Tag Archives: Paul Dame

Hey, let’s catch up with the VTGOP!

Two weeks ago, the troubled relationship between the Vermont Republican Party and its most successful politician — Gov. Phil Scott — was, for all intents and purposes, formally terminated. At its biannual reorganization, party delegates re-elected chair Deb Billado to a second two-year term. Billado is an earnest soul, but a staunch conservative and devout Donald Trump fan. And she has had zero success with the admittedly tough task of pulling the party out of the doldrums.

She ran without opposition, which is the real point. Two years ago, Scott came up with a nominee of his own: Michael Donohue (not that guy), a very conservative fellow but a realist with a respectable track record of political organizing in other states. Donohue lost narrowly to Billado, in a result that reflected the party’s Trumpward orientation.

This time, Scott didn’t bother. He didn’t even attend the meeting. (He had a good excuse; Vermont was reeling from a weather disaster, and he was visiting affected areas. But I have a feeling he would have found an excuse to stay away. “Had to walk the dog” or somesuch.)

Delegates elected a slate of far-right Trumpers to top posts. Former attorney general candidate Deb Bucknam is the new vice chair; she replaces Brady Toensing, who resigned last spring to take a position in the Trump Justice Department. (He’s the son of Victoria Toensing, frequent promoter of right-wing conspiracy theories on Fox News along with her husband Joe DiGenova. Brady was a longtime member of the family law firm.)

Other officers include Deb Bucknam’s hubby Charlie as party treasurer and Deb Ricker, re-elected as secretary. Two at-large spots on the executive committee went to onetime state representative Paul Dame, who periodically shows up in my mailbox touting “retirement seminars” with a free dinner at the Steakhouse in Berlin*, and Zachary Hampl (not that guy), a Castleton University student and founder of the local chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty. (Young Zach also endorsed Bruce Lisman over Scott in the 2016 primary battle.)

*If that doesn’t work out for him, maybe he can try hawking timeshares.

None of those worthies is on the same ideological continent as Our Governor. Who, again, didn’t even try to offer alternative candidates more suited to his politics and style.

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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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The “moderate” VTGOP is a mythical beast

A few interesting things came out of the Vermont Republican Convention on Saturday — besides revealing that Phil Scott can’t take a rhetorical punch.

I thought it shone a harsh and unforgiving light on the idea that Vermont Republicans are a breed apart — the last surviving redoubt of moderate Republicanism. That’s largely a fiction created in a desperate effort to appeal to the liberal Vermont electorate. It takes on the veneer of reality thanks to the thoroughly moderate image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But the party ranks are full of garden-variety 21st Century Republicanism. Vermont Republicans may have thrown in the towel on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights*, but they are a stoutly conservative bunch when it comes to brass-tacks issues like government spending, regulation, and taxation.

*Well, let’s say they are withholding the towel. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’d change their tune if they ever achieved political power.

After all, this is a party that eagerly embraced John Kasich, a man whose tax plan would make Ronald Reagan blush with embarrassment. George W. Bush, too, for that matter.

But there were signs aplenty at the Convention that this is a party with a strongly conservative core.

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A wild Saturday night with the Windsor County GOP

Sing it with me, boys and girls: “One of these things is not like the others…”

Feliciano, Tate, Dame, Lisman

That, my friends, is the star-studded lineup for Saturday night’s “gala dinner” hosted by the Windsor County Republicans. Well, that plus a “Soap Box” for any Republican candidate who shows up and wants to charm the crowd with some campaign bumpf.

Constant Readers will recall that Windsor County GOP Chair John MacGovern had touted the event with a list of “invited speakers” featuring a whole bunch of Republican notables: at least three presidential candidates, any and all Vermont Republican hopefuls, plus VTGOP godfather Jim Douglas.

Well, apparently most of those folks declined the invitation. Instead, we get the odd quartet pictured above: three of the most conservative politicos in the VTGOP, plus wealthy gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman.

And don’t forget the Soap Box!

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The evidence of things not seen

Several Republican presidential candidates, previously characterized as “top-tier,” have been withering away under the reflected glare of the Donald Trump campaign, or whatever it is. One of those unfortunates is Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky. Previously, he looked like someone who could bridge the chasm between the GOP’s nuttier precincts and the mainstream. Now, he looks like someone who’s fallen into that chasm, his poll numbers barely above Rick Perry/Bobby Jindal territory. (RealClearPolitics’s averaging of recent polls: Paul in 10th place with 2.6%. He’s been on a steady downward trajectory since late June, when he briefly topped the field at 13.8%.)

But have no fear, Aqua Buddha fans: State Rep. Paul Dame is here to tell you differently.

It’s no secret that the Republican Party is in need of revitalization. … And while a number of candidates talk a good game about building a “big tent” party, it has been largely empty rhetoric. Everyone agrees that we need to do more – but I only see one candidate for president who is actually DOING it. And that is Rand Paul.

