EB-5 funded snow making job proceeds

Well that didn’t take long, just a few short weeks after Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros’ EB-5 ski resort scandal broke, a similarly funded Vermont project  is on track to proceed like nothing happened.

snowgunsPeak Resorts Inc. (NASDAQ:SKIS), the Missouri based company that owns Mt. Snow (no connection to Jay Peak/Burke Mt.) announced that a $52 million EB-5 funded snow making system expansion will continue now that the Federal government has agreed to release immigrant investor funds held in escrow.

The flow of funds was halted while the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviewed the EB-5 immigrant investor funded project.  The Federal review process is somewhat mysterious as reports note no further information is available from USCIS because “as a matter of policy, we cannot comment on specific EB-5 projects.

The release of funds is welcome as the resort says they had invested millions of its own money in the expansion project. Mt. Snow is reportedly running short on cash. The resort attributed its need to lay off workers to the snow-starved winter.

Peak Resorts CEO Timothy Boyd commented on the snow making upgrades and expansion projects: “The master plan for Mount Snow is expected to enhance the overall visitor experience at the resort by bolstering snowmaking capacity and adding a new three-story, state-of-the-art ski lodge.”

I suppose it is just standard rah rah boosterish language but Peak Resort’s Timothy Boyd might want to temper his tone so as to avoid sounding so eerily similar to Jay Peak’s alleged fraudsters Stenger and Quiros.

Mt. Snow resort representatives always stress that they have no connection at all with Jay Peak but they do enjoy a very close relationship with state government.

President Dick Deutsch stressed: “It’s important to know that we are in good standing with the state of Vermont,”

No doubts there. Mt. Snow is in good standing with the state. In fact in some cases they are standing so close you could hardly slip a piece of paper between them. You see, in 2015 Mt. Snow hired Brent Raymond — the former head of State of Vermont EB-5 Regional Center —  to run their EB-5 funded expansion. In his job for the state, Raymond was tasked with promoting and monitoring compliance of Vermont’s EB-5 programs, including Peak Resort Mt. Snow’s $52 million upgrade.

However, Patricia Moulton, head of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD  runs VT’s EB-5) characterized Raymond’s departure through the revolving door to the resort business as nothing more than “standard turnover, nothing out of the ordinary.” Raymond parted ways with the agency “amicably and respectfully,”she said.

Oh and ACCD’s Moulton added the reassurance that her brother David Moulton, director of operations at Mt. Snow, was “not involved in hiring Brent,”

Oh well, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to see here — and the EB-5 snow-making job continues.

Campaign dollars to donuts

Insidegov.com has taken the time to catalog some of the day to day ways the Republican and Democratic presidential primary candidates have spent millions of campaign bucks. Using Federal Election Commission filings they have documented the primary season through the Iowa’s Caucus and New Hampshire primary- from Jan. 1, 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has a slight lead over Bernie Sander’s on the amount they spent at Dunkin Donuts.  However Clinton’s donut and coffee tab of $2,806.00 only slightly exceeds the $2,577.00 Sander’s campaign spent. Some still maintain Sanders will close this gap.doughnuts

In addition to coffee and donuts the Clinton campaign has spent aggressively on pizza. Clinton campaign staffers around the country were treated to $17,000 worth of pizzas –mostly from Domino’s.

While the Clinton team munched, Sanders’ campaign bought his book. Reportedly they spent almost $455,000 at Verso Books on Outsider in the White House, the book Bernie wrote.

Republicans and Democrats combined spent $111,703 on Uber Rides . And the filings show the Trump campaign loves Trump’s businesses. Trump ran up $665,461 in rent and lodging expenses with Trump owned businesses Trump Tower, Trump Grill and the Trump Payroll Corporation. It is all about what’s good for the Donald, who also spent heavily on security, shelling out almost $200,000 for  “security services” and “security consulting”.

Not sure if this spending explains anything of significance about each candidate — other than the Clinton campaign goes for pizza, Bernie bought his own book and Trump is feeding his campaign money back to his business empire .

But I for one would love to know what exactly losing Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson got out of more than $6 million he spent on various types of consultants, or what fate has in store for $300,000 worth of Rubio bumper stickers, T-shirts, signs, hats and sweatshirts.

