Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

The Paige Exclusion

Congratulations to the Vermont Democratic Party for giving perennial fringe candidate H. Brooke Paige more publicity in a few days than he could possibly earn on his own this entire year.

The VDP did so by ordering his banishment from all party events, reportedly due to impertinent and offensive comments posted by Paige on Facebook.

Mixed feelings about this. I don’t have much use for perennial fringe candidates; as far as I’m concerned, it’s too easy for people to get on the ballot and even grace the occasional debate stage without proving they hold the least bit of appeal or interest for the electorate. Waste of time and space. Detracts from direct confrontations among candidates who actually matter. That goes for Paige and for Emily Peyton and Cris Ericson and the entire Diamondstone clan.

Paige is an irritant* in all senses of the word. He runs for at least one office every cycle, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as a Democrat, and I think as independent on occasion. He has also fomented birther claims against not only President Obama, but also Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I can see why the Democrats would want to be rid of him. And, after all, it’s their party and they can make their own rules. Or even cry if they want to.

*Irritants produce distress, annoyance, and the occasional pearl. 

That said, their reaction seems unduly stiff.

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So, Shap.

The all-but-certain became reality yesterday. Outgoing House Speaker Shap Smith announced he will run for lieutenant governor. Thus making him a political rarity: a person who launches a campaign for one office, abandons it, and resets a candidacy for a different office. (He had killed his bid for governor last fall due to his wife’s illness.)

I’m not surprised. In fact, I’ve been promoting the idea since I first reported it way back on February 8.

At this point, it would be awfully difficult to re-enter the gubernatorial race. …But lieutenant governor? That wouldn’t be so hard.

… Also — and this is crucial for Smith’s personal situation — the job isn’t all that tough. He bangs the gavel in the Senate, he does some soft appearances around the state. He can pretty much set his own schedule.

He’d have a high-profile role at the center of state government. And it’s a great way to build name recognition for a future run at the top job — something Smith would still like to do.

Hey, I was right! You know what they say about blind squirrels and acorns.

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Randy Brock puts on the red light

Note: This post would not exist but for the work of “BP,” one of the regular contributors to Green Mountain Daily. Several weeks ago, he wrote an insightful piece looking at the dark side of the captive insurance business, which has found a receptive home in Vermont. Now, with Randy Brock citing captive insurance as a model for state policy, it’s important that we have a clear picture of the pluses and minuses of such relationships. 

Randy Brock, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, recently threw out a tantalizing hint of a forthcoming policy initiative. He claims this great idea will create $100 million a year in new state revenue.

Brock said Thursday that he was looking to promote ideas that are similar to the push the state made to corner the captive insurance market. The state created a regulatory environment to make Vermont a leader in that industry.

… In addition to captive insurance in Vermont, he pointed to examples in other states, such as Delaware, which has laws that are friendly to corporations so many register there. South Dakota, he said, has created a niche for the credit card businesses.

Brock’s call had previously been made in even broader terms, but to little notice, by gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott:

The state has enjoyed significant benefits from the renewable energy industry and captive insurance, he said. “Imagine if we had a governor’s office that treated every sector in the same way,” Scott said.

That is, frankly, a radical idea that didn’t make it through our media’s Phil Scott Filter.

I’m not sure we want to emulate South Dakota and the credit card industry, especially not in an across-the-board fashion. A “welcoming” state regulatory climate has been responsible for some outrageous, predatory practices by credit card issuers. One could also cite Liberia as a flag of convenience (and cover for outrageous practices) in international shipping, but discretion was the better part of embarrassment there.

And that’s the problem with this kind of regulatory carve-out for a certain  niche business: it’s an open invitation to a “race to the bottom,” because the most relevant enticement a state can offer is a business-friendly approach to regulation and enforcement.

The captive insurance industry looks like a great thing for Vermont. And it is portrayed as an unvarnished good by politicians of all stripes. But there is, in fact, a dark side to the industry that is rarely mentioned in polite circles.

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Terms and conditions

Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman have spent this week trying to define their positions on admitting Syrian refugees. The issue is a sure-fire hit in Republican constituencies across the country, but here in Vermont the blowback seems to outweigh the benefit.

The topline for both men is pretty much identical — a “pause” in the refugee program until we can be reassured about security safeguards. But the devil, don’tcha know, is in the details. And if you take them both at face value, they want to put the program on the shelf for a long time.

Scott makes happy noises about “a nation of immigrants” and our values and the Statue of Liberty. But look closely at his terms and conditions he presented in his essay on the subject:

…my goal is to ensure the federal program moves forward with security protocols Vermonters, and all Americans, can have confidence in.

And there’s the deal-breaker. If Scott means what he wrote, he wants the refugee program shelved until every American is satisfied. That will never happen. How can you possibly convince people who think Obama is a Kenyan and see Islam as a religion of hate?

Lisman’s position is essentially the same, but his rhetoric is angrier and his conditions are more overtly unreachable.

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The unbelievably coincident gas price roller coaster

This morning’s Burlington Free Press reports a development in the courts: attorneys for Chittenden County gas wholesalers have filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging price-fixing in the market, which is dominated by a handful of outfits. Former US Attorney Tris Coffin, having traded in his white hat for a shiny black Downs Rachlin Martin number, is now spearheading the gas cartel’s defense.

