Tag Archives: Norm McAllister

A little prayer for ethics reform

Ah, Ethics Commission, we hardly knew ye.

Vermont will remain one of a handful of states whose politicians are unburdened by an ethics watchdog. The final benediction was pronounced Tuesday by House leaders, but the fatal blow had been struck in the Senate.

Well, not a blow, actually. The cause of death was slow and methodical.

A bill to establish a state Ethics Commission was shackled to the stone walls of a windowless chamber somewhere beneath the Senate. The cryptkeeper was Jeanette White, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who openly questioned the need for any ethical oversight at all.

Senate Bill 184 was permitted barely enough gruel and water to survive. Over time, its muscles atrophied and it became a mere shadow of itself. Its teeth and claws were extracted, just to make sure it could never do any damage.

And finally,  at the end of last week, after months of captivity, it was paraded across the hallway, shambling, emaciated, wincing at its first glimpse of sunlight since January. By then, it was too far gone to revive. Not that the House put much effort into it.

Rest In Peace, S. 184.

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Our sclerotic Constitution

In the past, I’ve tossed around the notion that Vermont’s Founding Fathers were drunk when they wrote our Constitution. Partly, that’s a matter of historic record. In those days, everyone drank to what we’d consider wretched excess; and it was common practice for men to gather in taverns to talk politics. As a simple matter of probability, those guys were hammered when they drafted our founding document.

But there’s also the matter of content. This has come up in the context of our current ethics debate, in which many lawmakers have asserted that the Constitution gives the Legislature sole authority over the ethics of its members. That seems like a terrible idea on its face.

And kind of undemocratic as well. And it’s far from the only undemocratic thread in our Constitution. At the risk of being overly cynical, you might even conclude that the Constitution was written by political elites to provide themselves a measure of protection from those pesky voters.

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Toward a more (capital “D”) Democratic Senate

Suddenly there’s one less Republican in the State Senate.

Sen. Diane Snelling announced Tuesday her resignation from the Senate to take a key state environmental job.

… Snelling… will be taking the job as chair of the Natural Resources Board, which oversees the regional commissions that rule on Act 250 development applications.

Gov. Shumlin chose former State Senator Helen Riehle to serve the rest of Snelling’s term. Riehle will not seek a full term in November.

Snelling has been in the Senate for 14 years. She’d been noncommittal on the subject of running for re-election, so maybe this move shouldn’t be a surprise. And chairing the Natural Resources Board is a prestigious job in line with her interests, but her departure is bad news for her party.

Snelling has been the only Republican in the six-member Chittenden County delegation; she has consistently won re-election in that liberal hotbed, while every other Republican has badly trailed the field. Republicans’ chances of retaining her seat? We’re talking snowballs in Hell.

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Gleanings from campaign finance reports

Some very interesting stuff in today’s campaign finance filings. This is the first reporting deadline for Vermont candidates since last July, an eternity in political terms. (Perhaps the Legislature will deign to create a few more reporting periods for the next cycle?)

Reactions, in rough order of importance:

Yes, Bruce Lisman is serious about this running-for-governor thing. He has poured $454,000 of his own money into his campaign, and he raised a non-inconsequential $171,000 from other people, for a healthy total of $625,000. On the other hand, his campaign has a very high burn rate; he’s already spent $571,000. He’s been spending heavily and consistently since the early fall of last year –much of it on staff salaries, consultant firms, and the services of Capital Connections, the PR/lobby shop fronted by his spokesperson Shawn Shouldice.

Because of his high burn rate, Lisman has by far the least cash on hand of all the four major candidates for governor. Of course, he can always write himself a bunch more checks, so weep not for Bruce.

Fun fact: Lisman scored a $2,500 contribution from Wall Street TV shouter Lawrence Kudlow.

Phil Scott is doing just fine, thanks for asking. He’s raised $414,000 and spent a little more than half that. And all of that 414K came from other people — so, as expected, he’s got a lot more fundraising clout than Lisman. It must be noted that, of the four major candidates for governor, Scott has raised the smallest amount of money. But somehow I expect he can kick it into a higher gear when he needs to.

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Will the Franklin County GOP station a bouncer at the door?

Well, this could be interesting. In fact, if anyone in the Vermont media can spare a reporter, I’d suggest a trip up to St. Albans.

That’s right, friends. All of Franklin County’s Republican luminaries under one roof. With Phil Scott his very ownself. And Tayt Brooks, fresh off a star turn teaching CPAC attendees the useful lessons of past successful campaigns. Presumably not including anything that Tayt Brooks ever worked on. He was last seen in these parts spending a million-plus of Lenore Broughton’s fortune to absolutely no effect in the 2012 campaign.

Didja notice the conspicuously missing name?

Yeah, Norm McAllister. Apparently his Senate suspension also applies to Franklin County Republican events.

They hope.

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Clueless Norm

If there was any doubt that Senator-In-Waiting Norm McAllister is completely unmoored from reality, well, this should be the last straw.

Two months after his suspension from the Vermont legislature, Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin) petitioned a Senate panel last week to restore his voting privileges.

Yeah. Because, why the hell not.

Clueless Norm’s argument is: now that his trial on gross, disturbing sexual assault charges has been delayed until May, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to carry out his obligations as a duly-elected lawmaker.

