Tag Archives: Libertarian Party

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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Dan the No Longer Libertarian Man

(UPDATE: Per VTDigger, he’s joined the Republican Party. See below.)

Here’s a little piece of political news so shocking that I almost stifled a yawn.

Oooooookay, then. I imagine this will rattle around the Vermont political media for a few hours and then we’ll get back to stuff that actually matters.

Not to disparage the contributions of Mr. Feliciano. But we are talking about a guy who enjoyed a boatload of free publicity, including widespread speculation that he might outpoll Scott Milne, and in the end he barely managed to fend off the bottom-of-the-ballot Nutbar Brigade. He couldn’t even push the Libertarians into automatic ballot status for 2016.

I can see three possible implications. In order of likelihood:

— He’s had enough of politics and will turn his attention back to work and family. 10% chance; once bitten by the political bug, the fever usually persists beyond one election cycle.

— He doesn’t know what’s next, he’s on the outs with the Libertarians anyway, so he’s clearing the decks. 30% chance; it’s neat and clean, but I suspect he has an idea what he wants to do. Which is…

— He’s aiming to run for governor in 2016 as the darling of the right wing. 60% chance. The opening is there, unless Randy Brock re-emerges from the weeds. (Which I doubt.) The right needs a front man with some sort of credibility, and Feliciano was a perfectly cromulent candidate in 2014. He’s got some name recognition, he’s got a foothold in the Vermont political world. He impressed the likes of Darcie Johnston, even if he pretty much failed with the electorate.

There are problems with this scenario, obviously. His “proven appeal” amounts to 4% of the vote, even with all the publicity he got and all the troubles of his Republican counterpart. He’d be aiming to represent a wing of the VTGOP that’s clearly on the outs; if the 2014 election proved anything, it’s that a center-right position is much more appealing to voters than a hard-right stance.

Plus, in a hypothetical primary against Phil Scott, he’d get flattened.

Of course, the fact that the right wing is clearly on the outs makes them desperate enough to see Mr. Four Percent as their knight in fiscally conservative armor.

UPDATE: VTDigger’s Tom Brown reports that Feliciano has joined the Republican Party, saying its larger base would give him a better chance of winning a future campaign. That might be another run for governor; he might also pursue another office:

“It depends on what it is,” he said. “I have to be in a position where I can really influence things and get things done. I would not be good in the middle.”

I think we can all agree on that.

Drivin’ down the highway, throwin’ money out the windows

That would appear to be Governor Shumlin’s campaign strategy in the final two weeks of the campaign. Faced with less-than-daunting opposition from the likes of Mr. Blandy and Mr. Fringey, not to mention Ms. Hempy, Hat Lady and The Beard, the Governor has been spending money like he’s running against a Koch brother.

The final pre-election campaign finance deadline was today, and Shumlin’s money machine was in overdrive, raising another $179,000* since mid-October and spending an incredible $342,000, more than half of it on TV advertising.

*Including $96,000 in cash, and $83,000 in “in-kind” donations. The latter were services performed by the state Democratic Party: robocalls and mailers. I guess his campaign was too strapped for cash to foot the bills himself, sheesh. 

That’s $342,000 spent in two and a half weeks. 

That brings his total spending on the campaign to $890,000, which is almost three times as much as he spent two years ago to defeat Randy Brock. Unless he’s really scared of Scott Milne, I’d say he’s going all out to boost his vote total. A finish under 50% would be embarrassing and make a serious dent in his political clout for his third term; anything less than 53% or so would be a significant deflation of his 2012 total, and weaken him going into the fight for single-payer health care.

Scott Milne, meanwhile, did well by his low standards, but mainly because he injected a bunch of his own money into his own campaign. He took in $91,000 since Oct. 15, but that includes a $50,000 loan to his campaign and $25K in “in-kind” contributions; the lion’s share of that was in the form of mass mailings done by the Vermont Republican State Committee on Milne’s behalf.

For the entire campaign, he’s raised $238,000. But that includes almost $90,000 from himself and his family. Plus another $20K or so from the famous Boieses.

He spent $98,000 since Oct. 15, mainly on TV ads, bringing his total spending for the campaign to $211,000. Which would be a nice total if he were running for Lieutenant Governor, but it’s simply not enough to be competitive, especially against Governor Moneybags.

