Tag Archives: Heidi Scheuermann

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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A heartbreaking tale of innocence defiled

Pity poor Paul Dame, freshman Republican lawmaker, whose blissful ignorance was suddenly and violently stripped away as he was forced to the disheartening realization that politicians sometimes do political things.

Well, that’s the charitable interpretation of his opinion piece, entitled “Stop the Blame Game,” posted on VTDigger this week. The uncharitable view is to see it as a cynical attempt to seize the high road and ignore reality in the process.

Dane is reacting to an opinion piece written by Rep. Tim Jerman, vice chair of the Vermont Democratic Party, which accused the Republicans of putting their “negativity machine… in full gear,” and “trashing the… achievements of the 2015 Vermont Legislature.”

Dame is indignant over Jerman’s “partisan and inflammatory” essay that lowers itself to “partisan name-calling” instead of working together to meet the challenges facing Vermont.

Shocking, I know, that a top Democrat would try to attack Republicans. Mr. Dame is either the freshest babe in the legislative woods, or he’s being deliberately mendacious. Because if you take a gander at recent statements from the Vermont Republican Party, you see a consistent pattern of partisan attack.

Dame effectively accuses Jerman of poisoning the well of bipartisan cooperation. Truth is, the Republicans have been pissing in that well for months and months. And somehow Dame is surprised — nay, shocked — that Jerman might actually decide to respond in kind.

To illustrate my point, let’s take a stroll down the Memory Lane of VTGOP press releases.

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Like it or not, the Vermont Legislature needs to address ethics

Secretary of State Jim Condos is making a welcome, and timely, push for an independent State Ethics Commission. In a press release issued this morning, he also called for “a clear law regarding ethics, conflicts of interest, and financial disclosure for our elected officials.”

This really shouldn’t be an issue; we are one of only three states without such a body. And in a year that’s already seen Attorney General Bill Sorrell facing an independent investigation, a sitting Senator arrested on felony charges on the Statehouse grounds, significant questions about the Senate President Pro Tem, and a secretive House Ethics Panel with a very permissive interpretation of “ethics,” you’d think we could dispense with the old “We’re Vermonters, we do the right thing, we don’t need an ethics law” argument.

I mean, if anybody still believes that, they’re whistling past the graveyard.

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Vermont Health Connect: a very conditional victory

So the Governor and a full brace of minions came out Monday morning to announce that Vermont Health Connect had met the first of his two deadlines, or milestones, or benchmarks: the implementation of a change of circumstance feature.

This, after VHC was taken offline for the weekend to install upgrades, a move that prompted premature glee among reform opponents like State Rep. Heidi Scheuermann.

Yeah, not so much.

But the declaration of victory, though sounded loud and clear, came with a handful of asterisks. The Vermont Press Bureau’s Neal Goswami:

The upgrade, which is still being phased in by the administration, will allow customer service representatives to make changes to consumers’ accounts in an automated way.

“Still being phased in.” Got it. And…

“It means that we now have the capability, the tool, to be able to change your circumstance when things change for your insurance. And the outcome of that, as we get it up and running, will be a much smoother system that has been evading us since we launched,” Shumlin said.

“… as we get it up and running…” Hmm.

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Rent-to-own: Fixin’ a hole

This morning, I sat in on a House Appropriations Committee hearing on S.73, a bill that would set limits on the rent-to-own industry — an industry that’s virtually unregulated and preys on cash-poor Vermonters.

For those unfamiliar, RTOs offer household furnishings and appliances with very little cash up front, but interest rates that’d make a banker blush. Not to mention undisclosed fees and charges. According to Legislative Counsel David Hall, current state law gives the Attorney General rule-making authority; but RTOs write their contracts in a way that effectively puts them beyond the reach of current law.

Hey, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

The result is a Wild West marketplace that, according to VPIRG, results in consumers “paying many times the original price of the original item- far more than they would pay if they purchased the item from a traditional retail establishment.”

The bill would establish price caps and disclosure requirements on the industry.

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Just shoot me now.

Vladimir: What do we do now?
Estragon: Wait.
Vladimir: Yes, but while waiting.
Estragon: What about hanging ourselves?
Vladimir: Hmm. It’d give us an erection.
Estragon: (highly excited). An erection!
Vladimir: With all that follows. …
Estragon: Let’s hang ourselves immediately!”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

I don’t honestly get the political media’s fascination with former Wall Street tycoon Bruce Lisman. Yes, he founded (and funded) a vanity proj — er, advocacy group, Campaign for Vermont, to peddle his particular brand of biz-frendly pseudo-centrism. Ever since, the media have been Waiting For Lisman, ever anticipating his supposedly inevitable run for Governor.

And here to brighten up your Monday morning comes VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld with another round of “Who Asked For This?”

