Tag Archives: Skip Vallee

If Lenore Broughton Had a Clue, She Could be Dangerous

Reclusive Montgomery Ward heiress Lenore Broughton, who must be referred to as “reclusive heiress” under the immutable laws of journalism, is by a longshot the most generous conservative donor in Vermont.

She is, of course, a modestly-sized frog in a tiny pond. She’s nowhere near the DeVoses or Uihleins of the world. But in Vermont, she’s got enough muscle to move our political center of gravity to the right.

Fortunately, she has no idea how to effectively spend her money. She wastes a lot of it on fruitless ventures, outmoded ideas, and candidates who are far too conservative to make any difference in public office even if they win. (What should she do instead? Read on, my friend.)

Most recent example: Broughton donated a cool $100,000 to Vermonters for Good Government Action, the thinly-veiled anti-abortion group trying to defeat Article 22. In a year when 59% of voters in goddamn Kansas refused to open the door to abortion restrictions, what hope is there of prevailing in deep blue Vermont?

You might chalk that up to unshakable belief. Broughton probably can’t help but spend heavily against reproductive rights. But how do you explain her bankrolling True North Reports, that seldom-read outpost of conservative commentary and “news”? There’s no way to know how much she spends on TNR because it’s a private venture, but it must be quite a lot. The return isn’t a bang for her bucks; it’s more like a wet fart.

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At Moments Like This, Let’s Just Be People

The strapping fellow pictured above is Charles Vallee, who died at age 27 this month of long Covid. His obituary says that he “made the lives richer of all he knew,” and I don’t doubt that he did. He seems to have been a remarkable young man.

Vallee was the son of Rodolphe “Skip” Vallee, gas station magnate and generous donor to Republican causes in Vermont and elsewhere. I have poked more than my share of fun at the political stylings of Mr. Vallee, including his deep disdain for Bernie Sanders and his turn as an alleged environmentalist in opposing a Costco gas station that posed a competitive threat to one of his Maplefields outlets, among other things.

Right now, though, it’s time to leave politics at the door. Nobody deserves this. All the sympathy for Skip and his family. This just tears at the heart:

Early this year, Charlie contracted Covid-19, and while weathering the mild respiratory symptoms, he was devastated by a host of Long Covid symptoms so severe that he ultimately had to reject a further deployment and, in the end, take a leave of absence from work. It was in this state, that Charlie left us on May 3.

There’s a whole lot of suffering in that handful of words, for Charlie himself and for those around him. I can’t imagine what these months have been like for the Vallees. Just a few years ago, Skip fought for his own life against cancer. I hope his recovery left him with the strength to endure the loss of his son.

Charlie was exactly the sort of person who’s supposed to be impervious to Covid. He was young and healthy. His initial illness wasn’t that serious, but long Covid got him good and he became one more statistic in Covid’s grim and growing toll.

To their credit, the Vallee family are setting up a special fund in Charlie’s honor, the Charles M. Vallee Foundation for Long Covid Research. They are urging memorial contributions to the fund. Let’s hope the Foundation helps spark a breakthrough in the fight against long Covid. That would at least put a silver lining around his death and the bereavement of those close to him.

Godspeed, Charlie. Condoléances, Skip.

For Nolan, It’s Bad News All the Way Down

Christina Nolan’s longshot bid for U.S. Senate got quite a bit longer last week, with the filing of first-quarter campaign finance reports. For starters, as expected, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch did what he’s always done — fundraise the hell out of his opposition. He pulled in $839,000 and spent roughly half of that, bringing his total warchest to a daunting $2.96 million.

Nolan? She received $157,000 in donations and spent about one-third of that, leaving her a smidge over $100K in cash on hand.

Sort of.

Thirteen of Nolan’s donors gave the maximum $2,900 for the primary campaign. Eight of those 13 also gave an additional $2,900, which must be reserved for the general election. That adds up to $37,700. One other person gave $5,000, of which $2,100 must be spent on the general. So her effective cash on hand — money she can spend between now and August 11 — is only $61,747. Which means that right now, today, Welch’s kitty is effectively an astounding forty-eight times as large as Nolan’s.

Ouch. Double ouch with nuts. I was going to make a David v. Goliath reference, but this is more like Bambi v. Godzilla. If this race wasn’t done and dusted already (hint: it was), these filings remove any remaining whispers of doubt.

But wait, there’s more! Bad news, that is.

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Mr. Milne’s Recycling Bin

Scott Milne tried to make up for his two previous statewide campaigns, which were remarkably issue-free, by releasing a lavishly illustrated and ridiculously detailed 60-point policy agenda this week.

His Tuesday announcement got lost in what turned out to be a very big news day, including Dr. Anthony Fauci’s guest appearance at Gov. Phil Scott’s Covid-19 briefing and Scott’s veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

I felt a little sorry for Milne at the time. But having taken a dip in his mile-wide-but-inch-deep policy pool, I decided it’s probably better for him that this stale batch of recycled ideas didn’t attract much notice. The package is dominated by conventional Republican tropes, failed Scott administration proposals, and plenty of filler to make the agenda seem more impressive than it is. You’d think a guy who’s reinvented himself as an edgy cryptocurrency investor would have some fresh ideas to contribute.