Sorry, make that “the alleged gas cartel.”

This news brought to mind the latest pair of coincidences in the long and suspicious history of gas prices in the Burlington area. This past July, when the suit was freshly filed, I noted a rare happenstance: gas was actually cheaper in Burlington than in Montpelier by as much as 15 cents per gallon. This reversed the usual state of affairs, in which Burlington-area stations routinely offer some of the highest prices in the state.

At the time, I connected the obvious dots: bad publicity triggers a temporary drop in prices at the pump. Or as I put it:

For years, Bernie Sanders has been alleging price fixing by the four companies that own most of Chittenden County’s gas stations. The companies have consistently denied any collusion — although, it must be noted, they usually bring down their prices for a while after Bernie kicks up a fuss. And then quietly goose them back up once the heat’s off.

Well, it’s happened again. The suit’s been out of the headlines for a few months, and whaddya know, the vast majority of Burlington-area gas stations are charging 10-15 cents more per gallon than their Montpelier counterparts.

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Vermont Republicans: Not buying the snake oil

This week, the Castleton Polling Institute released a presidential poll of Vermont voters. The number that made headlines: Just as many Republican voters favor Bernie Sanders as any Republican candidate.

The actual result: Bernie’s in a three-way tie with Donald Trump and Ben Carson among Republicans, at a measly 12%. (It’s also worth noting that Hillary Clinton gets 4% support among VT Republicans.)

That’s interesting. But to me, there are two more notable takeaways from the poll.

First, Vermont’s Republican electorate remains splintered and undecided. The fact that no candidate got more than 12% is awfully telling. The real winner is “Not Sure,” with 28%. In other words, Vermont Republicans are thoroughly underwhelmed by what they’ve seen so far. I mean, 16% of them are backing a Democrat, for goodness sakes. That’s almost half who can’t settle on a Republican candidate.

Second, the state’s Republican electorate is relatively immune to the blandishments of snake-oil salespeople.

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Two Eminently Refusable Invitations from the VTGOP Social Calendar

Oh, those Republicans. They know how to liven things up, don’t they?

Don’t they?

Maybe they don’t.

Exhibit A: An unfortunate scheduling mishap by that Master of Mishaps, Scott Milne.

Exhibit B: A “gala dinner” that promises to thoroughly underwhelm.

MeetScottMilneFirst, off, you’ve got a chance to meet 2014 gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne on Wednesday evening. Oh, pardon me, I should say Meet with SCOTT MILNE!

Which is perfectly fine, except for what else is going on Wednesday evening that might just be of greater interest to Republicans: the second Republican Presidential debate. The first one attracted some 25 million viewers; the second is likely to blow Meet with SCOTT MILNE! out of the water.

(BTW, the Vermont Young Republicans are hosting a “Debate Watch Party” at Halvorson’s Cafe in Burlington. If you’re thinking about attending, you might want to grab a bite beforehand; the eatery’s Yelp reviews are kind of dispiriting. Lots of one- and two-star reviews, with its overall rating buoyed up to three stars thanks to a handful of suspiciously enthusiastic five-star reviews.)

For our second entry, we head down I-89 to the Upper Valley, where the Windsor County Republicans will hold a “friend-raiser” on October 3 in Norwich. “Friend-raiser” not “fundraiser” because, ha ha, they want to bring in new recruits for assimilation. They will, of course, accept donations, and entry will cost you 25 bucks.

The second-saddest thing about this announcement is the fact that John MacGovern is chair of the Windsor County Republicans. This is the same MacGovern who was a complete flameout when he challenged Bernie Sanders for Senate in 2012, and who represented the party’s conservative wing in the race for party chair in 2014. (He lost to David Sunderland, who is pretty darn conservative but was Phil Scott’s choice for the gig.)

Before that, he’d spent several years heading an “organization” called the Hanover Institute, a nonprofit whose goal was to bring conservative pressure to bear against the alleged liberals who’d taken over Dartmouth College. In fact, the Institute’s sole employee was John MacGovern, and its funds basically paid his salary and expenses while he produced occasional newsletters and swanned about the country kissing conservative alumni ass.

So that’s who you’ve got leading the Republican charge in Windsor County. But the saddest thing is the event itself.

MacGovern says the “friend-raiser” will “celebrate core Republican principles” and will feature a “full-course meal” (whatever that means), cash bar, raffle, and speeches from Republican worthies.

But you’d best read the fine print.

A number of prominent Republican, conservative and libertarian speakers have been invited to attend this event, including Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Bruce Lisman, Ben Carson, and former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas.

Please note the verb “invited.” The only confirmed speaker is Dan Feliciano, the Libertarian candidate who drew a dismal 4% of the vote in the dismal 2014 gubernatorial election. He then became a Republican, and is now considering a second bid for Governor.

Somehow I don’t see the likes of Fiorina, Kasich, Lisman, Carson, and Douglas going out of their way to answer their invitations. But hey, there’ll be a “Soap Box… to all Republican candidates who show up.”

Woof. That promises a long evening of tedium.

But wait, there’s more! After MacGovern’s press release was published on VTDigger, he posted a correction: “there is no cash bar.”

Aaaarrrgh.

With friend-raisers like this, who needs enemies?