Tag Archives: Milne Travel

Party of One

The leader of the State House’s perpetually undersized Republican caucus is feeling his oats.

[House] Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, said he believes the Republican Party can increase its presence in the chamber from the current 53 seats to 76 — a majority.

I understand it’s part of his job to put on a brave face, but there is no way on God’s green Earth that the Republicans rack up a net gain of 23 House seats. After all, 2014 was a horrible year for Vermont Democrats; their ticket-topper was the roundly unpopular Peter Shumlin, there was no race for President or U.S. Senator, and turnout was dramatically depressed. And even with all that in their favor, the VTGOP only managed a net gain of eight seats in the House.

Eight.

And 2016 should be a bounceback year for the House Democrats. (More on this below.)

There’s also the inconvenient fact that the House Republicans’ campaign warchest appears to be in the red. According to its most recent campaign finance filing, the Vermont House Republican PAC has raised $5,095 this campaign cycle and spent $7,832.74. That dip into penury was triggered by an Attorney General’s ruling that the PAC had improperly accepted contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session. It had to return $3,000 in donations and pay a $2,000 fine.

So, no help there. But it’s not like the VHRPAC is alone. Pretty much every Republican aside from Phil Scott is begging for spare change.

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Is it just me, or does Scott Milne owe a lot of money?

Kudos to Scott Milne, who voluntarily released two years’ worth of tax returns and other personal financial information. That’s more than Governor Shumlin released, and it’s the level of disclosure required of members of Congress.

His financials did raise a niggling question in my mind, though.

Milne lists several assets, the largest of which are the $2,000,000 value of Milne Travel and $1,699,750 representing a 50% share in B&M Realty, the firm he co-owns with David Boies III.

Then there are the liabilities: $1.642 million. The largest is a $950,000 “promissory note,” otherwise not described. Who holds the note? What’s it for? What are the terms of repayment?

There are also three mortgages totaling $1.38 million; Milne is responsible for half of those, or $680,000. Since he “owns” 50% of those mortgages, and he owns 50% of B&M Realty, I’m going out on a limb and guessing that the mortgages arise from B&M investments.

Let us pray.

Let us pray.

It boils down to a healthy net worth of $2.641 million, but still. We’re talking about a guy whose primary income is his $118,000 salary from Milne Travel. Now, I don’t play in these financial leagues, but it seems to me that Milne is carrying a lot of debt.

And his positive net worth depends almost entirely on the valuation of his two corporate interests — Milne Travel and B&M Realty. Is the family business really worth $2,000,000? Is B&M really worth $3.4 million? I don’t know, but I’d have to guess that corporate valuations are somewhat fluid.

Which brings me to my underlying question. How much of Milne’s finances — the black ink and the red — are tied up in the proposed Quechee Highlands mixed-use development planned for a 168-acre parcel just off I-89 at Exit 1 in Hartford?

I assume that Milne’s 50% mortgage obligations, totaling $680,000, are for Highlands-related land purchases. This is currently undeveloped land; if the B&M project is built, it could lead to a West Lebanon, New Hampshire style building boom in that area — making Milne’s stake a whole lot more valuable.

On the other hand, if it doesn’t get built, Boies and Milne will be stuck with the debt load on those 168 acres.

And the project is in serious trouble, having been denied an Act 250 permit by the regional environmental commission, and being noncompliant with the town of Hartford’s current development plan for the area. B&M has appealed the environmental commission’s ruling, and Milne has spoken loudly about what he sees as the anti-business bias and excessive regulatory power of the regional commissions.

Which makes me wonder how he’d handle Act 250 if elected Governor, but that’s another issue. The question raised by Milne’s financials is, how much risk has he taken on here?

In the past, he has semi-jokingly said that B&M is basically Boies’ money and Milne’s shoe leather. Well, to judge by his personal assets and liabilities, Scott Milne has a lot more riding on Quechee Highlands than his footwear. If he takes office and B&M’s appeal is still in process — which it almost certainly will be — then how would he separate policy from personal interest? Especially with the level of financial exposure he seems to have?