I wonder if Vermont GOP leadership (who cleverly supported Marco Rubio) stocked up on Rubio sweats and T-shirts?

The Unshameable Norm McAllister

Accused child exploiter, accused rapist, accused sex trafficker, and suspended senator, Norm McAllister of Highgate today filed his petition for reelection.

Since Franklin County now has three Republicans competing to take on the Dems for the two available seats, members of that erstwhile ‘conservative’ party will be subjected to what will most likely be a pretty awkward  experience even as McAllister faces his dates in court on June 13 through 16th.

The other entries are sitting senator and St. Albans resident Dustin Degree, and Rep. Carolyn Branigan (Georgia).

I have every confidence that Branagan and Degree will prevail in that primary race because I have met precious few Republicans who have any use for McAllister at this point.

His was a violation of community standards that crossed all political boundaries.

Nevertheless, I am left in utter disbelief that there were enough Franklin County residents (one hundred) willing to sign his petition in order to get him on the ballot.

There is something to be said for assuming someone is innocent until proven guilty of a crime in a court of law, but that is an irrelevant technicality when it comes to assessing McAllister’s qualification to represent the people of Franklin County in the state senate. Plenty of guilty men have prevailed in a court of law.

The predatory acts to which he has confessed in conversation should be sufficient to convince any Franklin County voter that he cannot represent our best interests. and is therefor disqualified.

His successful petition to get on the ballot suggests that we, as a county, have a lot of work to do to shine a bright light on the underlying culture that has apparently enabled his prathological disrespect for women. That at least 100 Franklin County residents still think he is fit to be our senator makes his behavior not just a one-off anomaly, but part of a pattern of tolerance for abuse that must lie hidden in pockets of the community.

For that reason, I sincerely hope we will be afforded an opportunity to put questions directly to the candidates in a public forum.

I feel more than a little sympathy for Ms. Branagan who would presumably have to sit on a stage with McAllister for such a forum; and even for Dustin Degree, whom McAllister seems determined to compromise by association:

“We practically lived together through the campaign cycle,” McAllister said. “He knows more than what a lot of people do. He was with me.”

It’s an unholy local mess, on top of the unholy mess that Trump represents at the national level.
By November, a lot of Franklin County Republicans may have joined the millions across the nation demanding a different party option.

Attention early bird voters

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos tweeted a reminder today:” All fired up after the state conventions? Early voting begins in 1 month! vote liberal

Vermont’s Early or Absentee Voting Process

In Vermont we make it easy to vote. If you prefer to vote early or by mail you can! Voting starts as soon as ballots are available—not later than 45 days before the primary or general election and 20 days prior to a municipal election that uses the Australian ballot.

Seems hard to believe – in just a few weeks it starts.

 

And from the department of hmm….?

‘Meant to pass this along earlier, but it slipped my mind.

On or around May 5, some Vermonters like me received a robo-call ‘survey’ paid for by Phil Scott for Governor, or some similarly named group. Only I got the call four times in a row within less than an hour.  I wrote a few word about the anomaly on Green Mountain Daily and gave it no more thought.

I welcomed the opportunity to triple whammy the GOP guesstimator, but others may have been less amused by the calls.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from an attorney in Chicago, who asked if I had given my consent anywhere to being contacted by the Vermont GOP, and I told him that I had not.

Somehow, he had gotten wind of my blogpost and was investigating the possibility that the Scott campaign had violated campaign regulations.

I couldn’t provide him with much information beyond what I had already written, but I promised to direct anyone else who received the call(s) to contact his firm.  So I am passing the information along to our GMD readers/writers to use as they see fit.

It might just be a tempest in a teapot, based on my imperfect memory of how the survey was introduced or framed; or it might have something to do with the number of iterations…I have no idea.

BP checked and the law firm appears to engage in ambulance-chasing excursions, so we doubt the veracity of the attorney’s assertion as to who told him to contact me (unnamed in this post.)  I have therefore also removed his contact information from the post. 

 

 

 

 

Trump the id

Donald Trump’s got a simple strategy for capturing the hearts and minds of the 2016 Republican party : follow the id , a set of uncoordinated instinctual trends.

Monsters of the id

They’re sprouting through the cracks
They’re making room for more
They’re deputizing maniacs

[Stan Ridgeway sings Mose Allison’s Monsters of the id]

Yeah, okay over the top dramatic, but what the heck it is a great tune.