Libertarian Dan Feliciano, meanwhile, limped to the finish line with a few thousand bucks in outside donations plus another $10,000 in self-funding. Most of his recent spending was on airing his awful TV ad. But again, Feliciano showed no sign of attracting broad support as expressed in campaign donations. He got damn little, in fact. In the marketplace of ideas, nobody was buying Dan the Libertarian Man.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, incumbent Phil Scott eased back the pace. He raised less than $10,000 and spent about $10,000 since the last report. For the entire campaign, he’s raised $289,000 and spent $233,000.

The big news there is that Scott will head into the next campaign with a good-sized warchest by the standards of anyone other than Peter Shumlin, Pat Leahy, Peter Welch, and Bernie Sanders. He reports cash-on-hand totaling $98,000, which is a nice head start on 2016.

His opponent Dean Corren, as reported in this space, went on a spending binge in the last two weeks. He spent $92,000 since Oct. 15, including an intensive (by Lt. Gov. standards) TV ad campaign. And he planned out his expenditures intelligently; his campaign to date has spent $188,000, leaving only $12,000 left of his (mainly publicly financed) $200,000 kitty.

And now, ’tis the night before Election, and all through the state, not a candidate was stirring. Not even… hmm… does anybody’s name rhyme with “state”?

Meet Dan Feliciano’s uvula

Well, I think we can stop taking submissions for Worst TV Ad of 2014 (Vermont Regional). Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.32.42 AM

That’s a screengrab from the new TV ad for Dan Feliciano, Libertarian candidate for Governor.

At least I think it’s an ad for Feliciano, not a bit of inspired trollery by the Scott Milne campaign. Because the ad does nothing to advance Feliciano’s cause; indeed, it highlights his status as an underfunded, politically inexperienced, minor-party candidate.

How bad is it? Let me count the ways.

The entire 30-second ad consists of one continuous shot of Feliciano reciting his favorite talking points. His voice is too fast, he’s too brightly lit and uncomfortably close*, his face does a bunch of weird things, his closing smile is off-putting. It was clearly done on the cheap.

*It’s never a good thing if a viewer’s first instinct is to recoil from the screen. 

The script is poorly written; his first line is “Like you, I believe our best days are ahead.” And then, without the slightest pause, he ticks off all the ways our state is going to hell:

3,000 fewer jobs. Out of control spending. Increasing poverty, low wages, high taxes, and government-controlled health care are alarming.

Wait, you just said something about “our best days”. WTF?

The parade of imagined horrors out of the way, he instantly pivots to his pitch:

I’m Dan Feliciano. I have the experience to reverse these trends by taking a fresh look at government.

When you vote, think new. Think better. It’s time to vote for experience and not party. Vote Feliciano for Governor. Our best days can be ahead, and I’ll be there with you.

Queasy smile, fade to black.

Wait, “experience”? Not once but twice?

Most viewers have never heard of this guy or seen his face before. How are they supposed to buy him as “experienced”?

I understand that there’s no time for a resume in a 30-second spot, but you can’t just come in and throw “experience” around as a credential for a virtual unknown. Also, how can you pitch “new” and “experience” in the same breath?

It’s a political truism that TV exposure is a necessity. In this case, the more people see this spot, the fewer votes Feliciano will get.

And now, in case you thought I was exaggerating about his face doing weird things, here are a few screengrabs taken more or less randomly in one viewing.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.34.14 AM

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.36.39 AM


Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.33.58 AM


Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.28.30 AM

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.34.43 AM

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.35.48 AM

p.s. That last one is Feliciano’s attempt at a smile. Yikes.

The sad thing is, he really is quite a bit more personable than this. Which makes it even more of an insult to the fine art of advertising.

Dan Feliciano invests in himself; nobody else does

Nice little discovery by the Freeploid’s Terri Hallenbeck: apparently, Dan Feliciano’s had a little trouble with the mechanics of the Secretary of State’s new online campaign finance system, and mistakenly underreported his own donations to his campaign.

Dan Feliciano, the Libertarian candidate for governor, has contributed $30,000 to his own campaign — or nearly three-quarters of his campaign’s money — though that information was unclear on campaign finance reports filed with the state.

Selling trinkets in the park: a vital cog in the Feliciano money machine.

