Tag Archives: Darcie Johnston

Bruce’s Worst Investment, and Other Gleanings from Campaign Finance Day

So, finally, we get our second window into the money game behind the primary campaigns. A few toplines:

— Bruce Lisman is spending gobs of cash and getting bupkis in return

— Phil Scott’s chugging along; will have to pick up the pace after the primary

— Sue Minter pulls ahead in the Democratic fundraising game

— Matt Dunne’s early momentum slows a bit

— Peter Galbraith is keeping his own campaign alive. Barely

And now, the details.

Wall Street millionaire Bruce Lisman has put $1.6 million of his own money into his campaign, raised precious little money from others, and has been spending at a blistering pace. He’s raised more than $1.8 million, but he has less than $200,000 cash on hand.

Well, he can always write more checks.

But let’s stop for a moment and savor the fact that Bruce Lisman has already spent more money than any gubernatorial candidate in Vermont history — and the primary is still three and a half weeks away. And he places dismally in the available polls.

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Hey look, Doug Hoffer may have a fly to swat

Don’t ever accuse the VTGOP of not being generous. They’ve apparently gifted Auditor Doug Hoffer with a new toy to play with a “serious” challenger for his post. I haven’t seen a news release or anything; all I’ve seen is this Tweet from VTGOP Executive Director Jeff Bartley.

Yay! Dan “Mr. Four Percent” Feliciano! The man who can never quite make up his mind whether he’s a Libertarian or a Republican. But no matter what the label, there’s one thing you can count on:

He. Won’t. Win.

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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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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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Ooh, Republican slapfight!

The Vermont Republican Party, said by Sen. Dustin Degree to be the party of youth, now has a 72-year-old running for Lieutenant Governor to go with the 68-year-old (Bruce Lisman) and the 57-year-old (Phil Scott) running for governor.

The latest AARP-eligible to grace the Republican campaign is Randy Brock, former state auditor and state senator, and spectacularly unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2012.

The best account of Brock’s announcement comes from the Vermont Press Bureau’s indefatigable Neal Goswami, who got the dirt on a freshly opened rift on the VTGOP’s right wing.

Recently, Brock had met with former VTGOP Treasurer Mark Snelling (65 years old, Dustin). The subject: the two men’s shared interest in Vermont’s Bucket of Warm Spit.

Snelling said he and Brock had a recent meeting in which the two agreed to ask the state party to host a meeting with candidates interested in the position “to try and maximize the talents within the party.”

But Brock called Snelling Wednesday night to tell him he was announcing his candidacy.

Sorta like two boxers ready for a fight. The bell rings, and one fighter suddenly says “Hey, look, it’s Muhammad Ali!” Second fighter turns his head; first fighter whomps him in the gut.

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Seven Shades of Nothing

After a couple of big surprises Wednesday morning, the rest of Campaign Finance Filing Day was rather a damp squib. Nothing much was revealed. Unless, that is, the “nothing” is in itself significant.

And I wouldn’t be a political blogger if I couldn’t make something from nothing.

And so, theVPO presents the top seven nothings and what they might mean.

In the race for Governor, four of the five top prospective candidates did nothing. A marginal hopeful did the same. As for the potential Democratic faceoff for Attorney General, neither incumbent Bill Sorrell not declared challenger TJ Donovan reported any new activity.

None of this is terribly surprising. Among those potential gubernatorial candidates, only Matt Dunne had an existing campaign structure (dormant since 2010) to accept donations. And by Vermont standards, it’s still extremely early for anyone to be beating the bushes.

The two likeliest Democratic candidates for governor not named Dunne, Shap Smith and Sue Minter, didn’t seek funds for a corner-office run. Smith reported a bit of fundraising for his State House campaign kitty, easily transferable should the need arise. This leaves Dunne with a sizeable lead — but there’s a lot of time to catch up. In this regard, Dunne’s dollar total is less significant than his ability to quickly sign up a brace of top-tier liberal donors in Vermont and in Silicon Valley.

On the Republican side, the losing 2012 nominee, Randy Brock, didn’t report anything. The putative front-runner, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, didn’t do any new fundraising — but he has nearly $100,000 left over from his 2014 campaign, so he’s definitely in no hurry.

And then there’s Dan Feliciano, former Libertarian turned kinda Republican, who’s been pondering a second run for governor.

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Just call me Nellie

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

I guess the Republican State Committee held a meeting today. Sorry, couldn’t make it; had to get the chores done before the Women’s World Cup came on.

VTGOP Chair David Sunderland delivered a pep talk (of sorts) to the assembled dozens, in which he bravely talked up the party’s rebuilding effort. The text has been posted on the party’s website; highlights and annotations follow.

Despite the misleading proclamations of Democrats and other negative nellies, our fundraising is very strong. IN FACT, we have substantially more cash on hand this year than we have had at this time in any year since 2008. Isn’t that great news?!

I don’t know how you verbally express “?!”, but I’ll gladly accept my Negative Nellie Membership Card, since I recently posted a far-from-glowing review of the VTGOP’s recent financial reports. And yes, Sunderland is right, they’ve got more money flowing than “in any year since 2008,” but that’s not saying much. Indeed, it’s almost certain that the VTGOP’s finances were at an all-time low during the first four years of the Shumlin administration.

Remember the dark days of 2012, when the VTGOP accepted monthly handouts from the Romney campaign just to keep the lights on? Remember that the party went for several years without a single paid staffer? Now, they have a payroll of one (Jeff Bartley). A top Dem I talked with recently couldn’t imagine trying to run a major party with only one paid staffer.

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