Tag Archives: Republican Governors Association

Everything’s Coming Up Phil

Speaking in purely political terms, things could hardly be going any better for Gov. Phil Scott.

His solid record on Covid-19, while flawed in some respects and overstated by him and his officials, continues to receive widespread praise. He dominates the political news with his thrice-weekly marathon briefings. His popularity appears to be as high as ever, and many Democrats have already — quietly — conceded his re-election.

And now, the July 1 campaign finance filings are full of good cheer for Scott and bad news for his would-be opponents.

Scott’s own campaign barely raised any money between March 15 and July 1 — a mere $8,000. (He’s raised only $80,000 for the entire campaign cycle.) Not surprising, since he has said he won’t campaign or fundraise until the pandemic is over… which may be sometime in 2024, by the looks of things.

But while he is refraining from the dirty business of politics, his campaign is humming right along. It is deficit spending, mainly to pay Optimus Consulting, a D.C. firm that has done all his strategerizing and media buys in each of his gubernatorial campaigns, a cool $114,500 for its services this year. That represents the bulk of total Scott spending.

Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association waits in the background to inject however much money is needed to ensure a Scott victory. So far, the RGA has funneled $126,000 into its “independent PAC,” A Stronger Vermont. It can easily pump in enough money to overwhelm all other bankrolls in the race, as it did in 2016, when Scott first ran for governor. The RGA spent more than $3 million that year, and effectively knocked Democrat Sue Minter out of contention with a late-summer/early-fall ad blitz. That’s chump change by RGA standards.

(The RGA’s expenditures are purely independent of Scott’s campaign, but paid for so much TV time in 2016 and 2018 that Scott barely had to run any ads of his own.)

And now we know where Scott’s Democratic challengers stand money-wise. It’s not a pretty picture.

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The big-money tsunami has arrived

Fun Fact, courtesy of Seven DaysPaul Heintz:

[Phil Scott] has yet to run any television advertising in the general election.

That might come as a surprise to anyone who watches TV in Vermont. We’ve seen a plethora of spots in support of Scott and against Sue Minter.

And every last one of ‘em was bought and paid for by a Washington, D.C.-based SuperPAC, ironically named “A Stronger Vermont.”

ASV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Governors Association, has spent more than $1.2 million in Vermont. With five weeks to go, it seems certain to exceed $2 million.

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Phil Scott’s national buddies go negative

I knew it was just a matter of time.

“A Stronger Vermont,” the D.C.-based SuperPAC arm of the Republican Governors Association, has been dumping truckloads of cash into Vermont on behalf of Phil Scott. Officially, the RGA tally is over $500,000. But as Paul Heintz reports today, the RGA has transferred another $600,000 into ASV’s coffers, “bringing its total investment in the race to $1.2 million.” With a month and a half to go.

Until now, ASV’s ads have been right out of the Phil Scott playbook: sunny, warm scenes of Phil interacting with Real People, a comforting voice-over, and music designed to trigger an endorphin rush.

Today, ASV crossed over to the dark side, with its first TV ad attacking Sue Minter.

Check that. Attacking Peter Shumlin.

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Leadership That Waffles: No More Buying Local

Let’s step into the Wayback Machine and travel back to 2012, when the earth was young and a dewey-eyed gent named Phil Scott was running for a second term as Lieutenant Governor. And his campaign went all-in on the idea of Buying Local. This, according to Project Vote Smart, comes from his 2012 campaign website:

During the summer of 2011, Lt. Governor Scott attended parades, fairs and farmers markets throughout the state, spreading the message “Buy Local: It’s not just for hippies anymore.”…

The Lieutenant Governor’s office offers an excellent opportunity to promote Vermont products and the Vermont brand. While it’s important to market Vermont outside the state, Lt. Governor Scott wants to make sure we don’t ignore the opportunities to market ourselves within our own communities.

(And by the way, “Candidate Scott” walks the walk: In all of his election campaigns, Phil Scott has worked exclusively with vendors and consultants within Vermont’s borders.)

He was still “walking the walk” as recently as last November, when he got a friendly front-page spread in the Burlington Free Press for his advocacy of Buying Local.

However…

Then he started seriously running for Governor. And all that Buying Local stuff went straight into the dumpster.

As of the last reporting deadline (September 1), the Scott campaign had spent $900,927.44. By my calculations, at least $411,266.52 went to out-of-state companies and contractors. And that doesn’t include the fact that, for some reason, his campaign’s VISA card was issued by North Carolina(!)-based Capitol One.

HB-2, anyone?

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The Dems’ attacks are no better than the Repubs’

Recently, I made sport of VTGOP chair David Sunderland for issuing yet another baseless attack on Secretary of State Jim Condos. Seems only fair that I should point out that the Vermont Democratic Party’s attacks are just as poorly-aimed and baseless.