As Shumlin’s Approval Numbers Fade, Bruce Lisman Finds His Political Voice

Awww crap.

By “political voice,” Hirschfeld apparently means “Lisman is finally criticizing Governor Shumlin by name instead of in code.” There is little or no evidence that Lisman has found an authentic political self — an identity that can attract broad support.

Until Shumlin’s near defeat in November, Lisman had mostly refrained from personal attacks on the governor, or no-holds-barred criticism of initiatives undertaken under his watch.

“We really were a high-road, certainly nothing that smacked of political action – more policy action,” Lisman says.

Yuh-huh, stop right there, boss. From day one, Lisman’s Campaign for Vermont has consistently been critical of Gov. Shumlin and legislative Democrats. But he never said “Shumlin” or “Democrat” — instead making reference to “Montpelier.” For which, as a resident of Montpelier, I say “thank you for using my town as an epithet.”

Lately though, Lisman has assumed a more contentious tone. And it comes after a close election that Lisman characterizes as a “rebuke” of the sitting governor.

Take cover, boys! Sheriff Lisman’s coming to town!

Let’s be blunt. Lisman’s only political credentials are his Wall Street fortune and his willingness to spend a small fraction of it on a political group that has, as far as anyone can tell, failed to draw much support outside of the narrow band of elites who believe they have evolved beyond mere politics into a higher plane of enlightened self-interest.

(Example: Lisman, who presumably invests a large share of his fortune, has advocated cuts in capital gains taxes. Self-interested much? And he has issued a Mitt Romney-like call for everyone to have “skin in the game,” i.e. pay income tax. Which is an astoundingly regressive position for a “centrist.”)

Here’s what I said the last time I was forced to consider Lisman’s electoral prospects:

Bruce Lisman will never be Governor of Vermont. He’s not terribly well known, in spite of his travels around the state; he’s a lousy campaigner and public speaker; and most importantly of all, Phil Scott stands squarely in his path. Scott is a much better advocate of pretty much the same policy ideas. He’s far better known, he’s a more effective speaker and a proven fundraiser, and he has a major party structure behind him.

Still true. And here’s another: Bruce Lisman has the political instincts of a concrete block. He has dillied and dallied with the notion of running for governor to the frequent detriment of those who share his worldview. One example: In the spring of 2014, when his fellow CFV-er Heidi Scheuermann was mulling a race for governor, there suddenly came word from Lisman that he might just make a run himself.

I can’t say for sure that his brief and pointless flirtation elbowed Scheuermann aside, but it sure didn’t help. And then, as suddenly as he’d encouraged the speculation, Lisman quelled it, leaving the VTGOP to the tender mercies of Scott Milne. If that’s an example of the political acumen we can expect from Lisman, then I see him stumbling out of the gate. That is, if he ever finally decides to get IN the gate. He seems to have a hard time making that call.

I won’t go through the rest of Hirschfeld’s piece in detail because, frankly, I’d rather gouge out my eyes with a hot poker. But I will point out some examples of Bruce Lisman’s downright squicky faux-humility. On running for governor:

“I don’t give it a lot of thought,” Lisman says. “I guess I’m in the same place I’ve been. I don’t give it a ton of thought. Thank you. It’s nice of you to ask it in that way.”

Eeeewwwwww.

“And lots of people have post-election said to me, gosh you should have run, or I hope you run next time,” Lisman says. “And that’s nice. I mean it’s a nice thing to hear. It’s very flattering.”

Bleuuuurrrrrgh.

And finally, what could ol’ Bruce do to put a topper on this cavalcade of self-regard? Oh yeah, he could go third-person.

“Do we need a payroll tax? We think not.”

Ugh. Just threw up in my mouth a little.

But after all this, here’s my message for Bruce Lisman: Go ahead. Run for governor. Pull out all the stops. You won’t win, but at least our media will be able to stop camping out on your metaphorical doorstep.

Estragon: I’m going.
[He does not move.]

Somebody get Heidi Scheuermann to a Toastmasters meeting, STAT

I’ve often mentioned State Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) as a potential rising star in Vermont politics. She’s got a lot going for her: a high profile among Republican lawmakers, strong connections to the now-ascendant moderate wing of the VTGOP, co-leadership of the putatively bipartisan Vision to Action Vermont (V2AVT), and founding membership in Campaign for Vermont, presumably giving her an in with CFV moneybags Bruce Lisman.

Some folks had demurred from my view that she’s a rising star because of her shortcomings as a public speaker. Well, based on today’s appearance on VPR’s “Vermont Edition,” they’re right. Scheuermann simply isn’t ready for the spotlight.

Scheuermann appeared on VPR with Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning to discuss Republican legislative priorities for the new session. Here’s one of her answers, faithfully transcribed, including all the um’s, repeats, false starts and pauses. The question, just so you know, concerned the possibility of raising taxes to help balance the state budget. Also, just so you know, there was often a discernible quiver in her voice, revealing an unexpected degree of nervousness in a veteran politician.

