Tag Archives: Patrick Leahy

Still the Luckiest Man in Vermont

Today’s State of the State Address was another exercise in Repurposed Content. Gov. Phil Scott is still leaning on the usual uncatchy catchphrases and political shibboleths, and recycling the same points he’s been making since 2015.

There ‘s not a lot new to say about this midwinter summer rerun, so I’m going to follow Governor Nice GuyTM‘s example and repurpose some old content myself. Because as Scott’s address made clear, it’s still true.

Last January, I wrote a post called “The Luckiest Man in Vermont,” which noted that Scott has rarely faced a political challenge in all his election campaigns. He floated to the top due to circumstance and his brand of bland, passive-aggressive charm. On top of that, the pandemic has given him a tremendous political gift.

I’m not talking about the credit he’s gotten, merited and otherwise, for his handling of Covid-19. I’m talking about the ever-flowing Niagara of federal relief funds buoying our economy and fattening public treasuries. Today’s speech re-emphasized that fact.

Continue reading

Here’s a Delightfully Sketchy Candidate for the U.S. Senate

Friends and fellow Vermonters, cast your eye on a man who would replace Pat Leahy in Washington, D.C. No, it’s not Senator-In-Waiting Peter Welch, who is certain to win as long as he is still drawing breath come Election Day.

This, folks, is Kerry Patrick Raheb, independent Senate candidate, political conspiratorialist of the first water, wannabe cannabis entrepeneur, and shady investment advisor who has left a string of lawsuits in his wake. The flattering photo above is from his campaign website. (A DuckDuckGo image search turned up precisely one photo of Raheb from independent sources. Dude keeps a low profile.)

Raheb is one of the most colorful characters to grace our ballots in recent memory. He’s not quite Brock Pierce-level, but he’s not far off either.

His campaign website has the garish design sense of mid-period AngelFire. Cheesy graphics, eye-watering color combos, and even a countdown clock!!! (Counting the days, hours and seconds till Election Day.) I haven’t seen one of those in years. All that’s missing is an 8-bit version of “God Bless America” on autoplay.

Raheb’s sense of humor is reflected on a page called “Belches Corner,” a clever reference to Peter, um, Belch. Raheb’s fine grasp of policy can be seen in a passage on American energy independence. He says we’d achieved it under “the prior administration,” but that damn Joe Biden wiped it all out with an executive order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline.

You know, that pipeline meant to import Canadian oil into the States.

Well, he probably thinks of Canada as effectively a subsidiary of the U.S.A. so I guess its oil counts as domestic?

Continue reading

The Reification of Richie Rich

Hey, remember when technology millionaire Rich Tarrant decided to run for U.S. Senate? The year was 2006. Longtime incumbent Jim Jeffords was retiring; then-U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders ran to replace him. Tarrant entered the race as a Republican and spent big on a high-profile campaign that portrayed him as an Authentic Son of Vermont. Seven Days O.G. Peter Freyne dubbed him “Richie Rich” and uncovered the fact that Tarrant seemed to, um, live in Florida.

Tarrant’s candidacy was marked by heavy TV advertising and abundant missteps on the campaign trail. He ultimately spent $7 million on a race that saw Sanders edge him out by a mere 33 percentage points.

Well, Richie Rich is back — in spirit, not in the flesh. The new manifestation is Brock Pierce, the fellow pictured above. He’s filed papers as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Pat Leahy. Pierce also seems to be on the Tarrant Track in terms of likely victory. That is, snowball’s chance in a hot place.

But he should provide some solid entertainment value if he commits to the race because his story is so damn weird that if he was a character in a novel, he’d be completely unbelievable.

How weird? Try child actor, failed entrepreneur, pedophilia allegations, Steve Bannon (!!!?!?!) and Bitcoin billionaire.

Continue reading

The Assumption of St. Patrick

The view from the cheap seats

Well, he did it.

In a crowded Statehouse meeting room, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy announced that he will not seek re-election next year.