What’s even worse is that Milne completely fails to address some of our most critical challenges. There’s nothing about our raging opioid crisis, not a mention of racism, justice, policing or corrections, and barely a nod to climate change.

Since Milne’s document is searchable, we can quantify that. “Opiates” and “racism” are nowhere to be found. The word “climate” occurs precisely once in the 33-page document. And that’s a reference to Vermont’s economic climate.

After the jump: YOU get a tax incentive! And YOU get a tax incentive! EVERYBODY gets a tax incentive!!!

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I’m sure David Zuckerman is shaking in his boots

Hey, everybody! Meet Meg Hansen, writer, consultant, low-budget TV show host, and now a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Hansen is a bright young woman with a compelling backstory who you might recall as a communications staffer for the Vermont House Republican caucus in 2016-17. After that, she spent about a year as head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, the right-wing advocacy group that’s had no discernible influence on the health care debate. Otherwise, Hansen’s public activities are largely confined to the off-hours of community access television.

She is a devout conservative who believes in the power of unfettered capitalism to float everybody’s boat. Her vision would remake Vermont along the lines of America’s reddest states.

“The American Dream is alive and well in states like Texas and North Carolina but not in Vermont,” she writes on her campaign website. At the risk of being churlish, I’d ask if she sees the American Dream doing well in states like Mississippi and Kansas, which have low taxes and little regulation but are economically stagnant.

She’s opposed to Obamacare and other health care reform efforts; her solution is to let the free market do its magic — giving all Vermonters the chance to buy overpriced, crappy, exception-laden insurance policies. She’s not a fan of fighting climate change or climate activists, who “use the specter of climate catastrophe to demonize us as polluters-parasites on earth,” and whose proposed solutions are “immoral.”

She also favors the “freedom to vape,” which, okay then.

You get the idea. It’s precisely the kind of hard-core conservative platform that’s been a consistent, lopsided loser in Vermont.

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What if Phil Scott loses?

In my second-most-recent post, I listed all the bad news visited upon Vermont Republicans over the past few days. I ended by asking “What if Phil Scott loses?”

I’ll get to that question, but in the meantime, WCAX released its own poll showing Scott with a seven-point lead over Sue Minter, which has triggered much rejoicing Chez Phil.

In his lede, WCAX’s usually reliable Kyle Midura made an unwarranted inference: since the VPR Poll had shown a statistical dead heat, the TV poll shows that Scott is “pulling ahead.”

Which, c’mon now. These are two polls from different organizations with possibly differing methodologies. (We don’t know because WCAX hasn’t released any details. VPR has disclosed all of that.) Drawing that direct a line between the two polls is misleading at best.

What we have are two data points. One (VPR) from an in-state academic polling outfit, one (WCAX) from a New Jersey-based for-profit firm.

Pollster Paul Braun engaged in some speculation that ought to unnerve those placing a lot of weight on his survey. He credited the WCAX gubernatorial debate for driving Scott’s alleged momentum — when, in fact, debate audiences tend to be very small, and the impact of debates on public opinion is also small. (Unless you pull a Trump, of course.) There is no evidence to support Braun’s assertion.

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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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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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Pathways to Electoral Failure, Fringe Republican Edition

We have two stories today touching on a common theme: how not to appeal to the Vermont electorate. One involves a presidential candidate allying himself with a Republican moneybags with deep pockets and imperceptible electoral appeal; the other involves a young lawmaker on the rise who seems to be an acolyte of America’s Crankiest Novelist and America’s Most Notorious Ophthalmologist.

First, the candidate and the moneybags:

Yep, that’s Florida Senator Marco Rubio believing that Skip Vallee will “do great things” for his campaign. (Tweet was first noted by the Free Press’ Emilie Teresa Stigliani.) Well, Skip will probably do great things for Rubio’s bottom line. But as for strengthening his campaign, not so much. Rubio can be forgiven for not knowing the details of Skippy’s political rap sheet, being from Florida and all. But just in case he’s reading this blog, God only knows why, let’s do the numbers.

The high point of Skip Vallee’s political career was when he donated enough money to the Bush 2004 campaign to wangle himself the ambassadorship to the Slovak Republic. Aside from that, Skipper’s political career has been purely a figment of his own imagination. In his only bid for elective office, Vallee lost the 2000 race for State Senate in Chittenden County, despite what must have been the most expensive State Senate campaign in state history: he spent $134,000. And still lost.

Vallee has never run for office again — although he keeps hinting and nosing around, as if he can’t believe his proven unpopularity.

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Riddle me this, Gasman

On Friday, I had to drive from Montpelier to Burlington. And, since gas is always more expensive in the Queen City and environs, I made sure to fill the tank before I hit the freeway.

But when I got to Burlington, what to my wondrous eyes did appear?

Gas was cheaper. Anywhere from five to 15 cents a gallon cheaper than in Montpelier.

Huh.

This hasn’t happened in, I don’t know, roughly forever. Gas is always more expensive in Burlington.

For years, Bernie Sanders has been alleging price fixing by the four companies that own most of Chittenden County’s gas stations. The companies have consistently denied any collusion — although, it must be noted, they usually bring down their prices for a while after Bernie kicks up a fuss. And then quietly goose them back up once the heat’s off.

Still, no matter how loud Bernie gets, they’ve never actually gone lower than adjacent markets.

So what could have caused this historic price drop?

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