Tag Archives: WCAX

On the handling of unsavory candidates

Preface: This post was written before Paul Heintz posted his story on this subject. My questions are still valid; my thoughts about the extent and consistency of media coverage are tempered somewhat by his article.

Looks like the Vermont Republican Party’s candidate-vetting system has a few holes in it. Turns out that one of VTGOP’s candidates for House has a little revenge-porn problem. WCAX: 

He’s running to represent Colchester in the Legislature, but the divorced businessman is also now facing revenge porn charges.

The alleged victim went to police back in July telling investigators Patrick Liebrecht was posting sexually explicit images of her on social media without her permission.

The alleged scumbag, Pat Liebrecht, has denied the charges… and in the process, he pretty much admiited they’re true.

According to the affidavit, the woman told police once she broke up with him this summer he began posting them on her family and friends’ Facebook pages and threatening her saying, “I will make plenty of trouble for you.”

When police interviewed Liebrecht they say he admitted to posting the nude photos and comments. …

Police say he then denied that the woman was nude in the photo and told them that he could “go onto National Geographic and see that stuff.”

Meaning what, exactly? He only showed boobies?

The VTGOP quickly distanced itself from Liebrecht, although they can’t do anything to get him off the ballot. He will remain a standard-bearer for Republicanism and a potential state officeholder. An ironically apropos one, in the Year of the Trump.

But the case of Mr. Liebrecht, along with those of social-media sulliers Michael McGarghan and Bill Lawrence, raise some questions regarding the party and the media.

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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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And in the morning, the boulder’s back at the bottom of the hill

You could understand if Phil Scott and Sue Minter find themselves sympathizing with the plight of Sisyphus. Having won their respective primaries, they now face the task of refilling their nearly-empty warchests, and ASAP if you please.

The major-party nominees raised an ungodly (by Vermont standards) amount of money, and spent almost all of it just to get through their primaries.

The grim totals: Minter raised more than a million dollars — and spent all but $54,000 fending off the weaker-than-expected candidacies of Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith.

Scott enters the general campaign with $158,000 in the bank. But he entered the primary race with $95K left over from his previous walkovers for lieutenant governor. Without that cushion, he’d be dead even with Minter in cash on hand. In terms of money raised during the current campaign, he actually trails both Minter and Dunne.

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Hey look, Doug Hoffer may have a fly to swat

Don’t ever accuse the VTGOP of not being generous. They’ve apparently gifted Auditor Doug Hoffer with a new toy to play with a “serious” challenger for his post. I haven’t seen a news release or anything; all I’ve seen is this Tweet from VTGOP Executive Director Jeff Bartley.

Yay! Dan “Mr. Four Percent” Feliciano! The man who can never quite make up his mind whether he’s a Libertarian or a Republican. But no matter what the label, there’s one thing you can count on:

He. Won’t. Win.

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Bathroom panic in Vermont

Seems to be a little confusion down Chester way. Officials at Green Mountain Union High School have barred a transgender student from using boys’ restrooms. In response, a couple dozen students staged a protest on Monday. WCAX:

Recently a transgender student, who identifies as a boy, was told he could no longer use the boy’s bathrooms at the school.  A complaint from a fellow student prompted the school’s decision.

… As the protest unfolded outside, school officials claim they have been ahead of the issue of supporting students’ rights, including the LGBT community. The school has six gender neutral bathrooms. The trans student was told to use one of them.

Yeah, kid, go use the Weirdo Bathroom. That won’t create a stigma.

On its face, this would seem to violate the legal principle that “separate but equal” isn’t the same as “equal.”

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Pot’s last stand

Monday’s the big day for marijuana legalization. The House is set to hold votes on two very different versions — so different, it’d be fair to say they are diametrically opposed. And therein lies the problem: the momentum toward legalization has splintered. Governor Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, who both favor legalization, could pull a rabbit out of a hat — and that’s what it would take: a last-minute snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat.

Ironically, one possible outcome of the legalization drive is not any loosening of the law, but instead a crackdown on buzzed driving.

