Tag Archives: Campaign for Vermont

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.

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All aboard the Bruce Lisman gravy train

(or, How to Spend 600 G’s Without Really Trying)

The year 2012 brought forth a pair of shameless hucksters political consultants cashing in on conservatives with more money than sense. There was Randy Brock, who lost by 20 points to Shumlin and, in the process, spent $100,000 on campaign “manager” Darcie Johnston.

And lest we forget Lenore Broughton, Montgomery Ward heiress and would-be conservative game-changer. Her right-hand man, Tayt Brooks, squandered more than a million Broughton Bucks in a fruitless effort to influence the 2012 election through the “grass root” (singular) organization Vermonters First. Once bitten, twice shy; Broughton has barely been a factor in Vermont politics since then.

This year brings a new entrant into the Vermont Conservative Consultancy Hall of Shameless: Shawn Shouldice, chief of Capital Connections, the notorious black-hat lobbying shop. She’s attached herself, limpet-like, to the political underside of Bruce Lisman, and she’s milking that cash cow for all it’s worth. (Pardon mixed metaphor.)

Shouldice makes a very good living as an advocate for some of our biggest and dirtiest business groups. Her client list includes the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. Shouldice was also the PR arm of Lisman’s vanity project advocacy group Campaign for Vermont.

Last fall, she stepped away from active lobbying to become the campaign manager of Lisman for Governor. Her salary, according to my reading of the latest campaign finance data: $14,500 per month. On an annual basis, that’s $174,000.

Good Lord.

Now, Shouldice is an experienced lobbyist and advocate. But she is, as one observer put it, “a newbie to campaign management.”

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Tom Pelham is mad as hell. And just as wrong

Now that Bruce Lisman has cut ties with his vanity platform, Campaign for Vermont, the organization is foundering financially and, worse, is stuck with budget scold Tom Pelham as its chief public voice.

Pelham has spent the last five years writing opinion piece after opinion piece slamming the Shumlin administration over taxation and budgets. Now, his temperature appears to be rising — to the point that he might want to check his blood pressure. Reading his latest commentary, I can practically see steam shooting out his ears.

His point, as ever, is that the Shumlin administration is bankrupting the state, wrecking the economy, and imperiling our futures by overtaxing and overspending. And in the process, he repeats a fundamental misperception about money that’s commonly held by budget hawks everywhere.

See if you can spot it:

Excluding federal funds, the state budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in 2011 required $2.954 billion in revenues extracted from the Vermont economy through taxes, fees, fines, assessments, settlements, etc., and deposited into various state funds.

The key word there is “extracted,” which he repeats three times. Pelham appears to believe that all government revenue is collected, thrown onto the burn pile, and set ablaze. Which is so completely wrong it’d be funny if so many serious, influential people didn’t share that belief.

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No room for Lisman

Phil Scott’s campaign launch may have been underwhelming from a rhetorical and policy perspective, but it was a damn fine show. Production values rarely seen in Vermont politics, a large crowd of Republicans desperate for a winner and giving their full-throated backing to Scott.

The crowd was impressive not only for its size, but for its heft. Numerous officeholders and party officials, most of the state committee, a whole lot of significant donors, and the VTGOP’s Mr. Everything, Jim Douglas.

If the event wasn’t specifically intended to discourage Bruce Lisman, it must have had that effect. He was boxed out like the Lions’ secondary on that Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary*. Looking at the crowd and all the big names, and feeling the enthusiasm, you have to wonder how Lisman can possibly make a race of this.

*We Michiganders have an acronym for that: SOL. “Same Old Lions.”

There’s only one chance: to throw open his checkbook and try to whomp up a movement with the sheer power of his money.

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Evidence of Bruce Lisman’s appeal (hint: microscopic)

This week’s “Fair Game” column by Paul Heintz had some notable tidings near the end: Campaign for Vermont, the public policy nonprofit founded — and almost exclusively funded — by Bruce Lisman, appears to be on its last legs.

Now that Lisman is fully ensconced in his campaign — and has turned off the $1.35 million spigot that funded CFV — the organization appears to have fallen on tough times. Earlier this month, policy and operations manager Ben Kinsley decamped to the Lisman campaign. And now executive director Cyrus Patten says he’s on his way out the door.

According to Patten, who apparently isn’t averse to spilling bad news now that he’s out the door, CFV has a mere $40,000 left in the bank.

Lisman and Patten were constantly bragging about CFV’s alleged influence in the Statehouse and its progress in building an independent political movement, but there was precious little objective evidence to support their claims. After Lisman stopped writing the big checks, Patten claimed that an aggressive fundraising/membership campaign was starting to pay dividends.

Guess that was just a steamin’ pile of bullshit.

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Bruce Lisman has some stuff to sort out

Well, our very own Wall Street panjandrum has formally launched his gubernatorial bid with a bold, perhaps unprecedented, first move:

He okayed a campaign logo without a speck of green in it.

Instead, he bravely opted for a sky-blue field, backing what appears to be the label from a long-lost brewery: Lisman Lager, the beer that claims to be different from all the others but tastes oddly familiar.

That’s the bold move. The rest of his launch was a pastiche of mixed messages and same-old same-old.

Let’s start with his Jeb! problem. As a presidential candidate, Jeb Bush had to decide how to address the legacy of George W. Bush. And he hasn’t. He’s tried to present himself as his own man, but that effort is undercut every time he rushes to W’s defense. He winds up talking much more than he should about 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lisman’s “George W. Bush” is his Wall Street career.

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Finally, Bruce Lisman.

Once again displaying his impeccable sense of timing, retired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman let it slip today that he will, indeed, run for governor. As a Republican.

And he did so on the very day when Rand Paul was in town for a speech and fundraiser. Which he did not attend.

Way to step on the party’s headline, Bruce!

He did not actually announce anything, but he did notify various Republicans he was going to file his candidacy papers Tuesday, and he didn’t tell anyone to keep their lips zipped. Gee, Bruce, why not wait ’til Wednesday?

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