I’d heard of his decision from enough sources that I felt confident in writing it up last week, but I wasn’t entirely certain until he actually said it himself. “Marcelle and I have reached the conclusion that it’s time to put down the gavel,” he said. “It’s time to come home.”

He received standing ovations at the beginning and end of his statement from a few dozen Democratic bigwigs. The press were shunted off to one side, which did not allow for the slightest bit of social distancing. We were just part of the scenery; Leahy did not take questions from the peanut gallery.

And now the dominos begin to fall. But that’s a story for another day.

Continue reading

Rumblings

A major tectonic shift in the Vermont political world seems to be underway. If you listen closely, you can hear the rumblings.

According to the very active political grapevine, Sen. Patrick Leahy will not seek re-election, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch will run for his Senate seat, and at least three prominent Democrats are rushing to fundraise and assemble a team to run for Welch’s seat.

I’ve also heard from one good source that Gov. Phil Scott won’t run for re-election either. I’m not sure if I believe that; there’s no way he’d lose in 2022 unless the pandemic goes hog-wild (which is at least a possibility after the last two days’ case counts). But then, Scott isn’t your typical politico and isn’t motivated by the usual political impulses. Could be he’s feeling the strain of managing the pandemic for the better part of two years.

We’ll leave that aside for the moment and go back to Leahy. I’d expected him to run for another term for several reasons: He’d set the all-time record for Senate seniority in his next term, he’s at the pinnacle of power, and as chair of Senate Appropriations he can ensure a steady supply of federal dollars to Vermont.

Also, cynically, an elderly Senator can be propped up by a reliable staff, which Leahy has. But I don’t know his personal situation; looming health issues for him or wife Marcelle could easily lead him to step aside. Or maybe he just wants to enjoy some retirement time. Or maybe he thinks the Republicans will take control of the Senate in 2022. That’d make another term a lot less appealing.

After the jump: Jockeying for position.

Continue reading

We’ve Got an Overflow in the Moral Sewer of Vermont Politics

Something stinks around here, and it looks like the Powers That Be are scrambling to keep anyone from identifying the source of the stench.

For those just tuning in, tonight’s VTDigger brings us the happy tidings of an agreement between federal prosecutors and Bill Stenger, one of the defendants in the EB-5 fraud case. The two sides have agreed on what evidence will be presented in Stenger’s case… and in exchange, Stenger’s lawyers won’t force a whole bunch of well-connected Vermonters to testify under oath.

See, Stenger’s defense had argued that state officials knew about the fraud long before it was publicly revealed and did nothing to stop it. Given the contents of a recent document dump, it’s clear that Team Shumlin knew a great deal and did their best to keep it under the rug. So their appearances under oath would have been at least embarrassing and perhaps incriminating.

The Vermonters in question include former governor Peter Shumlin and at least five top officials in his administration. They would have taken the stand next week, so this deal is a last-minute reprieve for these worthies. And yet another roadblock in the path of public disclosure. This fraud goes back at least a decade, and we’ve still only seen the faint outlines of official complicity.

Imagine, just for shits and giggles, Shumlin takes the stand and his testimony is at odds with the evidentiary record. Or he ducks the questions and pleads the Fifth. Not a good look, that.

Continue reading

The Senator Floats Serenely Above the Fray

I’ve written about this before, but it took on fresh urgency this week after the Supreme Court’s little knife job on abortion rights. Where is Sen. Patrick Leahy? What is he doing about this?

There are a number of things he could be doing. If he’s limited himself to criticism of the court’s ruling, I’m sorry. That’s no better than “hopes and prayers” right now.

For starters, he needs to spearhead the movement to reform the filibuster. At minimum, we should go back to its traditional form: You have to take the floor and stay there, instead of merely filing an email once a day. The abortion rights bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is just empty talk unless there’s serious filibuster reform, because there’s no way the bill would get 10 Republican votes or more.