Unlikely, but possible. The most probable scenario is some sort of incremental, unsatisfying move that will provide a fig leaf of political cover for those (starting with Shumlin) who invested heavily in this fight. What might that be? Perhaps a nonbinding statewide referendum. Perhaps, as WCAX’s Kyle Midura said on “Vermont This Week,” some loosening of the state’s medical marijuana law. Perhaps something that’s not even on the table at the moment. Monday could be a long day on the House floor.

There are two major obstacles. First, not enough pro-legalization movement in the House, which was always the most likely killing ground for the idea. Second, the Senate and House took such different approaches that there’s no room for compromise.

The Senate took a top-down approach, establishing a regulated market for marijuana. It specifically rejected a grow-your-own exemption, arguing that it would weaken the broader effort to control the consumption of marijuana.

The House bill that will be considered on the floor Monday is centered on grow-your-own. It would create a licensing process for people who wanted to grow small amounts for personal consumption. Precisely what the Senate didn’t want.

Rarely do I find myself saying this, but I agree with the Senate.

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Little white lies

Kyle Midura, able Statehouse reporter for WCAX-TV, has got himself a scoop.

We’re learning more about the true cost of Governor Peter Shumlin’s trip to Paris in December, a cost the administration sought to hide.

A court sided with WCAX News, forcing the governor’s office to release documents showing the tab amounted to four times what Vermonters were told.

The administration, citing security concerns, had rejected Midura’s request for cost information about the Governor’s trip to a global climate summit. The court rightly found the administration’s reasoning to be transparently specious bullcrap inadequate.

The dollar amounts are tiny. Shumlin had said the public outlay amounted to $1,200. The newly released documents show the true cost was at least $4,000.

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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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A bit of an own goal by the Minter campaign

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

— Revelation 3:16

One of the minor sidelights of our state campaign season is the issue of endorsements, especially on the Democratic side. Do you support the hometown favorite, or the party stalwart? The one who wants to be the 44th male president, or the one who wants to be the first female?

You can sense the pressure in the way things filter out. Established officeholders who don’t have to face the electorate? Peter Shumlin and Pat Leahy go for Hillary Clinton. Officeholder who will be on the ballot this year? Peter Welch is studiously neutral.

Non-officeholders contending for top Democratic nominations? Matt Dunne, Dave Zuckerman, and Kesha Ram have all endorsed Bernie.*

*As a correspondent informed me, I made a quick-draw mistake there. Zuckerman and Ram are officeholders, of course. I wrote in haste, and I apologize to Zuckerman and Ram for the attempted impeachments.

And then there’s Sue Minter, who hadn’t said anything publicly about the race until this week, when she half-heartedly indicated a preference in an interview with WCAX’s Kyle Midura. It wasn’t pretty.

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Not looking good for legalized pot

A lot of lawmakers are throwing stones at the idea of legalizing marijuana in Vermont this year. A lot of influential lawmakers. The latest, and perhaps most dispiriting: the brontosaurus of the State Senate, “Democrat” Dick Mazza. He’s chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, which is one of the committees that would have to pass the bill, because reasons. In an interview to be broadcast this Sunday on WCAX-TV, he sent loud signals that he’s prepared to put the kibosh on the idea. Bottom line?

… I say let’s not hurry it. I don’t think a year or two will make a difference, but let’s answer all these questions with our eyes wide-open.”

In addition to that cheery comment, he also argued that public-safety funding needs a boost before making pot legal. His reasoning:

“Public safety always has some sort of shortfall. The reason they do is because we are asking public safety to do more, more and more. There are a lot more crimes in Vermont, so before you burden them with a service, let’s make sure that they are fully funded on their existing services that they are providing today.”

Not sure what he means by “burden them with a service.” I could infer that he expects more trouble for the police if marijuana is legal. This is a common sentiment among law enforcement types and lawmakers looking for reasons to vote “No,” but the evidence is decidedly mixed, where evidence exists at all.

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