Tag Archives: Mike McCarthy

Greshin redux: it gets worse

Earlier this week, State Rep. Adam Greshin spearheaded an effort to cut a planned funding increase for Efficiency Vermont. I noted the rather obvious conflict of interest: Greshin is co-owner of the Sugarbush ski resort, and higher EV funding would have meant higher utility rates.

Since then, two further developments. First, as multiple correspondents have pointed out, ski resorts got a massive handout from Efficiency Vermont last year:

A $5-million rebate program from Efficiency Vermont helped initiate a $15-million investment in high-efficiency snow guns at resorts around the state. The resorts say that the new snowmaking guns can create a lot more snow in less time, and can deliver piles of snow earlier in the season than the old-school snowguns.

The majority of resorts’ electricity use is in air compression for snowmaking. EV’s program was a smart way to target a significant energy sinkhole. But it took a lot of flack for a “giveaway” to a big business. Did that contribute to lawmakers’ willingness to give the agency a substantial trim? I can’t say, but it’s a fair inference.

Adam Greshin’s business got a huge boost from EV, and now that he’s gotten his benefit, he wants to minimize his outlay for the program. Isn’t that convenient?

Second development. In my previous post I asked if Campaign for Vermont would go after Rep. Greshin. After all, CFV issued a formal complaint last year about then-Democratic State Rep. Mike McCarthy’s alleged conflict of interest. All McCarthy did was vote for a measure that would have benefited his employer, SunCommon; Greshin led the charge for a bill that would dramatically cut his business expenses, which seems more egregious to me.

Initially, CFV director Cyrus Patten was on my side:

Well, the morning came, and…

Sorry, but that doesn’t hold water. By its own account, Sugarbush spends about $2 million a year on energy. That’s not exactly your typical ratepayer. Methinks the grizzled heads at CFV thought better of slamming Greshin, who’s not formally connected to CFV but as a business-friendly centrist, his political agenda matches theirs. Unlike, say, Mike McCarthy.

I’m sure Patten will write this off as more CFV-bashing by me, but I smell a double standard.

Look, I realize there’s a huge gray area when it comes to conflict of interest, especially in a state with a nonprofessional legislature. Most of these people have other jobs. You can’t ask Dr. George Till to recuse himself from anything to do with health care. You can’t ask Sen. Bill Doyle, a faculty member at Johnson State College, to abstain from higher eduction funding bills. You can’t ask Don Turner, fire chief of Milton, to not vote for public safety appropriations.

But Greshin’s case is different in two regards: (1) paying utility bills is a huge expense for his resort, so there’s a greater order of magnitude involved; and (2) he didn’t just vote on a bill — he championed the cause. If not for Adam Greshin, the Efficiency Vermont funding would have sailed through the House.

I think that’s a pretty clear case, and I believe the House Ethics Committee should look into it.

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An obvious conflict of interest in the House

In January of last year, the supposedly nonpartisan Campaign for Vermont raised a stink about conflict of interest in the Vermont House. Specifically, it accused then-Rep. Mike McCarthy of same.

Then-CFV spokesflack Shawn Shouldice noted that McCarthy, an employee of SunCommon, had voted for a net-metering bill in the House… a bill that stood to benefit his employer. Shouldice accused McCarthy of breaking House rules by voting on the bill.

Fast forward to today, when the House approved a massive energy bill going under the name RESET. One provision was struck from the bill; it would have boosted funding for Efficiency Vermont. The charge to strike that provision was led by Independent Rep. Adam Greshin. All of this is chronicled very nicely by VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld. Except for one small fact:

Adam Greshin, looking suspiciously Photoshoppy.

Adam Greshin, looking suspiciously Photoshoppy.

Greshin is co-owner of the Sugarbush ski resort. Two more facts:

The ski industry is a voracious consumer of electricity.

Efficiency Vermont is funded by ratepayers, with rates approved by the Public Service Board.

Do I need to connect those dots?

The Efficiency Vermont cut would reduce utility rates; Greshin’s business would directly benefit. Not only did he vote for the measure, as in McCarthy’s case; he spearheaded it. He pushed strongly for it as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, where his arguments carried the day.

In the interest of nonpartisanship, I ask Campaign for Vermont to raise the same kind of stink about Greshin that they did about McCarthy. Also, is to too much to ask our media to report obvious connections when a lawmaker sponsors legislation that would benefit his/her own interests?

“The 2016 campaign is already underway!”

I didn’t write those words in a paroxysm of political-blogger wishful thinking. No, that sentence was crafted — exclamation mark and all — by one “Super Dave” Sunderland, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. It’s the closing line in a fundraising pitch that’s posted on the VTGOP website and, I’m sure, spammed to every Vermonter on its contact list.

So much for the Vermont tradition, more honored in the breach than the observance, that campaign season won’t start until the Legislature adjourns in the spring of 2016.

What Super Dave means, of course, is that he needs your money right now to begin the long build toward 2016. But in another, equally real, way, the Republicans have begun the 2016 campaign in earnest — with their words and their newly aggressive attitude.

Donkey walks into a bar, says "I'll have a Heady Topper." Bartender says, "Sorry, you elitist snob. We only serve Bud."

Donkey walks in, says “I’ll have a Heady Topper.” Bartender says, “Hit the road, you elitist snob. We only serve Bud.”

