Tag Archives: John Bauer

The absurd extremities of the public financing law

The Vermont Democratic Party, having lopsidedly endorsed Prog/Dem Dean Corren as its candidate for Lieutenant Governor, seems to be doing all it can to strip away any value from that endorsement.

The Vermont Democratic Party this week sent glossy color mailings to reliably Democratic voters, urging them to vote for its slate of statewide candidates. But Corren wasn’t mentioned.

Dean Corren at the Democratic State Committee meeting in September.

Dean Corren at the Democratic State Committee meeting in September. Photo courtesy of… well… me.

When the Democratic State Committee endorsed Corren, party officials made it clear that there were significant restrictions on their ability to offer him any tangible support — voter data, Coordinated Campaign, etc. — because by accepting public financing, Corren had to forswear all other fundraising avenues. Including in-kind support. Indeed, they said they would have adhered to the same limits if the Democratic hopeful, John Bauer, had qualified for public financing.

The Dems were advised by their lawyers to steer clear of anything that might run afoul of the law. Which allowed them to circumvent questions about the wisdom of sharing the party’s legendary database with a Progressive, who might then share it with his party. A valid concern, when the Progressive Party often runs candidates against Democrats.

But to exclude any mention of Dean Corren from mailings? To me, that seems an excess of caution. And a serious handicap for his campaign.

And while Corren was in full agreement with the Dems on their withholding of voter data and the Coordinated Campaign, he seems less satisfied with this move:

Corren said he’s prevailing upon Democratic officials to include him on the next round of mailings.

“The conversations go on,” Corren said. “We’re in the midst of conversations. So it’s not like it’s a one-shot deal.”

Corren has dutifully played nice, and I commend him for that. But excluding Corren from a mass mailing, to me, is stretching the legal point. It raises doubts about the Dems’ real motives.

I’ve been told that the Dems don’t want to turn “tangible assistance” into an issue for Phil Scott; but issues like that are inside baseball, and have little or no effect on voters. Maybe the risk is small enough to merit the potential reward.

At the very least, it points out a serious shortcoming with the public financing law. The qualification standards need to be loosened, so more candidates can qualify. And, apparently, there needs to be a better definition of “tangible assistance” so that parties don’t have to pretend that one of their own doesn’t exist, just because s/he qualified for public financing.

Corren meets the Dems

The Democratic Party State Committee met Saturday in Montpelier, and gave its endorsement to the Party’s expected slate with one exception: Dean Corren, Progressive candidate for Lieutenant Governor. He did not actually seek an official endorsement from the state committee, but he did address the gathering and asked for their support in getting people to write in his name in the August primary.

“I got into this race on one issue,” he said, “Single payer health care.” He described this as a critical time for the issue, and said “We need a Lieutenant Governor working shoulder to shoulder with Governor Shumlin. I would be a good partner in this fight.”

(He didn’t say, but I will, that the Lieutenant Governor casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate. If Corren’s there, passing single-payer becomes easier than if Phil Scott wields the gavel. That, in itself, is a powerful incentive for Democrats, Progressives and liberals to unite behind Corren, no matter how much of a nice guy Scott may be.)

He also emphasized his common ground with the Democrats on two key issues: campaign finance reform and renewable energy. Since he qualified for public financing, you could say he has struck a real blow on the issue of money in politics. On energy, he pointed to his own professional involvement in climate change and green energy.

He also addressed the past (and for some, present) tensions between Democrats and Progressives. “We are more interested in progress than in bashing anyone.”

There was a lot of favorable reaction in the room. Corren took several questions, and all were supportive.Longtime committee member Bill Sander recalled past times when the party actively considered endorsing Republican challengers to then-Congressman Bernie Sanders, on the theory that they could get rid of Bernie and then beat the Republican two years later. Now, Sander said, “Our goal is to further the policies we believe in,” and that includes working alongside Bernie instead of trying to undercut him.

Some committee members obviously wanted to go ahead with an endorsement, but it wasn’t on the agenda. John Wilmerding of Windham County posited an endorsement via the transitive property: the state committee had previously endorsed then-candidate John Bauer; since then, Bauer has endorsed Corren; and if A equals B and B equals C, then maybe the committee has already, kinda-sorta, endorsed Corren. No one argued the point, but it remained in the unofficial realm.

After his presentation, Corren had a brief media scrum in the hallway. He pronounced himself “extremely” encouraged by the committee’s reaction. “It was wonderful. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

He was asked if he’d run into any Dem/Prog tensions in his contacts with party officials. “Actually, I haven’t,” he said. “My calls to state committee members and county chairs and so forth have all been incredibly positive.”

After this week’s anti-Prog comments from a few state senators, it was good to see the Democratic hierarchy taking a more positive view of Corren. Maybe the “Dems for Phil Scott” idea is mostly a creation of the Senate’s clubby, cloistered atmosphere.

I certainly hope so.