Tag Archives: Rich Tarrant

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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Bruce Lisman doesn’t know the meaning of “irony”

Bottom-dwelling gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman is launching another TV ad. This time, he positions himself as “not the usual guy… and I won’t do the usual thing.” He’s dressed casually, and at the end he’s pictured chatting with “real Vermonters” or perhaps actors made up to look authentic.

And in the middle of the ad, there’s a brief animated passage that shows Governor Shumlin as a marionette saying “BLAH BLAH BLAH” while three fat-cat types flaunt their wealth. Like so:

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 7.05.15 PM

Well, there’s a few problems here, aside from the fact that this depiction is blatantly offensive in a very non-Vermont style. And then, as VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld points out, there’s the fact that Lisman “isn’t running against Shumlin.”

Finally, and crucially, there’s the disconnect between image and reality. Because it’s Bruce Lisman who comes from the world of fat cats who could use $100 bills to light cigars if they wanted to. Lisman, obviously, wants us to forget that he spent virtually his entire adult life in the canyons (moral and topographical) of Wall Street, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful.

Well, not just “hobnobbing.” Hell, he WAS one of the rich and powerful. Still is. Talk about the pot running attack ads against the kettle.

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No room for Lisman

Phil Scott’s campaign launch may have been underwhelming from a rhetorical and policy perspective, but it was a damn fine show. Production values rarely seen in Vermont politics, a large crowd of Republicans desperate for a winner and giving their full-throated backing to Scott.

The crowd was impressive not only for its size, but for its heft. Numerous officeholders and party officials, most of the state committee, a whole lot of significant donors, and the VTGOP’s Mr. Everything, Jim Douglas.

If the event wasn’t specifically intended to discourage Bruce Lisman, it must have had that effect. He was boxed out like the Lions’ secondary on that Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary*. Looking at the crowd and all the big names, and feeling the enthusiasm, you have to wonder how Lisman can possibly make a race of this.

*We Michiganders have an acronym for that: SOL. “Same Old Lions.”

There’s only one chance: to throw open his checkbook and try to whomp up a movement with the sheer power of his money.

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Jeff Bartley continues to fail upward

Congratulations to Jeff Bartley, fresh off his unfortunate racist Tweet (“Dez Bryant is a monkey”) and his apparently successful stint as the VTGOP’s Victory Director in the 2014 campaign. Also, condolences to the VTGOP itself, because according to a hot tip, unconfirmed but from a source I trust, Jeff Bartley is about to be hired as Executive Director of the Vermont Republican Party.

I say “condolences” because Bartley is one of those Young Conservative blowhard types who keeps rising through the ranks without regard to merit or track record. Although, to be fair, if the VTGOP can actually afford a permanent full-time staffer, that’s a step up in financial terms.

Whether Bartley will be more effective than an empty chair, however, is debatable. Let’s take a look at his pre-2014 record, from a post I wrote on Green Mountain Daily in June of this year:

We last saw Jeffy in November 2013 as a candidate for state party chair. Somehow, he managed to lose the “battle” for the conservative wing’s support to John MacGovern, who blew a gasket and hit the wall in his 2012 campaign against Bernie Sanders.

Let that sink in for a moment. Jeff Bartley lost to John MacGovern. And now he’s the Republicans’ Victory Director.

Well, Bartley sure knows victory. Particularly, how to avoid it.

His political resume also includes a 2012 stint as political director for the Vermont House Republican Caucus. Yes, the group that somehow managed to lose seats even though it had previously achieved super-minority status.

Another example of Bartley’s “forward-thinking leadership” was his intra-party lawsuit against former U.S. Senate candidate Len Britton for unpaid salary and expenses. The whole schemozzle was embarrassing for both men, although moreso for Britton. But still, Bartley — then, as now, a Republican Party official — taking a fellow Republican to court? Not exactly 11th Commandment material.

Presumably, Britton was attracted to Bartley because of his previous experience in a disastrous Senate campaign: at age 20, Bartley was hired by the ill-fated Rich Tarrant for Senate campaign. Apparently he’s got a thing for hopeless causes — and for making sure they stay that way.

Bartley’s most notable contribution to the Tarrant effort was his embarrassing attempt to pull the wool over Vermonters’ eyes with a bogus political blog called “Vermont Senate Race,” which was ostensibly a straight news site, but was meant to be a conduit for Tarrant agitprop. Unfortunately, the late great Peter Freyne blew the whistle on Jeffy’s dirty trick by exposing him as the owner of the site. Plus, as Freyne pointed out, the founding of the VSR website corresponded almost exactly with the Tarrant campaign’s hiring of Bartley.

That is, as far as I can tell, Jeff Bartley’s entire political resume: just one damn failure after another. And this qualifies him to be the VTGOP’s Victory Director.

Every time I think they can’t possibly go even lower, they surprise me. When exactly does the Vermont Republican Party hit bottom?

Back to the present. If, in fact, the VTGOP is about to hire Jeff Bartley as its full-time leader, then I’m afraid it’s still trending downward.

Also, this news puts Bartley’s rapid-response Twitter apology in a new light. If he knew — as surely he must have — that he was about to get this big new job, then he had to be duty-bound and hell-bent to minimize any blowback from calling a black athlete a monkey.

And I guess it worked, since nobody else in the Vermont political media picked up on it. And now little ol’ Jeff Bartley is poised to become the Executive Director of the state party.