Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pre-Primary Campaign Finance: Gov and Lite Gov

Hey, the final pre-primary campaign finance filings are in! Let’s start with the races for governor and lieutenant governor.

The topline in the governor’s race is that Phil Scott isn’t even trying. For the LG race, it’s two royals and a bunch of paupers.

The incumbent governor, sitting blithely atop some crazy good poll numbers, came as close as he could to not having a campaign at all. He raised $12,660 in July, bringing his campaign total to just under $50,000. Scott took in a mere 16 donations in the entire month of July.

That $12,660 included $4,000 from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and another $4,000 from Barre City Councilor (and former mayor) Thom Lauzon. The entire rest of the human race gave Scott less than $5,000.

His Democratic opponent, Brenda Siegel, worked hard for not a lot more money. She raised $15,786 in July and $56,471 for the campaign. But while Scott had only 16 donors giving an average $813, Siegel had 191 donors in July, for an average donation of $83. Thus the problem with running a people’s campaign: You need a ton of small donors to make up for a handful on the other side.

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Metapost: Now Accepting Donations

Sharp-eyed readers will notice I’ve added a third page to this blog. It’s a place where you can give a donation — one-time, weekly or annually — in the amount of your choosing.

No pressure, no paywall, no “premium content.” Purely honor system. If you enjoy what I do here, I’d appreciate a token or three of your appreciation.

Thanks, and now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Super PACs: A Necessary Evil. And Not Always Evil.

I wrote something near the end of my recent post about Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s negative campaigning that bears closer attention. Gray has been attacking her primary opponent, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, for maybe accepting, or inviting, or leaving the door open to Super PAC spending in the campaign.

Her attacks are greatly exaggerated, and I hope to God they don’t pay off in the August primary. (I’m not against Gray as a candidate, I’m just against the negative bullshit.) But there may be knock-on effects for future Vermont Democratic campaigns. Gray is poisoning the well regarding Super PACs and, I’m sorry, but in our current campaign finance landscape, we can’t live without them. As I wrote previously,

Progressive Super PACs have been a necessary addition to the political armory as a counterbalance to all the conservative Super PACs that litter the post-Citizens United landscape. To forswear all Super PAC money is to disarm yourself in the middle of a gunfight.

Super PACs were created after a 2010 court ruling. In the words of OpenSecrets.org, “Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.” Super PACs cannot donate directly to candidates or coordinate in any way with candidates.

After that court ruling, a whole bunch of conservative Super PACs sprung into being. They threatened to throw our entire political system off kilter through the sheer power of virtually unlimited money.

Then, Democratic and progressive groups started organizing their own Super PACs. They managed to reset the balance — at the cost of setting fire to colossal amounts of cash.

And Molly Gray wants to give up that advantage for the short-term sake of her political fortunes.

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For Nolan, It’s Bad News All the Way Down

Christina Nolan’s longshot bid for U.S. Senate got quite a bit longer last week, with the filing of first-quarter campaign finance reports. For starters, as expected, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch did what he’s always done — fundraise the hell out of his opposition. He pulled in $839,000 and spent roughly half of that, bringing his total warchest to a daunting $2.96 million.

Nolan? She received $157,000 in donations and spent about one-third of that, leaving her a smidge over $100K in cash on hand.

Sort of.

Thirteen of Nolan’s donors gave the maximum $2,900 for the primary campaign. Eight of those 13 also gave an additional $2,900, which must be reserved for the general election. That adds up to $37,700. One other person gave $5,000, of which $2,100 must be spent on the general. So her effective cash on hand — money she can spend between now and August 11 — is only $61,747. Which means that right now, today, Welch’s kitty is effectively an astounding forty-eight times as large as Nolan’s.

Ouch. Double ouch with nuts. I was going to make a David v. Goliath reference, but this is more like Bambi v. Godzilla. If this race wasn’t done and dusted already (hint: it was), these filings remove any remaining whispers of doubt.

But wait, there’s more! Bad news, that is.

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Lightning Round!

As the Legislature winds down, the political news is coming thick and fast. Got several items worthy of comment including Gov. Phil Scott’s generic condemnation of persons unknown, a better use for the state’s “extra” money, three potentially interesting House races, and a depressingly rote report on last night’s Congressional debate. Let’s GOOOO!!!

Scott condemns… somebody. Perhaps because of the killing of Fern Feather, the governor (or his comms staff) took to Twitter and amped up his language condemning hate speech in the political arena. He cited “disturbing hostility toward the transgender community” and lamented that Vermont “is not immune to this.” It was a good statement, as far as it went.

But he failed to mention the source of all the hostility: his own Republican Party. He also failed to name the two individuals responsible for bringing the hate home: VTGOP chair Paul Dame and Burlington Republican Committee chair Christopher-Aaron Felker. As long as the governor refrains from identifying those responsible and refuses to step into his own party and deal with this garbage, his words are sadly empty, In the vernacular, it’s time for him to grow a pair.

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Dregs of the Ballot: The Essex Brigade

Three seats on the Essex-Westford School Board are up for grabs on April 12, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a trio of stealth conservative candidates hiding their true agendas behind a thicket of bland rhetoric. It’s the usual stuff: Parental involvement, transparency, focus on basic education, financial responsibility, defusing “tension” and “divisive issues” in the schools.