Two recent examples: The Dems trying to make hay over Phil Scott’s fundraising, and their thinly-evidenced claim that the Scott campaign is in cahoots with the Republican Governors Association. Both attacks are poorly-considered, and both will fail to resonate.

The more recent first. The VTDems filed an official complaint with the attorney general’s office, charging improper collusion between Scott and the RGA’s SuperPAC. By law, SuperPACs can promote or attack candidates, but their efforts must be completely independent of any candidate’s campaign.

The SuperPAC, “A Stronger Vermont,” has been running positive ads about Scott. The Dems’ complaint sits on a tenuous foundation: the fact that an RGA film crew has been filming in close proximity to Scott, which means he must have been aware of the camera crew and their provenance.

Yeah, well, maybe. But that doesn’t prove anything.

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How much will the RGA spend in Vermont?

Sky’s the limit, apparently.

Last week’s campaign finance filings showed that a Super PAC operated by the Republican Governors Association has already spent more than $500,000 on behalf of Phil Scott.

And there’s only one way it makes sense for them to spend that much money that early: they intend to spend a whole lot more between now and Election Day. I mean, look: they’ve put out a bunch of smiley-face mailers and TV ads in the dead zone of August, for Pete’s sake. That’s a complete waste unless it’s only the opening salvo in a concerted campaign.

I think Lenore Broughton’s record for Super PAC spending in Vermont, roughly $1 million, is doomed. At this rate, the RGA will easily top $2 million, and will almost certainly outspend the candidate himself.

Remind me again how Phil Scott is the authentic Vermonter in this race.

And when the RGA turns negative on Sue Minter, and you know they will, you’ll have to remind me again how Phil Scott hates Washington-style attack ads.

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Does Phil Scott’s future depend on Trump?

The Republican candidate for governor is famously not a fan of Donald Trump. Phil Scott plans to write in Jim Douglas for President, in an empty gesture of “leadership.”

But if Scott doesn’t want to vote for Trump, he might just find himself having to root for the man.

There’s a lot of talk in Republican circles these days about cutting their losses: concentrating resources in key areas, and making some necessary sacrifices in the process.

Trump’s at the top of that sacrificial hierarchy, but here’s something to ponder. How high on that list do you suppose Phil Scott is?

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And in the morning, the boulder’s back at the bottom of the hill

You could understand if Phil Scott and Sue Minter find themselves sympathizing with the plight of Sisyphus. Having won their respective primaries, they now face the task of refilling their nearly-empty warchests, and ASAP if you please.

The major-party nominees raised an ungodly (by Vermont standards) amount of money, and spent almost all of it just to get through their primaries.

The grim totals: Minter raised more than a million dollars — and spent all but $54,000 fending off the weaker-than-expected candidacies of Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith.

Scott enters the general campaign with $158,000 in the bank. But he entered the primary race with $95K left over from his previous walkovers for lieutenant governor. Without that cushion, he’d be dead even with Minter in cash on hand. In terms of money raised during the current campaign, he actually trails both Minter and Dunne.

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Here comes the money

This one’s for Nick.

Yeah, the Vermont primary campaign blasted through all the old records for money spent. And now the real battle begins.

On the morning after the vote, the Republican Governors Association launched the first TV ad of the general election campaign. Shockingly, it’s pro-Phil Scott.

It may make his railings against outside money look a bit like the protestations of the painted lady under the lamppost, but at least it’s a positive ad. In fact, it’s so sticky-sweet, it ought to come with a warning: “You May Contract Diabetes While Watching This Advertisement.” Scenes of Phil’s appealingly craggy face on a summer day as he greets Real Vermonters, while a piano arpeggiates and an inviting, slightly MILFy voice extols his virtues. He will, Carol Brady assures us, “restore trust in state government, bring new jobs to Vermont, and focus on solving problems, not playing politics.”

I’m sure the next ad will include “heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” (Hey, I went to Sunday School*.)

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Skeleton hunt

Here’s a tidbit from Friday’s campaign finance filing deadline, first uncovered by April Burbank of the Burlington Free Press.

The Republican Governors Association gave $50,000 to a political action committee called “A Stronger Vermont,” which used the money exclusively for research at Old Dominion Research Group in Alexandria, Virginia.

Old Dominion Research Group promises on its website to provide “hard-hitting, precise intelligence based on the records of Democrat office holders and seekers.”

Technical detail: the RGA gave “A Stronger Vermont” $50,000; ASV spent $44K on Old Dominion Research Group, and still has the remainder.

But there’s a wakeup. 44 G’s on opposition research against Democratic (no, it’s not ’Democrat”) candidates.

Burbank pretty much left it there, but I did some additional Googling and turned up some fascinating information.

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