Tag Archives: Shawn Shouldice

A moment of dismay, dissipated

I was skimming around in campaign finance reports the other day*, when I came across something that made me say “Hmm.” And here it is:

Lisman donation

This is taken from the latest campaign finance filing of Common Sense Leadership PAC, House Minority Leader Don Turner’s slush fund political action committee. It indicates that one Bruce Lisman made a donation of $4,000 to CSLPAC on October 11.

Bruce Lisman. Of 716 Kipling Street, Houston, Texas.

Oh please, say it ain’t so, Bruce. Say you haven’t left us for a warm-weather tax haven. Especially after a campaign full of bumpf about what a true-blue Son of Vermont you were.

Reinforcing my curiosity were the fact that Lisman’s Twitter feed has been inactive since August 10, his campaign’s Facebook page was last updated on August 15, and his campaign website has been consigned to the same Internet purgatory populated by the remnants of AngelFire and GeoCities.

(Kids, ask your parents.)

Fortunately, I’ve been reassured by Lisman’s costly campaign manager, Shawn Shouldice:

Have no fear Bruce is still very much in Vermont.

Whew.

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Bruce’s Worst Investment, and Other Gleanings from Campaign Finance Day

So, finally, we get our second window into the money game behind the primary campaigns. A few toplines:

— Bruce Lisman is spending gobs of cash and getting bupkis in return

— Phil Scott’s chugging along; will have to pick up the pace after the primary

— Sue Minter pulls ahead in the Democratic fundraising game

— Matt Dunne’s early momentum slows a bit

— Peter Galbraith is keeping his own campaign alive. Barely

And now, the details.

Wall Street millionaire Bruce Lisman has put $1.6 million of his own money into his campaign, raised precious little money from others, and has been spending at a blistering pace. He’s raised more than $1.8 million, but he has less than $200,000 cash on hand.

Well, he can always write more checks.

But let’s stop for a moment and savor the fact that Bruce Lisman has already spent more money than any gubernatorial candidate in Vermont history — and the primary is still three and a half weeks away. And he places dismally in the available polls.

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A Confederacy of Consultancies

When last we met, I was exploring Bruce Lisman’s campaign finance filing from March 15, trying to figure out how he managed to spend nearly $600,000 before the race has really even started.

In my previous post, I looked at how much money Lisman is paying his campaign manager Shawn Shouldice*, who’s a very experienced lobbyist (on behalf of big business, mostly) but has never run a campaign before, as far as I can tell.

*spoiler: it’s a LOT.

This time, we’ll explore the bewildering array of consultancies that have hitched themselves to the Lisman gravy train. There are so many different firms, that I wonder how their efforts can possibly be coordinated.

Or, to put it another way, how much money is being squandered by Lisman, currently standing at a brisk four percent in the polls. But first, a brief note about media spending.

As of March 15, Lisman for Governor had spent an astounding $82,242 on TV ad time, which is more than many campaigns spend in an entire cycle. The bulk of that money went to WCAX-TV ($38,080) and Comcast ($32,937). WPTZ was a distant third with $11,225. Lisman also spent $11,475 for online advertising and a measly $3,000 or so on radio.

Add it all up, that’s close to 100 G’s on media. Before March 15, for Pete’s sake! Which doesn’t include production costs — and Lisman, as we shall see below, hired a top-of-the-line conservative production firm to produce his ads.

Okay, back to the consultancies. There are roughly a dozen outfits that have each taken thousands from the Lisman campaign for “consulting” and such-like.

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All aboard the Bruce Lisman gravy train

(or, How to Spend 600 G’s Without Really Trying)

The year 2012 brought forth a pair of shameless hucksters political consultants cashing in on conservatives with more money than sense. There was Randy Brock, who lost by 20 points to Shumlin and, in the process, spent $100,000 on campaign “manager” Darcie Johnston.

