More twisted logic from Vermont’s legacy media

I tell ya, the state’s editorial boards were bound and determined to go for Vince Illuzzi in this year’s race for Auditor. In the process, they’ve ignored the two candidates’ qualifications and history, and some papers have even ignored their own past positions.

Previously we’ve chronicled the Freeploid and Herald/Times Argus, which reversed their positions of two years ago (hearty and detailed endorsements of Doug Hoffer) to plump for Illuzzi this year while offering dubious arguments on Vince’s behalf. We also documented the St. Albans Messenger’s ass-backwards depiction of Hoffer as the more political of the two men — when, in fact, Vince Illuzzi is one of the most thoroughly political characters in Vermont.

And we’ve recounted Illuzzi’s past ethical troubles, including multiple suspensions of his law license and a very close brush with disbarment. (Illuzzi has claimed to have matured since then; but hell, he was in his FORTIES when a lot of that stuff happened.)

Now comes the Addison Independent, which can’t bring itself to endorse either candidate (Profiles in Courage there, Angelo), while tarring Hoffer with the completely absurd accusation of partisanship.

First, the Indy dismisses Vince.

Republican Vince Illuzzi has garnered much support from a lot of politicos throughout the state, which may tell you something. Throughout his 32 years in the Legislature he has made a lot of friends and has played the game of politics well. But while Vermont is largely free from the political partisanship that plagues other states, Illuzzi does understand political power and has wielded that power, at times, for partisan purposes over the years. That’s an attribute that doesn’t work well in the state auditor’s office.

As we have said, Illuzzi is an insider, a dealmaker with a lot of friends in high places and a squicky ethical record. So the Indy can’t bring itself to back Illuzzi. What about Hoffer?  

Democrat Doug Hoffer, on the other hand, is not someone you’d call a team player. He is, by his own admission, “a number’s guy,” (sic) and that can work for or against either side of the political aisle. That’s a good attribute as an auditor. Hoffer, however, is hamstrung by his ideological outlook. He’s a devout progressive and comes as close to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ political leanings as any other statewide candidate on the ballot. That’s not a great attribute when asked to run the numbers on potential programs that inevitably have a political bent – and numbers, as we all know, can be used and abused at will.

Sure, Doug is on the left side of the political spectrum. But he has never, ever subverted his professional work for partisan purposes.  The Independent offers no evidence for its defamatory statement; it can’t, because there is none. In nearly 20 years doing exactly the kind of work an Auditor should do, Doug has gained a reputation across the board for integrity and objectivity. The Independent, in other words, is makin’ shit up. And unfairly smearing a good man in the process.

Vince Illuzzi, to his credit, has run a pretty clean race. None of the hyper-partisan attack politics of his ticketmates. The Independent just said worse things about Doug Hoffer than Vince Illuzzi ever has.

What’s even stranger about the Indy’s lies is that the paper used to have a much higher opinion of Hoffer. This is from its endorsement of Hoffer in the 2010 Democratic primary:

Hoffer… would bring a sharp and probing intellect to the position while pledging to keep his personal politics off the table. The auditor’s job, he says, is to provide the Legislature with the facts and reports it needs to ensure the legislation as proposed is based on good data and the programs passed are working as cost-effectively as they were intended.

Gee, exactly the opposite of the Indy’s 2012 view. A hearty endorsement, in fact, of Doug’s professionalism and objectivity — the very traits it now finds lacking.

As you may know, the Indy is owned by one Angelo Lynn, brother of Emerson Lynn, owner of the St. Albans Messenger. Angelo wrote the Indy’s endorsement editorial — and its endorsement of Hoffer in 2010. This year, each paper slapped Hoffer with the same evidence-free accusation of political bias. The guys obviously had some kind of conversation about the Auditor’s race, perhaps trying to gin up some basis for avoiding a Hoffer endorsement.

All in all, the Great Men of Vermont Journalism have not exactly covered themselves in glory with their illogical and, in some cases, actively mendacious endorsements in this year’s Auditor’s race.  

7 thoughts on “More twisted logic from Vermont’s legacy media

  1. You decry the Independent editorial for failing to provide any evidence to support their criticism of Doug Hoffer, yet think their criticism of Vince Illuzzi – that he has occasionally used his political power for partisan purposes – is just fine.  What evidence did the paper supply for that charge?  

  2. Doug would be an excellent Auditor, period. Since when it is a bad thing for a Vermont candidate to have an ideological bent similar to Bernie? I’d much rather have an Auditor who can put ideology aside and be a professional than one who has to put 32 years of political relationships aside to even start appearing to be credible.  

  3. There’s a deeper issue here worthy of at least a bit of reflection.

    Doug Hoffer, whom I’ve not met but have read frequently, makes no bones about his political viewpoints, and the characterization in the editorial is no doubt correct: he’s a “devout progressive.”

    But why does it follow that “That’s not a great attribute when asked to run the numbers on potential programs that inevitably have a political bent ….” There are two possible answers. Either the editorial is suggesting that Hoffer’s ideology is so powerful that he is unable to “run the numbers” properly — for which no evidence at all is adduced — or it is suggesting that there is something about the ideology itself which would make it impossible to do the task at hand. Put differently, this is either a reflection on Hoffer himself or, more plausibly, on his views.

    Since this is a political endorsement and therefore a comparative judgment, that SHOULD lead us back to Vince Illuzzi, about whom we should ask the same questions.  In Vince’s case, there may be some debate about whether his ideology is so powerful that it would prejudice him, but  for the sake of this discussion, let’s forego it.  Since Illuzzi too has an ideology — we all do, after all —  we are then left with the question: is there something about Hoffer’s ideology which makes him less likely to be able to “run the numbers” than about Illuzzi’s?  Clearly, the editorialist wants us to believe that there is, but he is either unwilling or unable to tell us what that is. Indeed, obvious as it should be, the question is never raised.

    One last observation.  If this were a “one-off” situation, it would be of little interest.  In fact, what we are seeing here is a marginalization of Mr. Hoffer precisely BECAUSE OF his progressive views, but without being able to admit it, and I suggest that this is far from unique.

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