It started with their big post-election news conference on Nov. 7, in which the Party’s top elective officials got together to call for the immediate dismantling of Vermont Health Connect. (Leaving aside, for this narrative, the unfeasibility of the idea and the curious incident of the Milne in the night-time.) It was a deliberately confrontational opening move for a party still on the short end of lopsided legislative majorities. I took it as a signal that the VTGOP was feelin’ its oats.

At the same presser, some GOPers expressed interest in further exploring The Milne Theorem, an unproven assertion postulating that 87,075 is greater than 89,509. Scott Milne had first floated the trial balloon a couple days earlier; that news conference was the first outward sign of broader support for his unlikely proposition. And a sign that the Republicans were (like a pro wrestler looking under the ring for the folding chairs and kendo sticks that are always, curiously, stashed there) eagerly grabbing for whatever weapons they could find to whack the Democrats.

A few days later came the annual meeting of the Vermont Rail Action Network, a chance for politicians to promote and/or give lip service to rail travel. As reported by outgoing State Rep. Mike McCarthy on Green Mountain Daily, Gov. Shumlin was there and did his duty, giving “a rousing speech about rail and cross-border trains.”

And then Mr. Nice Guy, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, took the mic:

The room of about 150 railroad officials, government agencies, and legislators was a little surprised that instead of talking about rail, Lt. Governor Scott focused solely on last week’s election and slammed “Montpelier” for not listening to Vermonters.  I guess this is what the beginning of a 2016 gubernatorial run looks like: No More Mr. Nice Phil.

McCarthy pronounced himself “shocked” that Scott “for the first time in his political life seemed to have gone tone deaf.”

Granted, Mike McCarthy is fresh off an electoral defeat and might be feeling a little bitter, but he’s generally a reliable correspondent.

I’m guessing that Phil Scott’s been giving himself a few dope-slaps since Election Night. It’s very easy to imagine him imagining himself winning the governorship. Has that experience suddenly got him yearning for the corner office, and sharpening his message and his political profile for the first time in his soft-jazz political career? It would seem so.

More coming shortly in this space.

A very coordinated campaign

The Vermont Democrats know what they’re doing.

Well, that’s not news. But when you look closely at scheduled activities for the last full week before Election Day, you realize how narrowly they’re targeting a handful of key races. And using their big guns to do so.

Is Bernie standing on a box?

Is Bernie standing on a box?

First, there was the weekend-long victory tour, headlined by Gov. Shumlin and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and also featuring Dean Corren. They stopped in Bristol, Proctor, Hinesburg, and St.Albans. Which, at first glance, might make you wonder why not Montpelier or Burlington.

Well, because they don’t need the votes there.

Bristol is the home district of two powerful state representatives: David Sharpe, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Mike Fisher, chair of the Health Care Committee, which is kind of important to the Governor’s single-payer agenda. Sharpe and Fisher face a well-funded Republican with a very familiar name: Valerie Mullin.

I don’t know if she’s related to Sen. Kevin Mullin, but a popular name is a significant advantage for a political newbie. And the Republicans are hoping she can knock out Fisher or Sharpe.

Then comes Proctor, in Rutland County — one of the key State Senate battlegrounds. Republicans are hoping that Brian Collamore can knock off appointed incumbent Eldred French and give the GOP all three Rutland County Senate seats. Democrats are hoping they can save French and get William Tracy Carris into the Senate. Or at least hold onto a seat, preventing a Republican pickup.

The third stop was in Hinesburg, which doesn’t seem like a terribly high priority. The town’s two House seats are safely Democratic. Hinesburg is part of the Chittenden County district in the Senate, with five Democratic incumbents and one Republican. The 5-1 split is likely to remain intact, although Democrat Dawn Ellis has run a spirited campaign, and Republican Joy Limoge has raised quite a bit of money. I don’t think the Dems are too worried about Limoge, but maybe they see an opening to knock off Republican Diane Snelling. Or maybe they just wanted to hold one rally within easy driving distance of the Burlington-based TV stations.

The final rally was in St. Albans, perhaps the most hotly contested community in all of Vermont. There are two Democratic incumbents in the House, Kathie Keenan and Mike McCarthy. The Republicans hope to win at least one of the seats.

And, of course, St. Albans is the population center of the Franklin County contest for two Senate seats, currently split between the parties. Republicans hope to grab both seats in November, while the Dems want to hold their ground or possibly even take both.

The point about Democratic targeting is reinforced by Gov. Shumlin’s schedule for this week. He walked in the Rutland Halloween parade Saturday night; on Monday he’s holding a press conference in Rutland and speaking to the local Rotary Club. And on Thursday, he’s holding a press conference in St. Albans.

Near the end of the week, he’s giving a pair of high-profile speeches in Burlington that should draw TV coverage: the annual meeting of the Vermont Economic Development Agency on Friday, and a fundraiser for Vermont Parks Forever on Saturday.

The Republicans, by contrast, seem to be completely uncoordinated. Not that they have anyone with the drawing power of Shumlin or (especially) Sanders; the closest thing they have to a political celebrity is Phil Scott. Not really in the same league, especially as an inspirational speaker.

And I haven’t seen any signs of any real coordination among Republicans. You’d think that Phil Scott, as the party’s top officeholder and most popular active figure, AND as the guy who wants to make the party more inclusive, would be actively engaged in some party-building and promotion of legislative candidates.

Maybe he has been; if so, it hasn’t exactly been high profile.

In any case, the main point is this: the Democrats are doing exactly what they should be doing in the final days of the campaign.