Tag Archives: MMR

The Wide, Wide, Almost Infinitely Wide World of Lobbying

Once in a while, some media outlet will publish a formulaic piece about Statehouse lobbying. It happens when lobbyists and clients are required to report their spending with the Secretary of State’s office. A reporter will pore over the filings, point out the highest-grossing lobbying firms and some big-dollar clients, and get both-sides quotes from (a) those concerned with lobbyist influence and (b) those (mostly lobbyists) who think it’s not a big deal. And that’s it.

Last week, I started looking at the finance reports from the latest deadline, March 15, with an eye toward writing such a roundup. But the more I read, the more I realized that I didn’t know. After spending several days on the subject, I’ve concluded that the actual world of lobbying in Montpelier is just about unknowable. Those finance reports represent one sector of lobbying activity, and probably a small one at that.

Let’s start with a quick quiz. How many individuals are registered as lobbyists with the Vermont Secretary of State?

50?

100?

200?

How about… 604.

Six hundred and four.

Now, if all those people were roaming the Statehouse on the same day, it’d be like that episode of Star Trek with the overpopulated planet that needed Captain Kirk’s germs (transmissible only by a kiss with a beautiful blond) to thin the crowds. Most lobbyists aren’t there every day. Some of them are rarely, or never, there. But that’s the size of the universe we’re talking about.

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Scott Plays Lobbyist Footsie Over Medical Monitoring Bill — UPDATED With Another Grisly Detail

The Legislature is once again trying to move forward with a bill to mandate lifetime medical monitoring coverage to Vermonters who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals such as the PFAS family of hazardous greeblies. Lawmakers passed such a bill in 2018 and 2019, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott both times for his usual weak-ass reasons.

Well, now we know exactly how closely the administration was coordinating its stance with big corporate interests. Short version: Hand in glove. Or footsie under the table, if you prefer.

This revelation doesn’t come from Vermont’s sadly diminished political press, but from The Hill in faraway Washington, D.C. On January 26, The Hill posted the second in a four-part series on efforts to defeat such legislation in multiple states. The opening paragraph lays out the thesis:

State-level efforts to help victims of “forever chemical” exposure get compensation have met resistance from both governments and industry — and this pushback has been particularly effective in Republican-led states.

Like for instance, Vermont, which is the focus of the 1/26 story. It draws on public records requests that uncovered how “an official in the governor’s office coordinated with a lobbyist in ‘watering down'” the bill.

The official was Ethan Latour, then assistant spokesflack for Scott and now Deputy Finance Commissioner (because flackery is such good preparation for a high-level fiscal management post). The most telling moment: Latour sent an email to Warren Coleman of MMR, the top black-hat lobby shop in Montpelier, in which he shared a draft of a policy memo to the governor. Yep, Latour was making sure his memo danced to Coleman’s tune.

But that’s not the most telling part! In the email, Latour made reference to “his/our proposal,” meaning a weakened version of the bill which was a joint effort between the administration and Coleman’s corporate paymasters.

One more snuggly little detail: Before Latour joined the Scott administration, he worked for…. wait for it… MMR.

Update. Latour doesn’t work for the state anymore. He’s on the Secretary of State’s Lobbyist registry as a lobbyist employed by… wait for it… MMR. Isn’t that special!

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The Big Power in Vermont Politics

Not Exactly As Illustrated.

As someone who’s covered #vtpoli for more than a decade, I am well aware that the usual stomping grounds of the political reporter (the Statehouse and the campaign trail) are the tip of the iceberg: The vast majority of the political world is underwater. If you interpret our politics in terms of that surface 10 percent, you’ll probably know what’s going on — but you won’t know how or why.

This isn’t a matter of shadowy figures in vape-filled rooms, or envelopes of cash handed out in the middle of the night. It’s simply a matter of who’s got the pull, how they get it, and which way they’re pulling.

There’s one looming figure on our political landscape with the clout and connections to pretty much always get what it wants. It’s got a wider and deeper web of influence than any other individual, party, or entity.

Maybe you’ve already guessed that I’m talking about Green Mountain Power. Now, Vermont’s biggest utility would be a force in state politics no matter what, but GMP has raised its political work to the level of fine art. It carefully curates a plausibly benevolent public image, which allows politicians of all stripes to take its side. It maintains a small army of influencers, including lobbyists, media figures, and former politicians and government officials. It’s no stretch to say that GMP is a force to be reckoned with on any issue that touches its interests; but when you lay it all out at once, it’s damn impressive.

One dimension of the GMP operation is a truly impressive list of lobbyists, as reported to the Secretary of State’s office. There are 13 names on that list, including former lawmakers and officeholders, TV anchors, and veteran presences of the Statehouse hallways and hearing rooms. That’s a lot of muscle.

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