Leahy is a powerful figure in the Senate, and he has yet to provide a clear statement of his stance on the filibuster. Last time I checked, I got this smidge of boilerplate from pres aide David Carle:

He continues to discuss this with other senators, and there’s a lot of that going on.

Good stuff, that. Especially since the reproductive rights of every woman in a red state are now in the judicial crosshairs. Maybe he could pick up the pace on those discussions?

Leahy is also the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a past committee chair. He’s in a strong position to push for court reform — adding new justices, reining in the high court’s powers, etc. What’s he doing? Anything?

Continue reading

The Thing Everybody’s Talking About That’ll Never Happen

The Governor, upon flummoxing Stewart Ledbetter

It’s almost a given in #vtpoli circles that Gov. Phil Scott will run for U.S. Senate. The question is when — in 2022, against Pat Leahy or [insert Democrat here], or 2024 against Bernie Sanders or [insert Democrat here]. Many believe Scott would be unbeatable against anyone but St. Patrick or Bernie. Or even including St. Patrick and Bernie.

It’s the best available speculative topic we’ve got, given the placidity of our political scene. We just had the least contentious legislative session in years, and it’s left Scott and the Democrats practically singing “Kumbaya.” There’s no fun in handicapping the 2022 race for governor, assuming Scott wants a fourth term. The biggest “drama” about the next election cycle is whether Doug Hoffer will retire as auditor and clear the way for his newly-minted deputy Tim Ashe, but that’s not exactly clickbait, no offense.

So, speculation abounds. And all of it is likely to remain just that. Because it says here Scott isn’t running for Senate next year or anytime thereafter.

The usual caveat: I’ve got a spotty record as a prognosticator, to put it kindly. Grain of salt. But I do have reason to believe.

After the jump: Reason to believe.

Continue reading

The Veepies: High and Mighty Edition

Well, it’s Monday, and once again we’ve got a full crop of stupidity in the public sphere. I didn’t intend for this to be a weekly feature, but hey, if they keep serving up the meatballs, I’ll keep swinging for the fences.

This week, the stupid was strong in positions of prominence. We’ve got a U.S. Senator, a State Senate committee, a state’s attorney, and not one but two agencies in the Scott administration. So let’s not keep these important slash self-important folks waiting.

To begin, we’ve got our first-ever Provisional Veepie and our first-ever Sub-Veepie. The P.V. is the I’ma Throw Everybody Under the Bus Award, which goes to none other than St. Patrick Leahy. It’s provisional because it’s about an anonymous second-hand quote from Politico, so there’s a chance that Leahy didn’t say, or mean, this. But if he did, what a doozy.

The article reports that Leahy is expected to run for re-election next year. It includes this line: “The 81-year-old has also indicated to them that he believes he’s ‘the only Democrat that can win the seat,’ said a person briefed on the conversations.”

Woof. Way to simultaneously diss every Democrat in Vermont, Senator.

Continue reading

Our Very Own Joe Manchin

You kids get off my lawn!

West Virginia’s occasionally Democratic Senator Joe Manchin gets a lot of grief in liberal circles because of his fondness for the filibuster. And yes, he’s a roadblock. But it says here that our very own liberal lion, Pat Leahy, isn’t materially different from Manchin.

Leahy is one of a number of Democratic senators who’ve been maddeningly opaque on the filibuster. It takes some doing to find any public statement by Leahy on the subject. The most recent one I could find was from way back in mid-November in the Washington Post:

“I agree with Thomas Jefferson [who] said, you know, it’s the saucer where things cool,” Leahy responded. “What I want to do though is see us come back to voting on things.”

This quote is taken from Vote Save America’s rundown of each senator’s known position on the filibuster. And it’s pretty damn close to an endorsement of the filibuster.

But hey, that was months ago, and maybe his tune has changed in the face of Republican obstructionism. So I wrote to David Carle, Leahy’s comms guy, and asked him for the Senator’s present position. This is what I got in return.

He continues to discuss this with other senators, and there’s a lot of that going on.

Gee, thanks.

Continue reading