Tag Archives: Harlan Sylvester

The Reign of the Invisible Man

Harlan Sylvester, large and in charge (Not Exactly As Illustrated)

The House Democrats’ ill-considered pension reform plan was the icing on the cake, the topper in a series of events that expose the fundamentally centrist nature of the party and its officeholders.

And this I trace to the all-encompassing influence of one Harlan Sylvester.

For those just tuning in, Sylvester is a longtime money manager who shuns the limelight — but for decades, he has been the kingmaker of Vermont politics. You don’t get to the top of the heap without his blessing. And it sure seems like the modern Democratic Party has been fashioned according to his fiscally conservative taste.

There have been occasional press profiles about him, and they all describe him the same way. Peter Freyne, 2000: “Mr. Sylvester has had the cocked ear of Vermont governors going all the way back to Tom Salmon in the 1970s.” Freyne quoted then-UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson thusly: “Harlan loves conservative Democrats. He wants to erase the gap between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.”

Rutland Herald, 2002: “it was Harlan Sylvester’’s considerable influence and strategic skills that helped put [Republican Jim Douglas,] the apparent underdog candidate, in office.”

In 2010, Freyne’s successor Shay Totten described Sylvester as “The most powerful man in Vermont politics.” Totten also quoted Prof. Nelson: “He’s got access to people with real money, and those people with real money will invest in politicians who will protect their interests.”

So that’s Mr. Sylvester, who is in his late 80s but his power has not been visibly diminished. From what I’ve heard, he remains the power behind the throne.

And now let’s look at what the Democratic Party has become.

Continue reading

Shumlin amps up the rhetoric

This is the kind of thing that inspires Harlan Sylvester conspiracy theories.

The narrative goes like this: Sometime back in 2009, Peter Shumlin tells “the most powerful man in Vermont politics” (h/t Shay Totten) he’ll keep a lid on taxes if Harlan paves his path to the corner office.

I can tell you lies, you can't get enough.

I can tell you lies, you can’t get enough.

It’s one explanation for the volume and desperation of Shumlin’s anti-tax rhetoric — aimed, need I remind you, at fellow Democrats.

Yesterday, the Governor slammed a House-passed plan to cap itemized deductions. And to put it plainly, he lied about it.

Ell. Eye. Eee. Dee. Lied.

“Removing charitable deductions, the ability of Vermonters to deduct home interest from their mortgages, which promotes home buying, and removing the health care deduction when you’ve had catastrophic health care costs is a big mistake,” Shumlin says.

Now, that’s bullshit. Ain’t nobody “removing” nothing, and the Governor knows it.

Continue reading