The DNC as Chicken Little

“The sky is falling! the sky is falling!” “Donald Trump is gaining on Hillary!”

It’s Chicken Little time at the DNC.

Following the dust-up at the Nevada Convention all artifice of civility has been suspended.

No, I’m not talking about the handful of Bernie supporters in Nevada, but the hyperbolic response from the DNC as it closes ranks with what it thinks is the best argument for shutting Bernie down.

This is what it’s come to.

Bernie has been saying since he entered the race that he is in it until the Convention, but apparently the Party elders didn’t believe him.

You don’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs and you don’t mount a revolution spouting nothing but platitudes and  pleasantries from a place of no-contest.

Suddenly, Bernie Sanders is evil incarnate and has to throw in the towel so as not to ‘damage’ Hillary.

Newsflash: she’s already damaged; she was damaged coming into the race.

As intelligent and experienced as she is, she persistently transmits inauthenticity and entitlement in an election year that despises both. Even if there were no Bernie Sanders, these traits would not win the day.

And dragging out her equally damaged husband as her standard bearer in the crisis only makes matters worse. It plays to the worst stereotypes about women; the ones we had hoped the first female presidential candidate would kick to the curb.

This is a teaching moment for the DNC: never assume.

Why was Martin O’Malley the only card-carrying Democrat to challenge Hillary for the nomination? There certainly is plenty of talent out there, from Elizabeth Warren to the Castro Brothers and Joe Biden; but no, this one was for Hillary. It had been earmarked by the Hillary camp since 2008.

O’Malley’s only hope was to conduct himself so well in the campaign that he would become the Vice-Presidential nominee. No one was looking at poor O’Malley; quite a decent guy, at that.

Bernie was supposed to be a blip of comic relief; here today and gone tomorrow. No one would really support a democratic-socialist for president! Maybe if Hillary was not so damaged from the start, Bernie’s revolution wouldn’t have taken hold; but she was, and it did.

Just like the Republicans, who refused to believe that Jeb Bush wasn’t inevitable, the DNC made the same mistake about Hillary; only the RNC got ‘lucky’ and a bona fide arsonist named Trump dispatched Jeb and set the revolutionary tone for his own party long before Hillary even took notice of Bernie. Oh, the humanity!!

Now, the RNC is way ahead of the DNC at restoring itself to at least functional unity.

The DNC is still in denial of its diagnosis while the RNC is already at the acceptance phase in the process. They may not like Donald Trump but it it won’t be the first time they’ve gotten lucky with a feckless idiot, and they know that. Think George W. Bush and the miraculously (and posthumously) rehabilitated Ronald Reagan.

Instead of watching and drawing a valuable lesson from Bernie’s ability to engage a whole new and untapped electorate, easily matching those enlisted by DT on the other side, the Hillary Camp (and the entire Party hierarchy) plucked superficially from the message to garnish Hillary’s presentation, like parsley on potatoes.

Only the parsley proved to be much more appetizing than the potatoes and Bernie began to actually win votes no matter how much the convoluted rules worked against that end.

Even burying the debates in impossible time slots did not protect the presumed nominee from damage.

Bernie was apparently not expected to lay a glove on Hillary, and when he actually raised salient questions about her ties to Wall Street, her judgment on matters of war, and the sacred memory of her husband’s global economic policies, the Party twitched visibly but still plastered a strained smile on its lips.

Bernie, they said, would ‘toughen’ Hillary for her ultimate clash with Trump, and that was ‘a good thing.’ Behind the scenes, the Party of Hillary tightened the screws on the inevitability machine even more. Unfortunately, their collective slip was showing, and some Sanders supporters, new to the rigging process, began to cry ‘foul.

The Nevada DNC’s biased chairing of ‘their’ caucus proved to be the last straw for a a few attendees who became loud and abusive in their language, but not violent.

Despite breathless news reports to the contrary, there is no evidence that a chair was thrown. Video shows one man picking up a chair, then putting it down again. There were nasty phone calls and social media outbursts, but these have not by any means been confined to Sanders supporters.

The Sanders campaign condemned the bad behavior, but also condemned the biased conduct that had prompted it. Apparently Bernie was expected to dress in sackcloth and cover himself with ashes, never mentioning the pattern of bias that has permeated the primaries under Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He did not, and the floodgates of Democratic establishment figures aching to tell him to F.O. was suddenly opened.

