Tag Archives: Republican Governors Association

National Conservatives Bet Big on Scott Milne

Molly Gray is on notice: If she wants to be lieutenant governor, she’s gonna have to fight for it.

First came Scott Milne’s roundhouse attacks in Thursday’s VTDigger debate (more on that in a separate post). Now comes a big-money investment in Milne from the D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee.

National Republicans have yet to throw any real money at Gov. Phil Scott, presumably because they are convinced he doesn’t need it. But clearly they see an opportunity to take the Lite-Guvship and position Milne as Scott’s successor.

RSLC Vermont, an independent political action committee, has reported a mass media buy totaling $209,500, the bulk of it on a TV ad blitz in support of Milne. Yep, in a single shot, the big boys put down as much cash as an entire LG campaign used to cost.

So much for Gray’s financial advantage over Milne. And this was a single expenditure; there’s a virtually unlimited supply of cash where that came from. For these folks, $200,000 is pocket change.

The RSLC is a key component of the conservative effort to buy American politics lock, stock and Supreme Court. Atop its list of donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is the Judicial Crisis Network, the far-right organization spearheading the drive to install conservative-minded judges and, ahem, Supreme Court Justices. Other big-dollar RSLC backers include the US Chamber of Commerce, tobacco giant Altria Group, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Governors Association, PhRMA, Amway, Koch Industries, and good old Blue Cross-Blue Shield. (Aww, and Big Blue always sounds so kind and community-spirited in its ad campaigns.)

Yeah, the same people who fueled the rise of Donald Trump, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, and are doing their best to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a Brett Kavanagh thinkalike, are here in Vermont promoting the putative moderate Scott Milne.

But hey, RSLC Vermont is an independent PAC with no connection to the Milne campaign, so he has plausible deniability — just like Phil Scott, whose rise to the governorship has been fueled by outside conservative interests. In both 2016 and 2018, the Republican Governors Association spent far more on Scott than did the candidate himself.

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Campaign Vermont 2020: No Juice

Welp, the air is out of the bouncy house. Sad to say, here we are on September 2, and there’s pretty much nothing in this woebegone Vermont campaign season to speculate about or prognosticate or even stir up the slightest semblance of interest.

That’s my big takeaway from the September 1 campaign finance reports. It’s all over but the whimpering.

Unless something huge happens, none of the statewide races look competitive. There will be, at best, only minor shifts in the makeup of the Legislature. We’ll head into a new biennium full of financial hardships and across-the-board policy challenges — with the same crew that’s given us a whole lot of status quo for the last four years.

Can you feel the excitement?

The two financial disclosures that tell the story weren’t even filed by candidates, or Vermonters. They came from the Vermont-specific political action committees funded by the Republican and Democratic Governors Associations.

The DGA’s “Our Vermont” has yet to lift a finger or spend a dime this year.

The RGA’s “A Stronger Vermont” has spent some $94,000 on a pair of polls, one in February and another in August. Otherwise, they spent a few thousand bucks on a bit of online advertising. Which tells you all you need to know about the results of those surveys: The RGA is so confident that Gov. Phil Scott will win a third term that they aren’t bothering to spend money.

Point of comparison: In the six weeks between Primary Day 2016 and October 1, 2016, the RGA spent $929,000 in support of Scott’s campaign. There was a poll in there, but the vast majority — $664,000 — bought a TV ad blitz that put Dem Sue Minter on the ropes. She never got back into the race. If the RGA saw Zuckerman as a threat, they’d be doing the same thing right now.

Election Day is still two months away, and the dynamics of the race could change. And a meteor could strike the earth. But there is no sign of a game-changing event.

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Phil Scott Really, Really, REALLY Wanted Nothing To Do With the Mail-In Ballot Bill (UPDATED)

Speak No Evil

In the grand tradition of burying inconvenient news by way of a Friday Afternoon Newsdump, Gov. Phil Scott’s office announced on Friday — leading into the Fourth of July weekend, no less — that he would allow S.348 to become law without his signature.

For those keeping score at home, S.348 is the bill allowing the Secretary of State to create a vote-by-mail system for this year’s November elections, due to public health concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scott’s letter to the General Assembly, attached below, refers to “a technical flaw” in the bill that caused him to withhold his signature. It would be interesting to know if he ever communicated his concern to anyone in the Legislature in a timely manner, or if he waited to spring this until it was too late to fix the bill.

Well, the Friday newsdump worked like a charm. As far as Google can tell, there’s been no actual news coverage of his inaction — besides the Vermont Business Journal’s dutiful posting of Scott’s press release.

Thus endeth the curious case of Phil Scott And The Red-Hot Potato.

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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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