Tag Archives: dirty tricks

The Lisman/Scott imbroglio

In its closing days, the Republican gubernatorial campaign has turned into a game of Crying Foul, in which accuracy takes a back seat to volume.

The latest round kicked off Friday evening, when Bruce Lisman’s campaign issued a press release crying foul over an alleged push poll aiming to convince Lisman supporters to abandon their man — and telling those who stuck with him “don’t forget to vote on August 23rd.”

The primary is, of course, August 9th. Team Lisman essentially accused Phil Scott of being behind the push poll, and called on him to denounce the apparent dirty trick.

Team Phil Scott responded by, yep, crying foul over what it called negative campaigning by a desperate opponent. And Scott’s chosen VTGOP chair, David Sunderland, waded in with an even louder cry of his own. He called on Lisman…

… to prove or withdraw an accusation that rival Phil Scott was behind a series of phone calls attempting to deceive voters.

His intervention might prove embarrassing should Lisman win the primary. Probably won’t happen, but the picture of Sunderland and Lisman shaking hands would be worth a thousand words.

So here’s what I think.

I think the push polls are real. I don’t think Phil Scott is behind them, or had anything to do with them. I suspect an outside Super PAC or some other agency unrelated to Scott. Lisman’s attempts to tie the push poll directly to Scott are very close to the line; but he’s right in saying that Scott ought to denounce the push poll instead of denying its existence and trashing Lisman.

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Dirty Tricks Time, Part Deux

Gosh. Maybe, just maybe, the VTGOP is a little tiny bit concerned about Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s electoral prospects. Because party Vice Chair Brady Toensing, he of the mudslinging DC family law firm of DiGenova & Toensing (stepdad and Mom, respectively), is dipping into Mom’s bag of tricks: trying to drum up interest into a 20-year-old controversy about Prog/Dem candidate Dean Corren. And, wouldn’t ya know it, the Burlington Free Press’ Nancy Remsen took the bait.

Brady Toensing circulated 1994 newspaper clips that recounted the questions that had been raised about the housing reimbursements Corren and Terry Bouricius received while they served in the House of Representatives.

The pair had rented an apartment in Montpelier during the legislative session, but didn’t always stay there, commuting back to Burlington instead. Still they collected the full housing allowance, Toensing said, and called it a taxpayer scam.

Corren calls it a “phony accusation,” and says “I reported everything exactly as it was required.”

Professional Nice Guy Phil Scott’s campaign wants nothing to do with Toensing’s charge, at least publicly:

Patti Komline, Scott’s campaign manager, disavowed any knowledge or involvement in the information Toensing distributed.

“Disavowed any knowledge” is fortuitous phrasing on Remsen’s part; it comes from the opening to the old “Mission: Impossible” TV show, where the head of the black-ops team gets his orders via audiotape, which blows up five seconds after the tape says “Should you be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.” Likewise, Ms. Komline.

The Corren stuff has already been aired pretty thoroughly. It happened 20 years ago; Corren continued to serve in the Legislature for six more years, apparently without any more expenses problems. It’s clearly irrelevant to Corren’s fitness to serve in 2014.

Besides, I would think the VTGOP would be a little more forgiving about 20-year-old ethics charges, considering that in 2012, it happily gave its Auditor General nomination to Vince Illuzzi.

As you may recall, at the very moment when Corren had to clear up questions about housing reimbursements, Illuzzi’s license to practice law was under suspension over ethics charges. It had been suspended the previous year, and wasn’t reinstated until 1998. Illuzzi was lucky at that; the state bar’s Professional Conduct Board had recommended that Illuzzi be stripped of his law license for good.

Illuzzi had been charged with: using his public office to influence court proceedings, conduct prejudicial to administration of justice, and conduct displaying a lack of fitness to practice law. In a settlement, he stipulated to his guilt.

So I ask you, in a hypothetical faceoff between 1990s ethical questions, which is worse: having a candidate for Lieutenant Governor who faced questions about housing reimbursements, or having a candidate for Auditor who was officially accused of using his office to influence court cases and “displaying a lack of fitness to practice law”?

I know where my money is on that one.

But it is nice to see the VTGOP treating Dean Corren as enough of a threat that they feel the need to slime his reputation.