Tag Archives: Paul Dame

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.