Tag Archives: TJ Donovan

The Money Race: Attorney General

Third in a series. Part 1 covered the race for lieutenant governor; part 2 was about the race for governor.

The big money in the campaign for attorney general belongs to the guy who’s not in office anymore. TJ Donovan, recently departed for a sweet corporate gig that somehow advances his commitment to consumer protection, still has nearly $300,000 in his campaign treasury, most of it surplus from 2020. Unlike Treasurer Beth Pearce, Donovan has yet to disperse his money to other candidates or the Vermont Democratic Party or anyone else. I’m sure he’ll get around to it sometime. Or maybe he’s saving it for……

Regarding the people who want the job — former Donovan chief of staff Charity Clark and Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault — they’re in a competitive money race that leaves neither in a dominant position, although Clark has some advantages.

This race got off to a late start thanks to Donovan’s sudden decision to go corporate. The July 1 campaign finance reports include all of Clark and Thibault’s campaigns. Clark reported raising almost $80,000, while Thibault took in $74,000. But… Thibault donated $12,000 to his own campaign while Clark gave herself $4,000.

On the other hand, Clark raised $12K from people named Clark while Thibault only netted $4K from others sharing his last name, so those two factors are a collective wash.

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One of These Things Is Not Like The Other, Or Even Like Itself

Gov. Phil Scott must be feeling extra invulnerable right now. On Monday he decides not to appoint new state’s attorneys in two counties because it’s too close to the next election; on Wednesday he appoints a new Attorney General even though Election Day is even closer. He’s not even bothering to be subtle about it.

Scott declined to appoint anyone to the SA vacancies in Addison and Rutland Counties because there’s not enough time left in the SA’s term. It would create continuity issues, supposedly. Instead, the current interim occupants will serve out the remainder of the time.

Meanwhile, Scott is parachuting administration stalwart Susanne Young into the attorney general’s office to serve out the remainder of TJ Donovan’s term even though Donovan’s chief deputy Joshua Diamond is right there in place to, um, provide continuity. In a much more important and complex office.

So what is Scott doing here? Hell if I know, but I have a guess or two.

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My Weaselometer Is About to Explode

And so we bid a fond farewell to the former Boy Wonder of Vermont politics, T.J. Donovan. He announced, on Friday afternoon (nothing suspicious there), that he would resign effective June 20ten days from now — to take an executive position with online gaming platform Roblox. His new job as director of public policy and U.S. state strategies, he said, “will allow me to continue to advance consumer protections.”

When I read that, my Weaselometer shrieked, its red lights flashed furiously, and a wisp of smoke wafted from the back of the machine. And that was before I read of the controversy surrounding Roblox. But I knewthat no one on God’s green earth has ever gone from public service to corporate executive “to advance consumer protections.”

Especially not if the new job appears to be Top In-House Lobbyist for Roblox, a publicly-traded corporation worth billions upon billions. I bet Donovan’s salary will let him afford the top-line custom-tailored suits you see in the Statehouse whenever a bigtime corporate lobbyist parachutes in to try to defeat a, ahem, “consumer protection measure.”

Now, I don’t begrudge Donovan cashing in on his legal expertise. He’s been living on public sector salaries for 16 years, and that’s a big sacrifice for a skilled attorney. But I am ticked off that he wants to have it both ways: rake in the big bucks and try to bullshit us about his reasons.

And that’s not the end of the bullshit, either.

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To Resign… or Not to Resign. That is the Question.

Charity Clark stepped down today as Attorney General TJ Donovan’s chief of staff. The remarkably coy announcement of the move said she “has stepped down from her post to explore new opportunities” and would “make an announcement about her plans in the near future.”

Yuh-huh. She’s running for AG. She’s hinted as much, and it’s the most obvious reason for her sudden departure, which (a) apparently took immediate effect and (b) came only four days after Donovan announced he would leave office at the end of his term or possibly before.

