Tag Archives: Brady Toensing

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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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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The “moderate” VTGOP is a mythical beast

A few interesting things came out of the Vermont Republican Convention on Saturday — besides revealing that Phil Scott can’t take a rhetorical punch.

I thought it shone a harsh and unforgiving light on the idea that Vermont Republicans are a breed apart — the last surviving redoubt of moderate Republicanism. That’s largely a fiction created in a desperate effort to appeal to the liberal Vermont electorate. It takes on the veneer of reality thanks to the thoroughly moderate image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But the party ranks are full of garden-variety 21st Century Republicanism. Vermont Republicans may have thrown in the towel on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights*, but they are a stoutly conservative bunch when it comes to brass-tacks issues like government spending, regulation, and taxation.

*Well, let’s say they are withholding the towel. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’d change their tune if they ever achieved political power.

After all, this is a party that eagerly embraced John Kasich, a man whose tax plan would make Ronald Reagan blush with embarrassment. George W. Bush, too, for that matter.

But there were signs aplenty at the Convention that this is a party with a strongly conservative core.

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The mudwashing of the Sorrell case

Hey, I invented a new word: it’s the opposite of “whitewashing” — the deliberate fouling of something previously spotless.

The legal troubles of Our Eternal General Bill Sorrell have two progenitors. Well, three if you count Clueless Bill himself. But the two I’m thinking of are (1) journalistic and (2) legal/political.

The former is good ol’ Paul Heintz, Seven Days’ political editor and columnist. He made public records requests for Sorrell’s emails and other materials, and ferreted out the unseemly details of the AG’s campaign finance carelessness and his overly cozy relations with the designated AG-handlers at some big national law firms. He posted his first story on April 1, and a follow-up with fresh details on May 11.

Heintz’ reporting, it must be said, was met with a very curious silence from the rest of our political media.

The other progenitor is Brady Toensing, vice chair of the VTGOP, who used Heintz’ reporting as the basis of a formal complaint against Sorrell, filed on May 20. That complaint somehow transmuted Heintz’ previously ignored reporting into a story that other media finally felt obliged to pick up. Toensing’s complaint, in turn, led to the appointment of independent investigator Tom Little.

But the media have reported it as a matter between Toensing and Sorrell, removing Heintz (and the journalistic underpinnings) from their narratives. I’d expect this sort of convenient reasoning from Sorrell himself:

“I enjoy the work. I can’t say that I enjoyed the Toensing assaults on my personal integrity and that I would abuse the integrity of the office. I’m not a masochistic person and that is not fun, whatsoever.”

Oh good, I can stop trying to imagine Bill Sorrell in leather restraints and a ball gag.

[Purell break.]

Sorry. The point is, it’s clearly in Sorrell’s political interest to depict this whole mess as a partisan attack. But why should our distinguished political media carry that water for him?

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Bill Sorrell’s ethical quagmire

h/t to Ice-T, once a gangsta.

h/t to Ice-T, once a gangsta.

So I finally read through the cache of Bill Sorrell emails uncovered by Paul Heintz and Brady Toensing, and boy do I need a shower.

The Eternal General’s correspondence with high-priced lawyers at big-time law firms may not constitute illegal activity, but it does reveal an unseemly, fundamentally squicky ethical swampland. Sorrell happily splashes around in this slime pit like it’s the kiddie pool at one of those swanky hotels he enjoys on the law firms’ dime.

In public service, there should be distinct lines between friend, colleague, benefactor, client, and adversary. In his communications with these lawyers, Sorrell stomps and pisses all over those lines until they all but disappear.

Perhaps my interpretation is skewed by the fact that I have more doctors than lawyers in my family. It used to be that doctors routinely accepted gifts, meals, and expensive travel from drug company representatives. Since then, the profession’s standards have tightened considerably. Doctors, health care organizations and professional societies have very strict limits on such things.

With Sorrell, it’s the Wild West. And while he can assert that his conduct is not affected by all the freebies, the appearance itself is awful. Especially for the guy who’s supposed to be the people’s lawyer.

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Don’t expect the Governor to do anything about Bill Sorrell

Went to Governor Shumlin’s news conference today, planning to ask about the Bill Sorrell situation. Which, as you might recall, featured Our Eternal General facing questions about possible campaign finance violations (and VTGOP Vice Chair Brady Toensing formally requesting an independent counsel), and Our Eternal General assuring us all that Our Eternal General is above reproach and an independent probe would be a waste of money, Trust Me On This.

And a couple days ago, I rhetorically asked the state’s top elected Democrats what they planned to do about it.

Shumlin4.21.15The answer from Governor Shumlin? Nothing anytime soon. Maybe nothing ever. Because he’s just too busy doing the people’s business.