Dame, one of three Vermont lawmakers to endorse Rand Paul, paints an astoundingly rosy picture of his candidate heroically venturing into Democratic* strongholds and converting the unenlightened (read: liberals) to his Libertarian-Lite banner. He is “winning support from minorities” and “young people” and “many independents and even some Democrats.” His recent appearance at a VTGOP fundraiser attracted “nearly 100 people who attended their first-ever Republican fundraiser.” Dame praises Paul’s “boldness” for daring to visit Vermont, as though he had to smash through a Liberal Police checkpoint to get in.

*Well, Dame uses the pejorative “Democrat” formulation, as do most Republicans. It’s “Democratic,” boys.

Reading Dame’s piece, you can see Rand Paul as the contemporary embodiment of the Ayn Rand hero: the granite-jawed Braveheart inspiring the benighted commonfolk with his steely boldness and plain-spoken wisdom.

Yeah, but then you look at those pesky polls and face the fact: Rand Paul is not leading a movement. He is tanking, big-time.

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Pathways to Electoral Failure, Fringe Republican Edition

We have two stories today touching on a common theme: how not to appeal to the Vermont electorate. One involves a presidential candidate allying himself with a Republican moneybags with deep pockets and imperceptible electoral appeal; the other involves a young lawmaker on the rise who seems to be an acolyte of America’s Crankiest Novelist and America’s Most Notorious Ophthalmologist.

First, the candidate and the moneybags:

Yep, that’s Florida Senator Marco Rubio believing that Skip Vallee will “do great things” for his campaign. (Tweet was first noted by the Free Press’ Emilie Teresa Stigliani.) Well, Skip will probably do great things for Rubio’s bottom line. But as for strengthening his campaign, not so much. Rubio can be forgiven for not knowing the details of Skippy’s political rap sheet, being from Florida and all. But just in case he’s reading this blog, God only knows why, let’s do the numbers.

The high point of Skip Vallee’s political career was when he donated enough money to the Bush 2004 campaign to wangle himself the ambassadorship to the Slovak Republic. Aside from that, Skipper’s political career has been purely a figment of his own imagination. In his only bid for elective office, Vallee lost the 2000 race for State Senate in Chittenden County, despite what must have been the most expensive State Senate campaign in state history: he spent $134,000. And still lost.

Vallee has never run for office again — although he keeps hinting and nosing around, as if he can’t believe his proven unpopularity.

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A heartbreaking tale of innocence defiled

Pity poor Paul Dame, freshman Republican lawmaker, whose blissful ignorance was suddenly and violently stripped away as he was forced to the disheartening realization that politicians sometimes do political things.

Well, that’s the charitable interpretation of his opinion piece, entitled “Stop the Blame Game,” posted on VTDigger this week. The uncharitable view is to see it as a cynical attempt to seize the high road and ignore reality in the process.

Dane is reacting to an opinion piece written by Rep. Tim Jerman, vice chair of the Vermont Democratic Party, which accused the Republicans of putting their “negativity machine… in full gear,” and “trashing the… achievements of the 2015 Vermont Legislature.”

Dame is indignant over Jerman’s “partisan and inflammatory” essay that lowers itself to “partisan name-calling” instead of working together to meet the challenges facing Vermont.

Shocking, I know, that a top Democrat would try to attack Republicans. Mr. Dame is either the freshest babe in the legislative woods, or he’s being deliberately mendacious. Because if you take a gander at recent statements from the Vermont Republican Party, you see a consistent pattern of partisan attack.

Dame effectively accuses Jerman of poisoning the well of bipartisan cooperation. Truth is, the Republicans have been pissing in that well for months and months. And somehow Dame is surprised — nay, shocked — that Jerman might actually decide to respond in kind.

To illustrate my point, let’s take a stroll down the Memory Lane of VTGOP press releases.

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Stupid Tax and Budget Tricks

The Republicans often (constantly) accuse Gov. Shumlin and the Democrats of irresponsible governance — of taxing and spending without regard for the long term.

Well, pot, meet kettle.

Consideration of the tax and budget bills in the House has been marked by Republican gimmickry and short-term thinking. And it looks like we’re in for more next week.

A few examples.

First, House Minority Leader Don Turner’s deal with Speaker Shap Smith, delivering ten Republican votes in exchange for more money for Emergency 911 call centers and the Vermont Veterans’ Home. Thus ensuring the passage of a budget he claims to oppose, and fattening it by more than a million dollars.

Second, Rep. Paul Dame’s unaccountable vote for restoring full LIHEAP funding, in spite of the fact that he opposes all tax increases and wants even deeper spending cuts  — conveniently unspecified — than the Democrats proposed. Which means if we restored LIHEAP, we’d have to cut the money somewhere else — almost certainly in other human-services programs, since that’s the lion’s share of General Fund spending.

Third, Rep. Job Tate, a House freshman who was previously noted for handing out Life-Savers in honor of the Emergency 911 call center staffers whose positions he sought to maintain even while insisting on No New Taxes and More Cuts Elsewhere. Today he resorted to an old chestnut of Budget Theater: proposing a pay cut for lawmakers.

Who, as it is, make a mere pittance for their work. And because their pay is so minimal, the cut would have been minuscule compared to the budget gap. But hey, it would have sent a message, right? Share the pain, right? Yeah, thanks for participating, Mr. Tate.