And lest we forget Lenore Broughton, Montgomery Ward heiress and would-be conservative game-changer. Her right-hand man, Tayt Brooks, squandered more than a million Broughton Bucks in a fruitless effort to influence the 2012 election through the “grass root” (singular) organization Vermonters First. Once bitten, twice shy; Broughton has barely been a factor in Vermont politics since then.

This year brings a new entrant into the Vermont Conservative Consultancy Hall of Shameless: Shawn Shouldice, chief of Capital Connections, the notorious black-hat lobbying shop. She’s attached herself, limpet-like, to the political underside of Bruce Lisman, and she’s milking that cash cow for all it’s worth. (Pardon mixed metaphor.)

Shouldice makes a very good living as an advocate for some of our biggest and dirtiest business groups. Her client list includes the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. Shouldice was also the PR arm of Lisman’s vanity project advocacy group Campaign for Vermont.

Last fall, she stepped away from active lobbying to become the campaign manager of Lisman for Governor. Her salary, according to my reading of the latest campaign finance data: $14,500 per month. On an annual basis, that’s $174,000.

Good Lord.

Now, Shouldice is an experienced lobbyist and advocate. But she is, as one observer put it, “a newbie to campaign management.”

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Small business should beware of joining the corporate army

A while back, I proposed that Vermont’s small retailers ought to open their own interest group. I suggested the Vermont Association of Independent Retailers, or VAIR for short.

The idea came to me while reading about their putative Montpelier representation, the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, helmed by the very effective Jim Harrison. One of his favorite techniques is to bring some mom-and-pop types to the Statehouse whenever there’s legislation that might touch on retail interests, such as the proposed sugary-beverage tax.

Truth is, Harrison gives a lot of lip service to the little guy, but his real clients are in Big Retail — the WalMarts, Hannafords, and Dollar Generals of the world. And quite often, the interests of Big Retail are at odds with what’s best for small business. Guys like Harrison draw a stark divide between the private sector and government; in fact, the real divide is frequently found between big retail and small. I would ask this of real independent retailers: which is the biggest threat to your existience? A change in state regulations, or the big boxes and dollar stores springing up all over the place?

This is also true in the broader business world. And in that field, there’s a thousand-pound lobbying gorilla called the National Federation of Independent Businesses, or NFIB. Which has a Vermont branch, helmed by veteran corporate lobbyist Shawn Shouldice. (Who also, I can’t help but note, does PR for Bruce Lisman.)

The NFIB sounds like a joint effort of all the mom-and-pops. It bills itself as “the voice of small business.”

Well, it’s not.

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An obvious conflict of interest in the House

In January of last year, the supposedly nonpartisan Campaign for Vermont raised a stink about conflict of interest in the Vermont House. Specifically, it accused then-Rep. Mike McCarthy of same.

Then-CFV spokesflack Shawn Shouldice noted that McCarthy, an employee of SunCommon, had voted for a net-metering bill in the House… a bill that stood to benefit his employer. Shouldice accused McCarthy of breaking House rules by voting on the bill.

Fast forward to today, when the House approved a massive energy bill going under the name RESET. One provision was struck from the bill; it would have boosted funding for Efficiency Vermont. The charge to strike that provision was led by Independent Rep. Adam Greshin. All of this is chronicled very nicely by VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld. Except for one small fact:

Adam Greshin, looking suspiciously Photoshoppy.

Adam Greshin, looking suspiciously Photoshoppy.

Greshin is co-owner of the Sugarbush ski resort. Two more facts:

The ski industry is a voracious consumer of electricity.

Efficiency Vermont is funded by ratepayers, with rates approved by the Public Service Board.

Do I need to connect those dots?

The Efficiency Vermont cut would reduce utility rates; Greshin’s business would directly benefit. Not only did he vote for the measure, as in McCarthy’s case; he spearheaded it. He pushed strongly for it as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, where his arguments carried the day.

In the interest of nonpartisanship, I ask Campaign for Vermont to raise the same kind of stink about Greshin that they did about McCarthy. Also, is to too much to ask our media to report obvious connections when a lawmaker sponsors legislation that would benefit his/her own interests?