlington resident had been adding a whole lot of material to Bill Sorrell’s WIkipedia page — turning it from a brief stub into a very Sorrell-friendly recounting of his accomplishments, and omitting anything at all negative.

Much of the added verbiage was strikingly similar to the bio on his campaign website. And at least once, Sorrell was referred to as “Bill” — an odd thing for a dispassionate Wikipedia editor to do.

Well, according to VTDigger’s Jasper Craven, there’s a new entry in the pantheon of small-minded Vermont politicos. Because one specific individual has spent ungodly amounts of time editing Peter Galbraith’s Wikipedia entry. The edits have been done by a user called “Devotedamerican,” but it’s hard to believe that anyone other than Galbraiith himself was responsible.

The Galbraith shenanigans go deeper than Sorrell’s. Not only did Devotedamerican post obvious fluffery, s/he also repeatedly scrubbed anything negative from the entry, particularly about Galbraith’s oil dealings in the Middle East. (You know, the ones that made him a rich man.) And did it so frequently that Devotedamerican was actually upbraided for his work.

Continue reading

A Confederacy of Consultancies

When last we met, I was exploring Bruce Lisman’s campaign finance filing from March 15, trying to figure out how he managed to spend nearly $600,000 before the race has really even started.

In my previous post, I looked at how much money Lisman is paying his campaign manager Shawn Shouldice*, who’s a very experienced lobbyist (on behalf of big business, mostly) but has never run a campaign before, as far as I can tell.

*spoiler: it’s a LOT.

This time, we’ll explore the bewildering array of consultancies that have hitched themselves to the Lisman gravy train. There are so many different firms, that I wonder how their efforts can possibly be coordinated.

Or, to put it another way, how much money is being squandered by Lisman, currently standing at a brisk four percent in the polls. But first, a brief note about media spending.

As of March 15, Lisman for Governor had spent an astounding $82,242 on TV ad time, which is more than many campaigns spend in an entire cycle. The bulk of that money went to WCAX-TV ($38,080) and Comcast ($32,937). WPTZ was a distant third with $11,225. Lisman also spent $11,475 for online advertising and a measly $3,000 or so on radio.

Add it all up, that’s close to 100 G’s on media. Before March 15, for Pete’s sake! Which doesn’t include production costs — and Lisman, as we shall see below, hired a top-of-the-line conservative production firm to produce his ads.

Okay, back to the consultancies. There are roughly a dozen outfits that have each taken thousands from the Lisman campaign for “consulting” and such-like.

Continue reading

State Senate trying to Norquist ethics reform

Vermont’s Most Sclerotic Deliberative Body has been taking its time with a proposal to set up a state Ethics Commission. Much more time than they took with legalizing marijuana, and probably longer than they’ll take with the frickin’ budget.

Why the slow play? Well, the Senate’s point person on ethics reform makes it abundantly clear.

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham and chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee, said, “Because the press keeps saying that we’re the only state without an ethics commission and clearly we have something to hide … I don’t really believe that.”

Credit to the Associated Press’ Dave Gram for capturing that entry into the Quote of the Year competition.

Jeezum Crow. The Senator in charge of ethics reform doesn’t believe ethics reform is necessary. She blames the media for fomenting “a lack of faith in government officials.”

Methinks the good Senator has been in Montpelier too long. She’s been so deep in the system for so long, she’s lost all perspective.

Continue reading

Another closed door in the People’s House

Constant readers of this blog (Hi, Mom!) will recall that earlier this month, I wrote a letter to the House Ethics Panel asking for a review of Rep. Adam Greshin’s actions regarding H.40, the RESET bill. For less constant readers, my complaint centered on this: Greshin authored an amendment to H.40 stripping away an increase in funding for Efficiency Vermont. (EV had already gotten Public Service Board approval; until this year, legislative review was a mere formality.) He also aggressively lobbied the House and Senate for his amendment.

EV gets its money through a surcharge on utility bills. As co-owner of the Sugarbush Resort, a voracious consumer of electricity ($2 million/year), Greshin stood to gain considerably if his amendment passed.

Well, the Ethics Panel has responded. And as expected, it was a whitewash. Greshin, so they say, did nothing wrong.

I’ll get to the substance of its decision in my next post. First, though, I need to address the process.

Between sending my letter and receiving the Panel’s reply, I didn’t hear anything about it. During the roughly one week between receiving my letter and drafting its ruling, the Panel conducted a review with help from Legislative Counsel. It also met with the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and with Greshin himself. (Correction: The panel met with counsel to the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but not with the Committee itself.)

None of those meetings were noticed publicly. I was not informed. I was not given the opportunity to be a party to the proceedings.

It seems that the House Ethics Panel has a closed-door policy.

Continue reading