This stuff is right out of the national conservative playbook: Right-wing candidates running for school board behind the same list of inoffensive ideas.

And concealing their true beliefs and agenda.

As I have before, I will state again: Conservatives have every right to run for any office. But they ought to be transparent about who they are and what they believe. When they hide their true selves, they are subverting the electoral process — and tacitly admitting that they can’t win if they are open about their agenda.

The three hopefuls from Essex and Essex Town all have military backgrounds. Two of them are people of color. Great, a little diversity — but only in heritage, not in platform.

The election is nonpartisan, but the Essex Republican committee has endorsed them and referred to them as “our candidates.” This is the committee that thinks the civic embarrassment Liz Cady is a peachy keen school trustee.

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Racine Mulls Run for Governor

Doug Racine, the former lieutenant governor, state senator and Human Services secretary, is considering a third run for the state’s top job. Racine had been considering a candidacy for lieutenant governor, but that field has gotten crowded. He told methat as he was gauging potential support for an LG run, he was encouraged to set his sights higher.

His willingness to run, he said, depends on assurances that he’d have the necessary support from state and federal Democratic donors and organizations. “The question is, is it a viable race or not?” Racine said. “The answer depends on the level of support.” He said he’s getting “a lot of enthusiasm” for his potential candidacy, but “that doesn’t pay the bills.” Especially since, he pointed out, the Republican Governors Association has spent millions on behalf of Gov. Phil Scott in 2016 and 2018.

Although, he said, there’s bit of uncertainty on that front. “I don’t know if Trump would let them” spend on Scott’s behalf, Racine said. “Phil is not the most popular guy in Republican circles.”

“Others who have explored a run for governor have something to lose,” he noted. “I’m retired. It’s not like I’d have to leave my job.” That’s a very real consideration for many — especially since a race against Scott is a risky endeavor.

The 69-year-old Racine was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002; he lost narrowly in a three-way race with Republican Jim Douglas and independent Con Hogan. He sought the party’s nomination again in 2010, but lost a squeaker of a five-way primary to eventual governor Peter Shumlin, whose margin of victory was a mere 197 votes. He was Shumlin’s human services secretary from 2011 to 2014.

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Dregs of the Ballot: Say, Did You Know That Sarah Fair George Is a Globalist Puppet?

Oh, maaaan. I hear and read a lot of outlandish stuff while checking out the far-right zealots clogging up Town Meeting Day ballots around Vermont, but this one takes the cake.

According to the gent pictured above, Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George “may have been funded by George Soros. I don’t know that for a fact, but she isn’t doing her job.”

Ah yes, the globalist conspiracy, dipping its toes into the Chittenden County justice system for who knows what nefarious purpose.

This man, who doesn’t know how to center himself on a Zoom call, is David Xavier Wallace, candidate for Winooski City Council, speaking at an online candidates’ forum earlier this week. Seriously, he spent almost the entire event looking downward.

I don’t know why he’s running for office in progressive, cosmopolitan Winooski, of all places. He’s got about as much chance of winning as David Foster Wallace.

Mr. X, as we might call him, makes no bones about his beliefs. But the voters of Winooski should know that he has a much subtler kindred spirit on the ballot: Chad Bushway, who loosely wears the cloak of Concerned Moderation but whose true colors show through from time to time. We’ll consider him in a moment. First, let’s hear more from David Xavier Wallace.

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Food Taxonomy for Beginners

Mmmm, donuts

VTGOP chair Paul Dame is out with his weekly rumination, which appears every Monday in your inbox if you’ve given the party your email address. (I gave them one that I only use for mailing list.) The latest installment is entitled “Donut Democrats & Gun Control.” The joke, see, is that the Democrats don’t have a middle, only two extremes! Just like a donut!

Yeah, I get it. But…

It’s not really accurate, izzit?

I mean, in a donut there’s a continuum of delicious, fatty, sugary pastry on all sides. What Dame has in mind is something more like a pair of parentheses. Now, there’s a hole in the middle.

Also, too. Dame’s conceit is that the Democratic Party (well, he says “Democrat Party,” but I don’t) has lost its moderate side. That’s not a donut; it’s more of a crescent roll.

I’m getting hungry.

Now, let’s see how Dame defines “moderation.”

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I Believe the Technical Term For This is “Ten Pounds of Shit in a Five-Pound Bag”

I’ve read a lot of damaging political reportage in my time, but rarely have I seen a single piece as devastating as this.

In the latest installment of VTDigger’s ever-unfolding saga of EB-5 corruption, Anne Galloway and Paul Heintz have poured gasoline on the tattered remains of former governor Peter Shumlin’s reputation, tossed in a match, and stood back to watch the flames soar to the sky.

The story, based on FBI interview notes released by a federal judge, shows that Shumlin acted recklessly, flouted ethical standards, ignored the rising tide of evidence that the investment projects run by Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger were deeply fraudulent, and ignored the counsel of close advisors that he was flying far too close to the EB-5 sun.

I have said before that Shumlin must have been either “complicit or stupid” about the scandal and I’m not sure which would be worse. Well, it’s looking more and more like complicity driven by the unmediated gall of the man.

The story is so rich with damning detail that it’s tough to know where to start. I’ll hit a few high points, but I urge you to go and read the whole thing.

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