And then we have Paul Dame, he of the pandering and hypocritical LIHEAP vote, proposing another cynical amendment. The tax bill includes a cap on itemized deductions equal to 2.5 times the standard deduction. Well, Mr. Dame touted an amendment to allow unlimited itemizations for people with incomes under $60,000 a year.

Never mind that pretty much everyone who earns less than $60,000 is taking the standard deduction. It’s virtually impossible to have an income that low and rack up enough deductions to make itemizing worthwhile. It’s an empty gesture aimed at positioning Dame as a friend of the little guy, even as he would force massive cuts in human services programs if he had his way on taxation and budget-writing.

As for next week, one of the big items on the House agenda is the water bill, aimed at sparking cleanup efforts in Lake Champlain and other Vermont waters. The Republicans, natch, oppose any new taxes even while paying lip service to clean water. Indeed, they apparently favor new programs (not that they have any choice, since the EPA would come down on us hard like a criminal if we didn’t act), but want to get the funding from existing sources. Like, oh, maybe scraping the gold off the Statehouse dome and selling it to Cash4Gold.com, or searching the seat cushions for spare change.

Or, in Don Turner’s case, scrounging a little money from existing sources and using it “to leverage bonds.”

Bonds?

Oh, you mean debt?

I see. So Mr. Fiscal Responsibility wants Vermont to assume a pile of new debt — adding to our long-term fiscal issues — for the sake of avoiding any new taxes right now.

You know, during the House debate we’d occasionally hear a blast of honest, hard-core conservatism. One Representative basically said all those poors should get off their asses and go to work. At least that’s honest, if it’s also ignorant and mean-spirited. But Republicans trying to have it both ways? That’s just sickening.

Oh, those wily Republican budget hawks

So this just popped up on Ye Olde Facebooke:

Paul Dame hypocrite

Ahem. This would be the stout conservative Paul Dame who’s been Tweetbragging about his anti-tax votes in the House. And now he’s Facebragging about a vote that would add six million bucks to the budget. (Correction: I’ve been told it would have added three million, not six. I guess that makes Dame only 50% of the hypocrite I thought he was.)

Myself, I’m all for maintaining LIHEAP. It’s one of several budget cuts that will hit Vermont’s poor and working poor the hardest. But Paul Dame has no business bragging about a vote to increase spending.

This is part and parcel of the House Republicans’ two-faced game on the tax and budget bills. They’ve fought hard against tax increases and painted the Democrats as the tax-and-spend party, but they’ve also fought against many of the budget cuts proposed by Gov. Shumlin and House Dems. And, as reported earlier, House GOP leader Don Turner negotiated spending INCREASES in exchange for Republican votes on the big bills.

Dan Feliciano invests in himself; nobody else does

Nice little discovery by the Freeploid’s Terri Hallenbeck: apparently, Dan Feliciano’s had a little trouble with the mechanics of the Secretary of State’s new online campaign finance system, and mistakenly underreported his own donations to his campaign.

Dan Feliciano, the Libertarian candidate for governor, has contributed $30,000 to his own campaign — or nearly three-quarters of his campaign’s money — though that information was unclear on campaign finance reports filed with the state.

Selling trinkets in the park: a vital cog in the Feliciano money machine.

Selling trinkets in the park: a vital cog in the Feliciano money machine.

That’s $30,000 out of his fundraising total of less than $41,000. He’s also received $1,153 from two people named Aja, which is his wife’s maiden name.

Add it up: Feliciano has raised less than $10,000 from people outside his immediate family. For the entire campaign.

So the question remains: what happened to the Feliciano groundswell? To, ahem, #Felicianomentum? To judge by his finances, his would-be challenge to the political establishment has been a damp fizzle.

Even the notable Republicans who publicly backed his candidacy, like Brady Toensing and Wendy Wilton and Patricia Crocker and Jim Peyton and Becky Amos and Tom Burditt and Chet Greenwood, don’t appear on Feliciano’s donor list. Mark Snelling gave one gift, a munificent $200. GOP House candidate Paul Dame chipped in $101. Darcie Johnston hasn’t given any money, but she has been acting as Feliciano’s unpaid campaign manager.

Which, judging by her past record, may have a cash value of less than zero.

The point is, the right wing of the Republican Party may have raised their voices for Feliciano, but when it comes to money, they’ve left him to fend for himself.

A great deal was made of Feliciano’s showing in the Republican primary: he took 15% of the vote as a write-in candidate. As a percentage, that’s impressive. But it’s 15% of a very small total: about 2,100 votes. At the time, many thought Feliciano would build on that showing and provide a real challenge to Scott Milne, if not Governor Shumlin.

Now, looking at his financials, I wonder if that 2,100 doesn’t represent a high-water mark. Oh, he’ll probably get more votes in the general election — but he’s not getting anywhere near 15%. I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll even crack the magic 5% number that would give the Libertarians major-party status in the next cycle.

Because considering the latest news about the extent of his self-dependence, his campaign looks weaker than ever.