Tag Archives: Susie Hudson

The “moderate” VTGOP is a mythical beast

A few interesting things came out of the Vermont Republican Convention on Saturday — besides revealing that Phil Scott can’t take a rhetorical punch.

I thought it shone a harsh and unforgiving light on the idea that Vermont Republicans are a breed apart — the last surviving redoubt of moderate Republicanism. That’s largely a fiction created in a desperate effort to appeal to the liberal Vermont electorate. It takes on the veneer of reality thanks to the thoroughly moderate image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But the party ranks are full of garden-variety 21st Century Republicanism. Vermont Republicans may have thrown in the towel on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights*, but they are a stoutly conservative bunch when it comes to brass-tacks issues like government spending, regulation, and taxation.

*Well, let’s say they are withholding the towel. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’d change their tune if they ever achieved political power.

After all, this is a party that eagerly embraced John Kasich, a man whose tax plan would make Ronald Reagan blush with embarrassment. George W. Bush, too, for that matter.

But there were signs aplenty at the Convention that this is a party with a strongly conservative core.

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Oh wait, there’s some leadership now!

My previous post called on Lt. Gov. Phil Scott to show some leadership on the issue of Planned Parenthood, and noted that neither he nor the VTGOP had responded to my Tweet inquiring about their stance. Well, I missed something.

Unfortunately, it’s not good.

Jay Shepard is one of Vermont’s two members of the Republican National Committee. (The other, Susie Hudson, is known in these parts for drawing paychecks from the VTGOP as a “fundraising consultant” while the party’s fundraising continues to suck, and also for accepting a free trip to the Holy Land chaperoned by leaders of the American Family Association, the notoriously anti-gay, anti-choice ultraconservative Christian organization.) He is, in short, one of Vermont’s two representatives to the national party.

And he revealed his position on Planned Parenthood in an August Facebook post:

Jay Shepard and Rand Paul

Well, hooray for leadership. Too bad it’s the wrong kind. Wrong for Vermont, certainly.

I’ll also mention a comment Shepard made in January to the Wall Street Journal, concerning then-fringe candidate Ben Carson. Yes, the guy who doesn’t believe a Muslim should be President.

“I think he was fantastic. A breath of fresh air,” said Jay Shepard, GOP national committeeman from Vermont.

Oh, goodie.

Now, I realize that Phil Scott isn’t directly responsible for the views of his fellow Vermont Republican. But this guy holds one of the most important, influential posts in the VTGOP. And the other RNC representative thinks it’s perfectly okay to travel on a hate group’s dime. If these are the two people chosen to represent Vermont on the national stage, then tell me again: exactly how is the VTGOP different than the national version?

The broken record skips again

Welp, another month, another Federal Election Commission filing deadline — and another dismal financial report from Your Vermont Republican Party. Its August report is now available online. So let’s sift through the debris…

The Vermont Republican Federal Elections Committee* began August with $28,069 in the bank. During the month, Total Receipts were a paltry $4,341. Expenditures were $15,299, so the party was hemorrhaging money.

*Although the VTGOP is a state party, federal law classifies the bulk of its activities as “federal.” So the FEC reports are the best indicator of the party’s finances.

But wait, it’s worse than that!

The party transferred $3800 from a non-federal account. Actual donations for August totaled $541.00.

Five hundred forty-one dollars. For an entire month.

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More nuggets from the party of fiscal responsibility

Writing my most recent post on the continuing troubles inside the Vermont Republican Party brought me back to a subject I’d been ignoring: the VTGOP’s monthly finance reports to the Federal Elections Commission. Even though the VTGOP is a state party, most of its activities are now classified as “federal” under FEC rules.

The last time I looked over the filings was a few months ago. There have been three new reports since then, and some curiosities emerge after close examination.

Remember when Jeff Bartley was hired as VTGOP Executive Director last December? Them’s was good times.

Bartley was chosen in a last-minute election announced slightly more than 24 hours before the Dec. 1 [state Republican Committee] meeting. Insiders say the decision was rushed to leave no time for other candidates to come forward or for a search process to take place. Bartley was confirmed by a 6-4 vote of executive committee members.

Three of those “No” votes came from prominent conservatives with ties to former party chair Jack Lindley: Mark Snelling, Wendy Wilton, and Randy Brock. After the vote, Snelling resigned as party treasurer.

At the time, VTDigger reported that Bartley would draw an annual salary of $50,000.