Selling trinkets in the park: a vital cog in the Feliciano money machine.

That’s $30,000 out of his fundraising total of less than $41,000. He’s also received $1,153 from two people named Aja, which is his wife’s maiden name.

Add it up: Feliciano has raised less than $10,000 from people outside his immediate family. For the entire campaign.

So the question remains: what happened to the Feliciano groundswell? To, ahem, #Felicianomentum? To judge by his finances, his would-be challenge to the political establishment has been a damp fizzle.

Even the notable Republicans who publicly backed his candidacy, like Brady Toensing and Wendy Wilton and Patricia Crocker and Jim Peyton and Becky Amos and Tom Burditt and Chet Greenwood, don’t appear on Feliciano’s donor list. Mark Snelling gave one gift, a munificent $200. GOP House candidate Paul Dame chipped in $101. Darcie Johnston hasn’t given any money, but she has been acting as Feliciano’s unpaid campaign manager.

Which, judging by her past record, may have a cash value of less than zero.

The point is, the right wing of the Republican Party may have raised their voices for Feliciano, but when it comes to money, they’ve left him to fend for himself.

A great deal was made of Feliciano’s showing in the Republican primary: he took 15% of the vote as a write-in candidate. As a percentage, that’s impressive. But it’s 15% of a very small total: about 2,100 votes. At the time, many thought Feliciano would build on that showing and provide a real challenge to Scott Milne, if not Governor Shumlin.

Now, looking at his financials, I wonder if that 2,100 doesn’t represent a high-water mark. Oh, he’ll probably get more votes in the general election — but he’s not getting anywhere near 15%. I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll even crack the magic 5% number that would give the Libertarians major-party status in the next cycle.

Because considering the latest news about the extent of his self-dependence, his campaign looks weaker than ever.

Dear Mr. Feliciano: You are cordially invited to bug the hell out.

Nice little scoop hauled in by Paul Heintz in his “Fair Game” column this week. No, not the lead story about the IBM reverse-sale to GlobalFoundries; but the second item, about a Sooper Secret Meeting (that managed to stay secret for less than a week) at which Dan the Libertarian Man was asked by State Sen. Joe Benning to exit the race and endorse Republican Scott Milne.

According to Heintz, “participants pledged to keep the confab confidential,” which ha ha ha. I think we can assume that Benning didn’t send Paul a press release; the more likely scenario is that somebody else in the meeting, or who knew about the meeting, leaked a few details to Heintz, who then gave Benning a call.

At which point, Benning could have issued a denial. But, in this scenario, he apparently thought to himself “What the heck,” and acknowledged the whole “confidential” thing:

The Fixer. )Image pilfered from VTDigger.)

The Fixer. (Image pilfered from VTDigger.)

“I went through the pros and cons of [Feliciano’s] being in the race,” Benning recalled. “I suggested to him that the poll numbers were not in his favor and that if he stayed in the race, the only thing for sure that would happen is Peter Shumlin would walk back in without any kind of contest.”

… “I said that even if he left the race at this stage, it’s still an uphill battle for Scott Milne,” Benning continued. “But in the event that he had any interest in a future in Republican politics, I would imagine folks on our side of the aisle would be a lot happier if there was no split in the ticket in this race.”

Well, if he had dropped out, he’d have had no choice but to pursue “a future in Republican politics,” because he’d be dead to the Libertarian Party, who would have been justifiably outraged to lose their candidate to a GOP power play.

Ethically speaking (ha ha ha), this was an iffy move. It takes guts, or gall, to call another party’s candidate into a meeting and urge him to bug out.

Politically speaking, however, Benning was right.

Remember when Feliciano looked like he was going to steal the right wing away from Milne? When his write-in bid for the Republican nomination was taken seriously, was endorsed by two of the VTGOP’s four statewide officers, and Milne actually bought TV ads to fend off the “threat”?

When there was open speculation about Milne withdrawing in favor of Feliciano?

Believed to be Dan Feliciano at his campaign headquarters.

Believed to be Dan Feliciano at his campaign headquarters.

Well, that ship sailed long ago. Feliciano has done nothing to show he’s captured anything more than a single-digit sliver of the right wing: he’s way down in the poll that actually included him, and more importantly, his fundraising performance makes Scott Milne look like George W. Bush.