Well, um, I guess I would say first and foremost, um, for the past, uh, we sort of have a new normal, uh, in the legislature, and that’s unfortunate. And that normal is the budget deficits, extremely, um, large budget deficits. Every year we come in, ah, we have budget deficits. And that tells me, uh, that we, um, are… that the, the Governor and the legislative leadership and those who support these budgets are doing so, um, w-without an eye on the future and exactly how, how we’re going to pay for it.

Um, so when we come in with a budget of fi — with a five, four or five percent increase and, and tax receipts of, or an economy growing at two percent, um, that’s, you know, that’s a real problem and I think we should, we need to, like Joe said, really, uh, really concentrate on, on where we go from here, um, and understand that this can’t be a new normal, and that we have to address it in a comprehensive and fundamental way, and that is bringing the government into the 21st century, in my view. I think we are still stuck in a, um, 19th and 20th century state government, um, and I think we have to move it into the, into the 21st century with, um, with, ah, services being provided more efficiently and effectively, um, with… um… with m-more, um, communication with the outside instead of this internal sort of, of, functioning government that we have, with, with people in the offices, ah, five days a week, um, reading reports. Um, again, they work hard, our state employees work hard, but, ah, but I think we need to move the government into a, into um, into the 21st century.

That said, um, I also think we need to focus first and foremost, um, on our economy and the health of our state’s economy, and we have neglected that for years, and, um, and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in.

Scheuermann has now spoken for almost two minutes. She tries to continue, but host Jane Lindholm interrupts with a redirect. She asks what Scheuermann would suggest in terms of streamlining government or making budget cuts. The answer?

I guess I would say, well, again, um, ah, I wouldn’t propose specific cuts right now until we really get into it. It’s really, it’s very difficult as a legis — as a citizen legislature, um, to get into specific departments and micromanage those departments. I think it needs to come from the administration and the leadership of the administration to set a, uh, to set an agenda for how exactly we’re going to do this, and streamline, and um have more effective and efficient services. I would say for example, again, when you’re talking about economic, the uh economy, and really trying to grow our economy, um, so that it is long-term sort of um… uh… laser-like focus on the economy, I think for example the Agency of Commerce, um, people should be in their offices once a week, [chuckle] one day a week. And they should be out in the fields four days a week and really just talking to people, seeing what businesses need, seeing what our, uh, small employers need, um, and what their challenges are, what their opportunities are, and where we as a state might be able to help.

So that is just one example. Again, I’ll go back to the economy. When you have, we have personal income tax — the reason we’re in these… in the situation we’re in is our personal income tax receipts are down. Um, and that, and that’s due to payroll and, and, and that our economy is stagnant. And, um, so we really need to focus on growing our economy. I hope that that will be, uh, the number one priority for our legislature.

Holy Mother of God. That’s almost Milnesque in its cringeworthy awkwardness. Although admittedly it’s not nearly down to Milne level in terms of positional confusion. It also took three and a half minutes of radio time, including Lindholm’s interjection.

For now, I’ll pass by the policy howlers (Empty out the Agency of Commerce four days a week? Not a single idea for budget cuts, after eight years in the legislature? Content-free references to the 21st century? A transparently token sop to state workers?) and keep my laser-like focus on her delivery. Heidi Scheuermann is an unpolished and unappealing speaker who can’t fight her way out of a sentence.

If she wants to stay where she is now — representing a safe Republican district and being one of the more prominent voices in the legislative minority — she can keep on doing what she’s doing.

But if she wants to be taken seriously for a leadership position or as a candidate for statewide office, then she needs to clean up her rhetorical game big-time.

For an example of how to do it right, just listen to her fellow guest, Joe Benning. He was comfortable and articulate, he got to the point, he kept things simple, and was very quotable.

One protip for Scheuermann: Don’t be so afraid of dead air. Don’t fill up every available space with “ums” and repeated phrases. Let it breathe. It takes some time and practice, but it’s a worthwhile investment. I’ve never been to Toastmasters, but I hear it’s a great place to hone your public-speaking skills in a friendly environment.

Postscript. One unrelated piece of advice. In the process of writing this post I Googled “Heidi Scheuermann” and this is a screenshot of the second match:

Scheuermann Google

Yeah, I don’t think that’s her real nickname.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link to her campaign website, and saw several porny inserts in green type scattered around her “About” page. If you roll your cursor over the site, the porny inserts all disappear. If you exit the site and then go back in, the green inserts reappear. They remain on the page as long as you keep your cursor outside the frame.

This doesn’t look like an ideological attack, because the inserts are so random. But the good Representative may want to check on her website’s security.