Funny thing about that. As of the end of June, according to FEC filings, Bartley had already drawn $37,516 in salary. That projects out to an annual salary of about $75,000.

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Just call me Nellie

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

I guess the Republican State Committee held a meeting today. Sorry, couldn’t make it; had to get the chores done before the Women’s World Cup came on.

VTGOP Chair David Sunderland delivered a pep talk (of sorts) to the assembled dozens, in which he bravely talked up the party’s rebuilding effort. The text has been posted on the party’s website; highlights and annotations follow.

Despite the misleading proclamations of Democrats and other negative nellies, our fundraising is very strong. IN FACT, we have substantially more cash on hand this year than we have had at this time in any year since 2008. Isn’t that great news?!

I don’t know how you verbally express “?!”, but I’ll gladly accept my Negative Nellie Membership Card, since I recently posted a far-from-glowing review of the VTGOP’s recent financial reports. And yes, Sunderland is right, they’ve got more money flowing than “in any year since 2008,” but that’s not saying much. Indeed, it’s almost certain that the VTGOP’s finances were at an all-time low during the first four years of the Shumlin administration.

Remember the dark days of 2012, when the VTGOP accepted monthly handouts from the Romney campaign just to keep the lights on? Remember that the party went for several years without a single paid staffer? Now, they have a payroll of one (Jeff Bartley). A top Dem I talked with recently couldn’t imagine trying to run a major party with only one paid staffer.

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Signs of trouble at the VTGOP

This ought to be a pretty good time for Vermont Republicans, comparatively speaking. They won some notable victories in 2014. The 2015 legislative season began with the Governor abandoning his signature issue, and the legislature facing a big budget deficit and a bunch of tough issues.

The Democratic majority did a pretty good job all told, but they certainly left plenty of room for Republican attacks. The tax increases, the education reform plan, the unresolved problems with Vermont Health Connect, the apparent disconnect between Governor and legislature. Lots of red meat.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

But there are signs that the Vermont Republican Party is still in the doldrums: low on funds, poor on party-building and grassroots organizing, surprisingly passive during a season of opportunity, and suffering from a seemingly intractable rift between the True Believers and the Inclusivists.

Some of this is nothing but rumor. But rumor with a consistent, believable storyline that’s reflected in the cold, hard facts of the VTGOP’s financial reports.

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RNC leader thinks better of Israel trip

Hmm. Apparently Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee, ducked out of that big trip to Israel arranged by the hateful bigoted folks at the American Family Association.

Priebus was one of the many top Republicans, including Vermont’s own Susie Hudson, who were booked on a nine-day trip to Israel paid for, and guided by, officials of the American Family Association and its subsidiary, the American Renewal Project. The voyagers left last weekend, but Priebus was spotted this week in Washington, D.C. after a meeting with Senate Republicans. Talking Points Memo:

His appearance in Washington came as something of a surprise after the founder of the American Renewal Project, David Lane, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last week that he would be taking Priebus, Priebus’ wife and about 60 other committee members to the Holy Land.

The trip was scheduled in November, but became a source of controversy last week after the Israeli media outlet Haaretz spilled the inconvenient beans about the AFA’s extreme Christianist positions.

You know, it’s funny how the Republican Party doesn’t mind offending Americans with its close ties to a hate group, but it’s afraid to offend Israelis. Yeah, funny.

I guess Priebus decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and quietly canceled. Hudson and the others made the trip, and are currently getting their heads filled with AFA dogma about Middle Eastern politics. Perhaps when Hudson comes back on Sunday, someone from the Vermont media will ask her what she learned, and about the appropriateness of the Republican National Committee accepting the lavish hospitality of the American Family Association.

Let’s hope so. To date, Seven Days’ Paul Heintz is the only reporter to pursue this story. How about it, VTDigger, Burlington Free Press, Vermont Press Bureau, Associated Press, VPR, WCAX, and WPTZ? The Vermont Republican Party actively distances itself from the more extreme provinces of national conservatism; how do its leaders explain one of their own, who holds a top position with the national party, taking an expensive AFA junket and absorbing its poisonous worldview?

Top Vermont Republican still consorting with hatemongers

Susie Hudson is still going to Israel on a trip paid for by the American Family Association, the far-right Christianist organization. She sees nothing wrong here.

Predictable, but disappointing.

Hudson, a resident of Montpelier and newly-elected secretary of the Republican National Committee, is one of many RNC members going on a nine-day trip to Israel paid for by the AFA and guided by AFA leaders. The trip made news when the Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported the many bigoted comments by longtime AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer. In response, AFA fired Fischer as its spokesman — but retained him as a talk-radio host.