I guess it ends all speculation that Clark might be elevated to acting attorney general should Donovan depart before Election Day, thus giving her the kinda-sorta incumbent’s edge. If so, it’s a noble and selfless move.

And it raises questions about Chris Winters, deputy secretary of state, who remains in office nearly three months after he announced his candidacy to succeed his boss, Jim Condos.

If Clark thought it best to resign before she even opened the doors on her campaign, why hasn’t Winters?

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And Another One Bites the Dust

Well now. One day after Beth Pearce announces she will not seek re-election, along comes Attorney General TJ Donovan to say he’s stepping aside. Might not even finish his term, in fact. Already his top deputy, Charity Clark, has taken to Twitter to announce she’s considering a run to succeed him.

That’s four, count ’em, four, openings out of our six statewide offices, and six out of nine if you include Congressional seats.

Anything you’re not telling us, governor? Auditor Hoffer?

Besides the lieutenant governor vacancy in 2020, it’s been a long time since any Democrat could see a way to move up the ladder. Now, it’s not so much a ladder as a single step onto a boundless plateau. Who’s got next?

Besides Clark, I have no idea. I’d love to see Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George give it a shot, but she seems uninterested. She told VTDigger she will run for re-election instead because she’s more interested in criminal law than in the civil cases that make up the bulk of the AGO’s work. Otherwise, I’m sure there are boatloads of people contemplating a run for AG or Treasurer.

This is going to be one hell of an August primary.

Well, that’s a look at my political crystal ball, hopelessly opaque like a furiously shaken snowglobe. But there are still a few things to say about Mr. Donovan and the odd specifics of his departure.

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The Empire Strikes Back?

Well, that [seemingly] came out of nowhere.

Ted Kenney, an attorney from Williston, told VTDigger he’s thinking about a primary challenge to incumbent Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George.

Under normal circumstances, this could be labeled “quixotic” but without the raffish charm of the original Quixote. Primarying an incumbent in a race that few people pay any attention to?

Why bother?

Well, I think I know why.

I think he thinks there’s a substantial constituency who prefer a more traditional approach to the office instead of George’s pioneering progressivism. And he may well be right, at least in terms of the power brokers and royal families and business-class donors in the county party.

Kenney’s run, if he makes one, is of a piece with Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger’s consistent pro-police stance — and whatever touched off the departure of Tyeastia Green, the first director of the Burlington Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Department (REIB) and the resignation of three of the REIB’s four managers.

If you’d like details about Weinberger’s law-n-order policies, click on the first link. Mark Hughes of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance runs down the ways that Weinberger — once he was safely re-elected with a plurality of the votes in a race against two progressive challengers — laid down the velvet glove in favor of an iron fist.

And he keeps waving the bloody flag, depicting the Queen City as a lawless wasteland whose handful of police officers dare not walk the streets. If Miro thinks that’s smart politics, is it any wonder that Kenney believes he could beat George by running to her right?

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“Condos & Winters,” Eh?

There’s nothing new in Secretary of State Jim Condos penning an op-ed for Vermont news outlets. Does it all the time. But there’s something different with his latest: He lists deputy SoS Chris Winters as co-author. And earlier this month, Condos’ office announced the creation of an Elections “Myth vs. Fact” page on the Secretary’s website. Specifically, it announced that Condos and Winters had created the page.

This would be mere trivia except for one thing. The Democratic rumor mill is rife with word that Condos will not seek a seventh term in office, and that he will endorse Winters as his successor. In that context, it makes all the sense in the world for Condos to be elevating Winters to kinda-sorta coequal status in the public business of the office.

Condos’ endorsement would be a huge plus for the politically untested Winters, but it would be far from dispositive. There would be other entries in the race, possibly from two distinct spheres: (1) the technocrat class, with experience in running elections and such, and (2) Democratic politicos looking to climb the ladder. I don’t have specific names in either category besides Winters in Column A, but the opening would be a big fat juicy opportunity.