One state, one caucus, a handful of Sanders supporters behaving badly, and everyone is insisting that Sanders should do the ‘decent’ thing and drop out before the convention.

Meanwhile, finally under some impulse control by the RNC, Trump has risen in the polls and Hillary has fallen. Much as the DNC would like us to believe that this has something to do with Bernie’s continued resistance to her inevitability, that is not the case.

Trump is proving to be an armor-clad wrecking ball of nastiness. He needs no help from anyone. It’s what he does.

With her extremely long and checkered political history, Hillary is the softest target imaginable.  Whether or not she can successfully prevail in the general is looking more and more like an open question.

Further alienating that energized Bernie base by going all Head Prefect on their chosen candidate will not help.

Suggestion? Stop insisting that it’s up to Bernie to unify the party ‘because that’s what Hillary did in 2008.’ This isn’t 2008 and Bernie’s revolution won’t be politically disciplined by a promise of support for 2016.

If the Hillary camp values the support of Bernie’s base, they will have to convincingly demonstrate a willingness to include at least some of that base’s priorities in the party platform, not just pay temporary lip-service and claim to be a ‘progressive.’

Dollars to donuts she won’t call herself a ‘progressive’ in the general, and that’s okay because its only a word; but if she continues to beat a path to the right as she has already begun to do with that remark about having Bill balance the country’s checkbook, she will only reinforce Bernie supporters’ conviction that she doesn’t represent our interests.

There’s only so much that Donald Trump (or Hillary) threats can do to blackmail a disenchanted electorate into turning out to hold their noses at the ballot box.

Time to reassess the fairness and efficacy of a two party system.

The First Presidential Psychopath?

My buddy, Perry Cooper, sent me the following in response to my most recent musings on the prospects of Trump (“Donald as the Princess and the Pea”). It was so apt that I thought I’d share it with GMD readers as a stand alone blogpost:

The June issue of Discover Magazine, discover.com, has an article titled “The Psychopath & The Hare.” The hare is Robert Hare, a Vancouver forensic psychologist who created a ‘Psychopathy Check List,’ PCL, and a revised PCL-R.

“It’s now the top violence risk assessment tool used by forensic psychologists in North America, the significant majority in post-sentencing and parole hearings of the most dangerous, high-risk prisoners.

The checklist’s 20 items include:

            glibness/superficial charm,
            grandiose sense of self-worth,
            need for stimulation/proneness to boredom,
            pathological lying,
            conning/manipulation,
            lack of remorse/guilt,
            shallow affect,
            callousness/lack of empathy,
            parasitic lifestyle,
            promiscuous sexual behavior,
            early behavior problems,
            lack of realistic, long-term goals,
            impulsivity,
            failure to accept responsibility,
            many short-term marital relationships,
            juvenile delinquency
            and criminal versatility.”
 
“The clinician scores each item with 0 (no presence), 1 (uncertain) or 2 (definitely present). Psychopaths score 30 to 40 points. The general population typically scores less than 5, while the average score for prisoners is 23.”

Using the seventeen items in the list from the article, I scale Trump at 32. The three missing items could only increase the score. Trump is a psychopath.

Read the article at http://discovermagazine.com/2016/june/12-psychopath-and-the-hare.

Perry Cooper

Phil Scott supports Hillary Clinton!

Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Phil Scott is helping Hillary Clinton run for President. It must be true: Newt Gingrich thinks so.ScottHRC

 Gingrich : “You’re either for Hillary Clinton or you’re for Donald Trump.

If you’re not for Donald Trump, you are functionally helping Hillary Clinton. I think it’s just that straightforward.”

He can still frame an issue with the best of them, but it seems Gingrich lifted this concept from the Bush era war on terror refrain: you are either with us or against us.

Scott’s declared presidential choice, former Governor Jim Douglas, could prove problematic for those who agree with Gingrich. Bruce Lisman, Scott’s primary opponent, hasn’t jumped on the imaginary Douglas-for-president bandwagon, and significantly, he hasn’t ruled out supporting Trump.

Notice Rubio carried only six precincts !
Notice Rubio carried only six precincts.

