Tag Archives: Republican State Leadership Committee

Big donors, big money in targeted House districts

Two years ago, the Republican State Leadership Committee funneled $370,000 into Vermont, backing candidates in close races for the Vermont House. The VTGOP won several of those seats and took away the Democrats’ supermajority status.

So far this year, the RSLC has spent a lot less. But a handful of closer-to-home moneybags have taken matters into their own hands. They’ve donated more than $100,000 to individual Republican House candidates and House Minority Leader Don Turner’s political action committee.

In the small-dollar world of State House campaigns, that’s a huge amount of money.

First, a hat tip to Green Mountain Daily’s Sue Prent, who reported on the Franklin County iteration of this phenomenon a couple weeks ago. Turns out, it’s only part of a bigger pattern. But because the money is broadly dispersed, the pattern has attracted little attention.

Two of the donors are familiar names to anyone who follows Vermont politics. The other two might be new to you.

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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 VTGOP is pretty much flat broke

I have occasionally chronicled the Vermont Republican Party’s perennially dire financial condition, but never have I seen the situation as bad as it is right now. Because heading into the heart of a campaign season, the state GOP is virtually out of funds.

Explanatory note: the VTGOP and Vermont Democratic Party file both state and federal reports. Because of the way federal law is written, the bulk of their activity is considered “federal” even though they are state parties.

In this case, it hardly matters; we’re talking peanuts wherever we turn. Its latest state filing listed less than $1,000 in cash on hand; its latest federal filing reported $1.104 in the bank.

(By contrast, the Vermont Dems filed a state report indicating it raised more than $100,000 in June and spent a little more than half that. Its federal filing indicates $120,000 cash on hand. The VDP’s fundraising and spending are in a completely different league than its Republican counterpart.)

Even on the VTGOP’s bare-bones budget, that’s less than two days’ worth of operating expenses. They’re tapped out, just when they need to kick things into high gear.

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The Trump Trickle-Down Financial FAIL

More and more signs every day that Donald Trump is spectacularly unsuited to be a major party’s standard bearer. There’s the constant screech of dog whistles, the obnoxious comments flying in all directions, the persistent failure to stay on-message for more than about 15 minutes, and oh, that hair.

But perhaps more important than all of that is… money. Or the lack thereof. Trump’s coffers are nearly empty and his fundraising “machine” practically nonexistent.

This has repercussions far beyond the Trump/Clinton campaign, because a major party candidate usually provides money and organization for candidates up and down the ticket and the state parties.  Talking Points Memo:

As the Republican National Committee — which also saw a drop in its May fundraising compared to 2012 — is forced to prop up Trump’s rickety campaign apparatus, it means less money will be passed down to congressional committees and to state parties. It also means less money to finance the party’s crucial but costly get-out-the-vote efforts.

Which is really bad news for the perennially impecunious VTGOP, whose own federal filing shows a piss-poor $11,190 in cash on hand. It can’t afford any significant campaign push, and it shouldn’t expect any help from the national party.

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Who’s paying Meg Hansen’s salary?

Yesterday I outlined the inflammatory, far-right views of Meg Hansen, the person handling “strategic communications” for the state House Republican Caucus.

And the more I thought about it, the more I wondered: who’s paying for her services?

It’s extremely unusual for a Vermont caucus — minority or majority — to have any paid staff whatsoever. The House Speaker has one staffer paid by the state; the Senate President Pro Tem historically has one, but John Campbell’s staff was expanded to two because he needed extra help to handle the job. Nobody else in the Legislature has any staff, unless they use their own money.

So, who’s paying Meg Hansen? Short answer: right now, I have no idea. We might find out more on July 15, the next campaign finance filing deadline; for now, the available information raises more questions than it answers.

One thing’s for sure: Vermont Republicans aren’t swimming in money. The VTGOP is perennially short of funds, and can barely keep the lights on at its headquarters.

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Good Ol’ Norm: Bloodied but not unbowed

Heh-heh. Just as I predicted, Senator-in-Purgatory Norm McAllister has filed petitions to run for re-election.

Heh-heh-heh. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Sorry. Political junkies get a little excited at the prospect of chaos among the comfortable class. And I bet the Franklin County GOP is wetting its collective pants.

VTDigger broke the news; McAllister dropped off his petitions at the Franklin County courthouse this morning, and (showing uncommon restraint for him) was not immediately available for comment.

Need I remind you: McAllister faces two trials on numerous sex-crime charges; he allegedly coerced women (over whom he exercised some measure of control) to have sex with him. He was arrested on the Statehouse grounds in the last days of the 2015 session; the Senate then spent the entire off-session with its head stuck in the sand, hoping Norm would just go away. When he didn’t, the Senate decided to suspend him for the remainder of the session.

So now that he’s thrown his hat in the ring, let the speculation begin…

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Corporate cash: a marginally relevant issue

A single issue dominated the Democratic gubernatorial race this past week. It’s an issue that’s way, way, waaaaaay down on my priority list for this campaign.

Corporate contributions.

I know, I know, “corporate” has become synonymous with “evil” in Vermont liberal circles, and “corporate contributions” synonymous with “evil money in politics.” Let me explain, please.

There is a severe problem with money in American politics. Some of this is corporate, a lot of it comes from the pockets of our richest citizens. Bernie Sanders has made campaign finance reform one of the centerpieces of his presidential campaign, and I applaud him for that.

Vermont, however, is a different story.

There is precious little corporate cash in our politics. Look: When Dunne returned his corporate contributions, he lost $16,000. That’s a drop in the bucket; he’s raised more than half a million dollars for his campaign. Minter is now returning $11,000 to corporate donors; her warchest is also somewhere north of a half million.

I do believe there’s too much money in Vermont politics, but there are at least three items that concern me more than corporate largesse.

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