Which leaves us with this. If Milne exited the race and endorsed Feliciano, the latter would get the dead-ender vote but Milne would still be on the ballot, in the Republican slot, and would still garner a whole lot of votes from loyal Republicans. Feliciano’s best case: he’d be this year’s Tony Pollina, managing to outpoll a very weak major party candidate (Gaye Symington) but getting nowhere close to the winner. His worst case: he’d get into the low double digits, pulling Milne down to about 30% and making Governor Shumlin look like a landslide winner.

There’s no way Feliciano could pull very many centrist, “sick of Shumlin” votes; his views are too far from the middle.

Milne, on the other hand, has the inherent — and substantial — advantage of carrying the Republican standard. Even though he’s run an awful campaign, he still gets a solid 35% in the polls. He hasn’t convinced very many undecideds, but he’s retained virtually all of the Republican base.

So here’s how it looks to This Political Observer: Shumlin gets in the low-to-mid 50s either way. If Milne is the active opponent, he gets into the low 40s, with Feliciano retaining most of his meager support even if he stops campaigning. (He’s still on the ballot.)

But if Feliciano is Shumlin’s active challenger, then Milne gets about 30% and Feliciano maybe 15. Or Milne 25 and Feliciano 20. Whatever. And the difference is mainly a matter of style points — of how your party will look in the history books.

Of course, this whole kerfuffle is not really about November 4. It’s about what comes after: a potential relitigation of last fall’s intra-party battle for control of the VTGOP. Last year, Phil Scott’s Moderator faction won a narrow victory. Clearly, there are those within the party who’d like a second bite of that wormy, bruised apple.

In this context, Benning’s acknowledgment makes sense. In the short run, he’s trying to further establish Feliciano as a fringer. But beyond the election, it’s a message to the True Believer faction of the VTGOP: backing Feliciano was a mistake, and we’re still in charge.

As usual, this is all speculation on my part. I certainly haven’t gotten any leaks from Benning or any other Republicans. But it makes sense to me. And this is my damn blog.

Johnston, Feliciano and Sunderland: Closing the circle

After writing my previous posts about Darcie “Hack” Johnston’s personal attacks on Scott Milne, I happened to check my other other email account, which I sometimes neglect. And there I found the trigger to all this garbage: a press release by VTGOP Chair “Super Dave” Sunderland attacking the Libertarian Party in very extrreme terms. Specifically, the Libs’ stand on drug legalization.

Sunderland meant to remind Republicans that if they support Libertarian Dan Feliciano in the gubernatorial primary, they’re effectively endorsing a very fringey set of principles. That’s all fine, but his letter included this incendiary passage:

Let’s be clear about this:  Vermont Libertarians would release all the heroin traffickers and professional dealers who have peddled their poison on our streets.  And all those felons who were arrested, charged and brought to justice by dedicated members of law enforcement for importing and profiting from the hardest and most addictive drugs would be set free and have their criminal records expunged if the Vermont Libertarians had their way.  Then what?  You know the answer:  They’d be back at it.

That’a a very inflammatory accusation. Let’s check it. From the Vermont Libertarian Party platform: 

7. CRIME: Repeal all consensual crime laws to focus police resources on crimes to property and persons. To ease the strain on our judicial systems, we support greater use of alternative dispute solutions. We propose amnesty for all convicted non-violent drug offenders.

There’s a huge difference between the Libs’ stand and Sunderland’s characterization, and the key phrase is “non-violent.” Sunderland would be right if, and only if, all our imprisoned drug dealers were purely nonviolent offenders. And that is simply not true: the real bad guys in the drug trade commit acts of violence and are punished for same. The vast majority of non-violent offenders are either consumers or low-level dealers.

In short, Sunderland stretched the truth beyond recognition. And that explains Johnston’s Twitter rampage.

Note: I said “explains,” not “justifies.” Johnston took it from the realm of distorting a political position to attacking a person’s integrity. That’s still outrageous, and Johnston should still take it back.

But the real news here is this: Why the hell did Sunderland jam a stick into the hornets’ nest? The Libertarians are not a serious threat to our two biggest parties. At least, not usually.

My inference is that Sunderland is truly worried about Feliciano’s write-in campaign. He’s worried that Feliciano could actually beat Scott Milne on August 26. That shows how desperate things are getting in Republicanland.