Yeah, no reason at all. I can’t think of one. Can you?

Just because a return to the Senate would turn that body into a daily circus (I’d be tempted to show up every day and shout “Vaginal fisting!” every time he walked by). Just because, whether he is guilty or not, a massive stench surrounds him due to the notoriety of the charges.

Just because, based on what he has already admitted and his lawyer has already acknowledged, the only remaining question is whether he “merely” made his victims submit to unpleasant sexual encounters, or whether he actually committed assault over and over and over again.

Bear that in mind, Senator Peg Flory and his other defenders.

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More awfulness from the McAllister Files

Oh, goodie. VTDigger has gotten hold of new information about disgraced State Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Limbo). It comes from a civil suit filed against McAllister by one of his alleged victims. Digger’s account is not for the faint of heart (or gut); it’s quite explicit, as in my view it should be. Our Distinguished Elected Officials have been ducking the hard facts all along. Their faces should be rubbed in the muck.

Which brings me to a VPO Special Offer. The first reporter who asks one of McAllister’s Senate defenders a question including the words “vaginal fisting” will get a $10 reward. Because that’s one of the many things he (allegedly, cough) subjected this woman to. Sample: “Senator, the allegations against Norm McAllister including forcible oral and anal sex and vaginal fisting. Why do you support letting this man stay in the Senate?”

Audio recording of the question constitutes proof.

The suit was filed by a woman called “Anna” who was a tenant on McAllister’s farm. She alleges frequent abusive sexual encounters over a two-and-a-half-year period. The squicky details in a moment, but here’s something VTDigger overlooked.

“Anna” moved to the farm in late 2012. The coercion began during her initial meeting with McAllister, and continued as long as she lived there. Which means we’ve caught McAllister in a big fat hairy lie.

He has said he didn’t start having sex with the other women until “After my wife died. Months after.”

Well, McAllister’s wife Lena Mae died on September 27, 2013.

I’ve gotta say I am shocked — shocked! — that a conservative family-values pol like Good Ol’ Norm was cheating on his wife.

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Planet Norm’s increasingly erratic orbit

Any time a reporter has a few minutes to spare and wants to buy the Vermont media equivalent of a lottery ticket, all they have to do is give once-and-maybe-future-Senator Norm McAllister a call. If he answers the phone, he’s almost certain to say something dumb or offensive or both.

This week’s winner was Terri Hallenbeck of Seven Days, who wrangled a juicy quote from Good Ol’ Norm, whose internal exile has, unsurprisingly, failed improve his perspective. In fact, he’s showing signs of outright conspiratorialism.

The context: Hallenbeck was previewing this week’s Senate vote on marijuana legalization. At the time, it was looking like a very close thing — maybe one vote either way. Which prompted Hallenbeck to observe that this was “the second of two recent legislative initiatives on which [McAllister] might have swayed the results.” (The other one was the paid sick leave bill.) That is, if he hadn’t been suspended in January because of those pesky sexual assault charges.

Take it away, Norm…

Reached at home in Highgate, McAllister said he would have voted against both measures. “I got an idea that’s probably why some people didn’t want me there.”

Yeah, solid thinking. It wasn’t the multiple felony charges or the pending trial or the embarrassment of having an accused felon in their midst. The Real Truth is that Norm McAllister was simply too dangerous and had to be silenced! 

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I almost feel sorry for the Franklin County GOP

Please note: “Almost.”

The various critters who live under the Golden Dome must have felt a great sense of relief when Sen. Norm McAllister’s trial was delayed by at least three months. The trial was to have begun this week, and would have featured a parade of elected officials taking the stand and doing their best Sergeant Schultz impersonations. “I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I know nothing.”

Unseemly, to say the least. And it might have interfered with the free flow of Democracy In Action that we usually see at the Statehouse this time of year.

(Hey, you in the back row: Stop laughing.)

So now it’s put off until May 10, when the Legislature will almost certainly be safely adjourned. Ohh, you can bet your sweet bippy they’ll be gone by then.

Well, it’s a relief for the Legislature. It’s the worst possible news for Franklin County Republicans. McAllister’s trial won’t even begin until a mere fortnight before the filing deadline for major party candidates.

I’m sure the party is lining up a candidate for McAllister’s seat (two current Representatives, Carolyn Branagan and Corey Parent, are being mentioned). But I’m convinced that McAllister is clueless enough to file for re-election.

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A respected politician is making a fool of himself

One of the unfortunate traits of Vermont’s Political Media is their tendency to kinda-sorta protect officeholders and officials. Keep a discreet distance when it comes to things they have decided It Is Not Our Business To Know. There’s a certain dignity in it, but they take it too far.

Please understand, I’m not asking them to start checking the sleeping arrangements at the Capitol Plaza or devise spreadsheets of politicians’ liquor consumption. But there are times when the private does touch on public interest. You’d think this would be perfectly clear in the Norm McAllister era. But it still happens; I have heard rumors of an affair between a citizen and the state official responsible for overseeing the state-funded activities of said citizen. That would seem to be something we have a right to know, since it directly impacts public responsibilities.

This week, the media silence was broken on one such issue: State Senator Bill Doyle simply isn’t up to the job anymore.

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