Gingrich’s framing also leaves most of elected VTGOP leadership (who endorsed loser Marco Rubio) at odds with local Trump supporters — the biggest block of VT Republican primary voters.

Considering the GOP’s state of disarray it isn’t exactly farfetched that Vermont’s Trump Republicans may start snarling at Phil Scott’s ploy. After all it isn’t much more than a marginally clever dodge to avoid dealing with his party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The big elephant in the room, at the end of May when the VTGOP convenes to choose delegates, will be Trump. Rightwing Republican star John “Tig” Tiegen will be the VTGOP’s featured guest. He is one of the “Heros”of Benghazi (depicted in the movie 13 Hours), a conservative rock star of sorts and an avid Trump supporter.

When he endorsed Trump for President, in February Tiegen said: “Americans want a strong leader, one who cares more about the safety and freedom of the American people than he does winning elections, or what the press might think.”

In the face of Republican cries for a strong leader, it may prove a delicate task for Scott to hide behind his Jim-Douglas-for-president ploy. And even more so when, as the general election heats up, like it or not, he will have to run the race for governor under the Trump flag.Trumpjumping

But for now let’s adjust Gingrich’s remark specifically for Phil Scott: If you’re for Jim Douglas, you are functionally helping Hillary Clinton. I think it’s just that straightforward.

Doug Hoffer on EB-5

Green Mountain Daily is pleased to host this op-ed, written by our  state auditor, Doug Hoffer, who has been an occasional contributor to our pages for many years:  

The unfortunate situation with the EB-5 program presents an opportunity to reflect on the State’s approach to economic development. Among other responsibilities, the State Auditor’s office examines various programs to determine whether they achieve the goals established by the legislature. That is, are we getting our money’s worth?

To answer the question, we conduct performance audits according to Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards. To do this, we need evidence that is sufficient and appropriate (i.e., quantity and quality). In the absence of such evidence, we cannot reach meaningful conclusions or make recommendations.

Unfortunately, some economic development programs present serious challenges. Here are some examples.

 
1.  By statute, the Vermont Training Program may only award grants for training that is supplemental rather than replacement. That is, taxpayers should not pay for training that would have occurred anyway. For example, if a company routinely trains new hires, it would be difficult to justify a training grant intended for new employees. Although applicants are asked about the nature of the proposed training, their statements are not validated. Therefore, we cannot determine the program’s effectiveness because there is no evidence that the grants are only for supplemental training.

 
2.  The primary performance measure of the Department of Tourism & Marketing (T&M) is the annual increase in rooms and meals tax revenues. This assumes that growth in revenue is due to T&M spending. However, the legislature’s economist reported in 2015 that “current taxpayer-financed advertising expenditures for the tourism sector are estimated to represent a mere 3% of total industry advertising expenditures.” Thus, it is impossible to evaluate the impact of state spending when it represents such a tiny percentage of the total.

 
3.  The statute that created the Enterprise Fund (e.g., $1 million to Global Foundries) required the administration to submit a memo to the Emergency Board making the case for the award. Among other things, the Board was supposed to consider whether the information presented was sufficient for the State Auditor to conduct a performance audit. I reviewed those confidential memos and the answer was no. As a result, we cannot audit the impact of the grants.

 
4. The Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) is predicated on a statement from applicants that “but for” the incentive, the promised jobs and capital investment would not occur, or would occur in a significantly different and less desirable manner. However, such statements are subjective and cannot be audited. Therefore, it is impossible to know whether some of the economic activity would have occurred without the program. That means that claims about the program’s impact cannot be verified.

 
The EB-5 situation highlighted another area of concern with some economic development programs; namely, the inherent conflict of interest between promotion and regulation. Bureaucrats charged with promoting development are unlikely to be unbiased in their oversight of those viewed as “partners.” In addition to EB-5, we see this in the decades-long relationship between the state and the ski areas that lease public lands.

 
Clearly, the state has an important role to play in creating and enhancing conditions for job creation. As the legislature and the new governor consider their options as to how best to allocate scarce resources, I hope they will insist that all programs are designed to provide the evidence necessary to measure their effectiveness. Without that critical information, how can Vermonters know whether we are getting a fair return on our investment?

If we can’t measure a program’s performance, we’re left with faith, which I can’t audit.

Doug Hoffer