In releasing his financials, Milne criticized Governor Shumlin for offering too little information. And clearly, we have more numbers from Milne. But do we know what those numbers mean?

It may be perfectly obvious to someone who operates on that level, and it may be completely innocuous. But to a humble blogger, this looks like high stakes. And it’s all riding on a regulatory decision from the state of Vermont.

Milne Campaign Continues to Fumble Along

Scott Milne’s campaign for Governor has posted its latest campaign finance report, and it once again reflects a campaign that can’t raise money. 

Total donations, since the last filing deadline on August 18: $10,305. For his campaign so far: $53,000. 

Total expenditures: $33,000 since August 18, and $62,000 for the campaign. In other words, it’s two months until election day and the Milne campaign is in the red

Well, it would be, except that Milne loaned his own campaign $25,000. Which enabled him to pay his bills and keep the lights on. 

But wait, there’s more bad news within those numbers. Of the $10,305 total, $7,350 came from people named Milne or Milne-related businesses. The breakdown: 

$2,000 from Milne Travel

$2,000 from B&M Realty, the firm co-owned by Scott Milne and David Boies III

$2,000 from Donald Milne

$1,000 from George Milne

   $350 from Jonathan and Nancy Milne

Aside from that, Milne managed to raise less than $3,000. 

And he’s apparently tapped out the Boies Family connection. Not only were there no new donations from Boieses, the Milne campaign actually refunded a $2,000 donation previously given by Robin Boies of Naples, Florida. 

As for Milne’s pre-primary spending, he threw almost $19,000 into TV ads. He also paid another $4,600 to campaign manager Brent Burns’ firm “Pure Campaigns LLC.” And he spent $2,500 on his infamous Tele-Town Meeting. 

So here we are, at the launch point of Milne 2.0 — the time when he pivots from attacking Governor Shumlin’s record to finally, belatedly, rolling out his own policy ideas — and he’s in negative territory because he can’t fundraise his way out of a wet paper bag, and he had to go into debt just to fend off a write-in effort by a little-known Libertarian. 

I keep thinking it can’t get any worse, and then it does.

Marion Milne 1935-2014

I’m saddened to hear of the death of Marion Milne, pioneering lawmaker, businessperson, and mother of gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne. VTDigger reports that she “died unexpectedly Monday morning at her home in Washington.”

I saw her in person for the first time at Milne’s campaign launch last month, and now I’m sorry I didn’t try to meet her and express my respect.

Marion Milne founded the family travel agency in 1975 shortly after graduating from Goddard College. That agency has grown and thrived under her leadership and Scott’s, during very challenging times for the travel agency field.

Of course, her most significant public moment came in 2000, when she was one of a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of Vermont’s groundbreaking civil unions law — the first step on the road to marriage equality. For her courage, she was voted out of office that fall after serving three terms in the State House. From a post-election account: 

Milne knew her vote could lead to the end of her career, as did others. State Rep. John Edwards, who represents two towns along the Canadian border, also got the boot in what became a single-issue race. Edwards, a former state trooper, said he started to get that sinking feeling while standing at a polling place Tuesday. He noticed the averted gazes, the voters who had never turned out before, the thumbs-up signs directed at the other two candidates.

… Edwards said he has lost longtime friends. Milne has endured slurs like “queer lover” aimed at her and her 13-year-old grandson and watched her travel agency lose business.

“There are a lot of people angry with me,” she said from her home, shaking her head.

She had endured a bitter campaign, often encountering hostility while going door-to-door and finding herself alienated from former supporters and friends. She was on the right side of history, but that must have been cold comfort at the time.

Marion Milne was a hard worker till the end, as reflected in this word from the Milne family: “On the day she died, Marion had an appointment to have her hair done, planned to work at her desk in the travel agency, and attend a board meeting for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.”

I’ve written plenty about Scott Milne’s campaign, but now is not the time for partisanship. It’s a time for respect, love, and family. My best wishes to the entire Milne family and the agency, and to Scott, now faced with carrying on a long-odds campaign shadowed by the loss of his mother and business partner.

Godspeed, Marion Milne.