Yep, they’re still paying the guy for equating Islam with Ebola, asserting that the First Amendment only applies to Christianity, and that gay Nazis were responsible for the Holocaust because homosexuals are inherently savage.

He may not be their spokesman, but as a talk radio host, he remains their public face. And they’re happy to pay him for that. Plus, his comments were barely outside the usual poisonous stream of AFA demagoguery.

After I revealed Hudson’s travel plans in this space, Seven Days‘ Paul Heintz reached Hudson, and she gave him a heapin’ helpin’ of weaksauce.

“I mean, I know there’s been some stuff that’s been out in the press yesterday, but it’s my understanding that there was an individual who made some inappropriate comments, and I certainly don’t agree with them, and it’s my understanding they are no longer with the organization.”

Okay, stop right there. Fischer is still with the organization, still holds a prominent position. His public statements have arisen from his radio show, not from his duties as AFA spokesman. If they wanted to punish him, they’d take away his media platform.

… Asked whether she was familiar with AFA’s beliefs, Hudson said, “I mean, obviously I’m somewhat familiar with them, yes.”

But, she said, “I did not know that whatever group you said has called them a hate group.”

Wow. Just wow. That’s an almost Palinesque cavalcade of ignorance. Now, I’m sure Ms. Hudson is just acting stupid to avoid taking a stand on the AFA, but I’d expect someone in her position to do a better job than that.

“Somewhat familiar” with the American Family Association, a leading power-broker on the Christian Right? “Whatever group you said”? Yeah, just the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of America’s leading crusaders against hate groups for more than 40 years. “Stuff that’s been out in the press”? In the words of Katie Couric, what newspapers do you read?

To top it all off, “Hudson… repeatedly declined to say what she understood AFA’s beliefs to be.”

Come on. That’s not credible at all. The Republican Party’s top officials have to know the lay of their land. That includes groups like the American Family Association, who have a lot of influence in Republican politics.

There, of course, is the rub. Hudson can’t afford to publicly distance herself from the AFA because it is so influential. And because AFA members and sympathizers form a substantial part of the Republican base, even in liberal old Vermont. She’d rather come across as an uninformed dunderhead than utter a word against the AFA and the extremism it stands for.

Which brings us to the Vermont Republican Party itself. VTGOP leaders like to downplay social issues, but they don’t want to actively contradict the views of the Christian Right. No matter how extreme, hateful, and downright unAmerican those views might be.

Top Vermont Republican traveling to Israel on hate group’s dime

A big hairy mess exploded today in conservative political circles. One of the most prominent far-right Christian spokesmen was suddenly fired.

Bryan Fischer had been the front man for the American Family Association for years. He holds some very extreme views: he has equated Islam to the Ebola virus and claimed that the Holocaust was conducted by gay Nazis, because gays were the only Nazis vicious enough to take such extreme measures.

He has also said that religions other than Christianity are not protected by the Bill of Rights.

Because of the views held by him and the organization, it’s been named a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Fischer has been saying hateful stuff like this for years. But he suddenly became political poison after the Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported that the AFA was funding an all-expenses paid trip to Israel for top Republicans, and related — for its Israeli and global Jewish readership — Fischer’s incendiary remarks. The group is scheduled leave on Saturday for a nine-day visit, and the AFA is picking up the tab.

It seems the AFA suddenly realized that Fischer might be a colossal embarrassment, and he was let go.

Fischer’s departure doesn’t absolve the group; its new spokesman, David Lane, told Haaretz that “America was founded by Christians for the advancement of the Christian faith.” Which might also prove embarrassing, especially if the Israeli media start questioning the AFA’s representatives and their Republican guests.

Those guests include roughly one-third of the Republican National Committee. And according to the Haaretz report, one of those eager to suck at the AFA teat is one Susie Hudson, prominent Vermont Republican who was just elected Secretary of the RNC.

Which brings us to the question: Ms. Hudson, how do you justify accepting the American Family Association’s hospitality? And do you agree with its views, which include the imposition of its brand of Christianity on American culture and politics, denial of equal rights for the LGBT community, opposition to reproductive rights, and climate change denialism?

I’m sorry, you’re probably too busy packing to answer such impertinent questions. Enjoy your time in the Holy Land and the hospitality of a far-right hate group.

In your absence, perhaps VTGOP Chair David Sunderland or Executive Director Jeff Bartley could take a swing at those questions. Hmm?