(If the press corps had been playing the Governor Shumlin Drinking Game, in which everyone has to take a swig every time he repeats certain catchphrases, we all would have been falling-down drunk within a few minutes. The rhetorical bag of tricks was emptied in an effort to evade responsibility.)

I threw out the first Sorrell question: Does the Governor think there should be an independent counsel to look into the allegations?

You know, as you can imagine, I am really focused on trying to get my agenda through the legislature. It’s the most ambitious agenda that I’e set out. And these things have to succeed. Balancing $112M budget shortfall. Getting out of hear with a clean water bill that actually cleans up our polluted waters. Making sure that we finally address both the cost and quality issues in our education system. Getting out of here with my energy bill. That’s what I’m focused on.

I have not had a chance to read the complaint. When the Legislature is all done, I suppose I’ll have time to do that, but I’m focused on my job.

Even by Shumlin standards, that was a rapid-fire pivot away from the question at hand. Continue reading

It’s time for an outside probe of our Eternal General

Brady Toensing, D.C. attorney and vice chair of the VTGOP, has sometimes operated as the political equivalent of an ambulance chaser — taking legal actions with an obvious partisan motive. He comes by it honestly; his mother and stepdad are notorious conservative attack dogs.

But this time, I’m with him 100%. Toensing has sent a letter to Eternal General Bill Sorrell, asking him to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Sorrell’s campaign activities.

SorrellRehabThis is the second time Toensing has made this request. The first was in October 2012, in the midst of the election campaign — which was reason enough to dismiss it as a partisan stunt. But now, the time has come. There’s enough smoke around Sorrell’s campaign activities to warrant an objective fireman. Especially since Vermont’s campaign finance law makes Bill Sorrell the sole judge and arbiter of whether Bill Sorrell has violated the law. Which Bill Sorrell assures us is not the case. Indeed, he has already rejected Toensing’s request, insisting again that he’s done nothing wrong. We just have to take his word for it, I guess.

This stinks, and if any situation required an outside probe, it’s this one.

Toensing cites four allegations:

— “Coordinated expenditures” in the hotly-contested 2012 primary. Sorrell received a late blast of money (200 G’s) from the Democratic Attorneys General Association (by way of a third party superPAC). As Toensing’s letter says: “This record-setting expenditure was controlled and directed by former Governor Howard Dean, who, at the same time, was an active, high-level agent of your campaign.”

That money was almost certainly the deciding factor in Sorrell’s whisker-thin victory over TJ Donovan. And as Toensing notes in his complaint, one month before the primary, Sorrell “revers[ed] his office policy to allow PACS to accept contributions in excess of the state limit of $2000 and still make unlimited campaign expenditures in Vermont. This action cleared the way for the unprecedented expenditures made on General Sorrell’s behalf during the primary.”

— Failure to comply with campaign finance disclosure laws mandating that a candidate report “each expenditure listed by amount, date, to whom paid, for what purpose.” As Paul Heintz has reported, Sorrell’s reports for personal-expense reimbursement have included numerous vague and incomplete entries.

— A joint appearance with Dean Corren, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, on September 15, 2014. While Sorrell has aggressively pursued Corren for accepting an email blast from the Vermont Democratic Party, he has denied any wrongdoing in his appearance with Corren. He has, in fact, claimed that the appearance was not a campaign event — which is laughable to the point of bitter tears.

— Sorrell has routinely given state business to outside law firms that have contributed heavily to his re-election campaigns. Sorrell denies any quid pro quo, but Toensing cites legal precedent that indicates “In cases involving government officials, a jury can infer guilt from evidence of benefits received and subsequent favorable treatment.”

By that standard, Sorrell’s own denials are clearly inadequate. Given his refusal to investigate himself, as Toensing says, “the appointment of an independent counsel is necessary to restore and maintain the integrity of your office.”

I fully expect Bill Sorrell to refuse this very reasonable request for an objective probe of Bill Sorrell. At that point, we will turn to other Democratic officeholders for leadership. Governor Shumlin has repeatedly ducked questions about Sorrell’s activities, while Secretary of State Jim Condos has said his office lacks the standing to investigate.

Well, standing or no, Shumlin and Condos have their bully pulpits. It’s time to put them to use. They don’t have to throw Sorrell under the bus; all they have to do is say “There are questions that deserve answers, and the only way to restore public trust is through an independent counsel.”

Heck, if they want to, they can even throw in a gratuitous “I’m sure the investigation will show that General Sorrell acted properly.” The important thing is, it’s time to put the heat to Sorrell’s backside and get answers to all of these questions.

Governor? Mr. Secretary? Mr. Speaker? Mr. Pro Tem? We’re waiting.