Tag Archives: Tom Bodett

Plausible deniability and the $10,000 envelope

Kudos to Seven Days’ Paul Heintz for a good old-fashioned piece of outrage journalism, a nearly lost art in these days of objectivity fetishism. The object of his scorn: the woefully incomplete “investigation” of Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s demostrably squicky campaign finance shenanigans. (In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a link to my take on the story.)

The whole column is strongly recommended, but I want to highlight one passage — and then It’s Story Time, Kids!

To set this up: In December 2013, Sorrell had dinner with a couple of high-powered lawyers, Mike Messina and Patricia Madrid, who had previously donated to his campaign fund. Take it away, Paul:

“Just before sitting down to dinner, Mike gave me an envelope saying that he and the attorneys from the Texas firm [Baron & Budd] wished to contribute to my campaign for reelection,” Sorrell wrote in the affidavit, which has not been previously disclosed. “I thanked them and accepted the envelope.”

Tucked inside were five checks totaling $10,000 for Sorrell’s reelection campaign.

During the dinner, Sorrell wrote, Messina and his friends “suggested they would come to Vermont at a future date to discuss the possibility of Vermont suing the oil and gas industry, if I was interested.” Baron & Budd has made millions for itself — and the states and municipalities it has represented — by suing the industry over its use of the gasoline additive MTBE.

After Messina handed Sorrell the checks, his clients handed the AG “a folder or manila envelope” containing information about Baron & Budd and a memo touching on “the specifics of relevant Vermont law.” Sorrell trucked it back to his office, gave it to an assistant attorney general and asked him to check with the Agency of Natural Resources to “discuss the possibility” of suing.

Within months, Sorrell’s office had filed suit and hired four firms — including Baron & Budd and Messina — to serve as outside counsel, guaranteeing them a percentage of any money recouped.

The “affidavit” referenced above is a sworn statement provided by Sorrell to independent investigator Tom Little.

Sorrell’s attorney argues that this does “not equate to a quid pro quo arrangement.” Which is downright laughable. But as Heintz notes, Sorrell “practically admitted to the crime” of trading state contracts for political donations.

And now, It’s Story Time.

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Yes, it got worse for Vermont Republicans. Except Phil.

Notes and musings from the August 18 campaign finance report filings…

Governor Shumlin is in cruise control. His campaign raised another $67,000 this time, and spent only $11,000. He has almost $1.13 million in the bank.

Scott Milne continues to falter. He raised $22,370 this time, compared to $20,000 last time. That pace won’t get him anywhere near his stated goal of $200,000. And his total was again buoyed considerably by the Boies family: $2K from a Christopher Boies, $2K from daddy Boies’ law firm, and $2K from an LLC whose address is the same as the daddy Boies law firm. For those keeping track, the collective Boieses have donated $16,000 of Milne’s total of $42K. He also raised $2K from Altour International, a high-end travel agency based in New York. His biggest in-state donor was the Wayside Restaurant, which donated $2K. That’s a lot of ham and eggs.

Milne spent $28,000 in the past month, of which more than $18K went to campaign manager Brent Burns’ consulting firm.

— The alleged Republican upstart, Libertarian Dan Feliciano, reported raising $13,000. Sounds decent, but $10K of that came from Dan himself. He had only a handful of other donors — notably getting $200 from Republican Treasurer Mark “Little Snell” Snelling. There’s no sign of a Feliciano bandwagon to be found in his finance report.

— The Vermont Republican Party is still in the doldrums, raising $2,420 in the past month.

— The only Republican doing really well is Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott who, challenged by Progressive Dean Corren’s public financing, put his fundraising operation into high gear and pulled in $52,000 in the past month. He didn’t spend a whole lot, and has $120,000 in cash on hand. He got plenty of cash from construction firms (his line of work) and from some of his turncoat friends in the Senate Democratic majority — a total of $2500 from Dick and Dorothy Mazza, and $200 from “Bobby Star,” who I believe is actually State Sen. Bobby Starr.

Scott’s doing well for himself, but to judge from the latest reports, he ain’t lifting a finger for his beloved VTGOP.

Vermonters First, which spent a million Broughton Bucks in 2012, is still in hibernation. Raised zero, spent $25 for a bank account.

— Lenore Broughton did open her checkbook for a few Republican candidates and gave $2K to the Common Sense Leadership PAC. Said PAC didn’t raise any other money but managed to spend $3500 on consultants. Namely $2K to Shayne Spence, a staffer at the Ethan Allen Institute, and $1500 to Elizabeth Metraux who is apparently the PR person for Vermont PBS.

— Republicrat Senate hopeful Roger Allbee pulled in a decent $4760 this time around for a grand total of $6K. His total take included a nice $1,000 donation from soon-to-be-ex-Senator Peter Galbraith. The Slummin’ Solon, who has publicly endorsed Allbee, was nonetheless chosen to moderate one of the four Windham County Democratic Senatorial candidate forums, a curious move to be sure. (During that debate, he reportedly got into an argument with fellow Senator Jeanette White. Not very statesmanlike or diplomatic, Petey.)

— Celebrity tidbit: The aforementioned Senator White can brag of a $100 donation from Mr. Tom Bodett. Leavin’ the light on for ya!