The statewide offices, generally speaking, are the best perch for those seeking to reach the highest levels of Vermont politics. They get your name before a statewide audience. They get voters accustomed to filling in the oval next to your name. (I was going to say “pulling the lever,” but I need provide no additional proof that I’m old.) A statewide post is a far better launchpad than any position in the Legislature, and I’m including Speaker and Pro Tem in that calculation. Most people, even most voters, just don’t pay much attention to the Statehouse.

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Now it’s the Brattleboro PD’s Turn to Screw Up Collossally

Got a little news bomb in my inbox today from the Vermont ACLU. They’re announcing a federal lawsuit that, if true, frankly beggars belief.

The gist: A year and a half ago, the Brattleboro Police Department arrested cited* local resident Isabel Vinson for the “crime” of writing a Facebook post critical of a local business owner. The charge, per Vermont law: “disturbing peace by use of telephone or other electronic communications.”

Wait, what?

*Correction: Cited, not arrested.

Is this the same law that Attorney General TJ Donovan refused to enforce against racist, anti-Semitic goon Max Misch for waging a campaign of social-media hate directed at Kiah Morris? Donovan’s reasoning was that a prosecution would run afoul of the First Amendment.

That happened in January 2019. Vinson was cited in July 2020. I guess somebody didn’t get the memo.

To sum up: You can’t be charged for repeatedly engaging in vile, threatening, racist speech, but you can be for once criticizing a business owner? Huh. I guess justice is blind.

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Low People in High Places: The Latest in Stupid

Apologies from the Veepies Selection Committee, which has been overwhelmed with all the stupid and/or obtuse in our public sphere. I’m sure we missed a few, but here’s a selection featuring a whole lot of misplaced self-regard from those in positions of public trust.

FIrst, the Hey, Look, A Squirrel! Award For Attempted Misdirection goes to Jason Maulucci, spokesthingy for Gov. Phil Scott. When last we met, we were giving chief of staff Jason Gibbs a right roasting for maligning a public health expert who disagrees with the administration. Gibbs all but accused Dartmouth’s Anne Sosin of professional misconduct, saying she was “desperate to prove a false narrative” and that her analysis “conceals the full truth.” Those are serious things to say about an academic’s work product.

Maulucci, when asked for comment by VTDigger, defended Gibbs by ignoring the personal criticism of Sosin. Gibbs had merely “presented data from a neutral data tool” according to Jason Junior, who concluded with “There is nothing uncivil about pointing out facts.”

Exactly, Jason Junior. There is nothing uncivil about pointing out facts. But there is something extremely uncivil and downright unseemly about attacking Sosin’s integrity. Maulucci’s lame-ass defense doesn’t change that.

Still to come: a spate of ass-covering by the cops, and correcting a very racist public monument.

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The Biggest Climate Obstacle in Vermont

If there was any doubt that Gov. Phil Scott would be the single biggest obstacle in the way of meaningful climate action, it was erased in the Vermont Climate Council’s 19-4 vote to adopt its 273-page “initial plan” for meeting Vermont’s climate goals. The four “no” votes came from members of Scott’s cabinet.

And that’s all you need to know.

It’s no surprise, really. The governor lobbied against the Global Warming Solutions Act, vetoed it, and watched as the Legislature overrode his veto. He argued that the Act opened the door to costly litigation and said it was an unconstitutional infringement on executive powers.

(It must be noted that Scott was so confident of his constitutional grounds that he never took the case to court. It was the prudent course; outside of the Fifth Floor, no one seemed to buy the argument — including the Legislature’s legal team and Attorney General TJ Donovan.)

The four-page statement by the Cabinet dissenters (reachable via link embedded in VTDigger’s story) is a real piece of work. While claiming to support vigorous climate action, they produced a buffet of objections worthy of Golden Corral and just as appetizing. The statement makes it clear that the Scott administration will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into climate action, and you can expect gubernatorial vetoes if the Legislature adopts measures he doesn’t like.

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