Must be a few shekels rattling around in the Vermont Republicans’ bank account. They’ve actually hired somebody!
On Monday, Brent Burns took over as the political director of the Vermont Republican Party.
The post sat vacant for more than year, after Mike Bertrand left the position.
Uh, erm, a couple of points.
First, Burns is not replacing Mike Bertrand. Burns is “political director” while Bertrand was “executive director,” which is a couple rungs higher on the organizational ladder.
Second, I hope Burns has done his due diligence, seeing as how his “predecessor” quit the job due to a critical shortage of paychecks. When Bertrand stepped aside in March 2012, VTGOP chair Jack Lindley acknowledged that Bertrand hadn’t been paid since the beginning of the year. Ouch.
Okay, so let’s take a closer look at Mr. Burns and his political background.
According to the party, Burns has worked as a political consultant in Texas and as a field organizer for the campaign of Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
That, apparently, is the sum total of Burns’ political experience. It’s a little bit sad, really; and raises serious issues about his political fit in the Green Mountain State. His ex-boss Michael McCaul is a garden-variety right-wing Republican who’s been in Congress for nine years without making much of a dent in the institution.
There is one lovely stain on McCaul’s political resume: He was one of three Texas Republicans who ginned up a fake controversy over the Veterans Administration allegedly banning references to God at military funerals. The Congresscritters talked of mandating religious (read: Christian) content in such services, which would have been just peachy for war dead who happened to be atheist, agnostic, or inconveniently faithed. Fortunately, it was only talk, as the VA quickly debunked their hysterical attack.
McCaul is also still actively fighting to repeal Obamacare, so there’s that. And he boasts a 100% rating from Right to Life and a big fat zero from Planned Parenthood.
But his most significant claim to fame is that he’s the wealthiest member of Congress. He came upon his riches the all-American way: he married it. McCaul’s wife Linda is the daughter of Lowry Mays, Chairman of Clear Channel Communications, the company largely responsible for turning American commercial radio into an unstaffed wasteland of prefab music formats and syndicated talkers.
Pardon the discussion on Congressman Moneybags, but it may shed light on Burns’ political leanings. Plus, there’s just not a lot of information about Burns himself.
He is a graduate of Texas A&M and a military veteran. He recently finished a tour of duty as a satellite communications supervisor for the military where, according to the VTGOP, “he oversaw operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and southwest Asia.”
Which sounds like a fancy way of saying “he sat in front of a computer terminal for eight hours a day,” but let’s acknowledge his service to his country.
It was this high-tech service, rather than Burns’ political heft, that supposedly makes him a perfect fit for the VTGOP Of Tomorrow.
“Brent has the type of leadership we have been looking for to grow our organization and move our party in a new direction,” Jack Lindley, chair of the Vermont party, said in a public statement. “He has a background in technology, which will help as we become a more agile and data driven organization.”
Which brings up another question about Burns’ new job. If you look at the Vermont Democrats’ org chart, you’ll see (among many other paid positions) a Political Director (Nick Charyk) and a Data Director (John Faas).
So why is the VTGOP hiring a data director to be its political director?
Well, the party’s carefully worded announcement would lead you to believe that they attracted a hot young talent from far away after a nationwide search. However… I found what appears to be Brent Burns’ personal website. (Which bears the headline “Brent D. Burns: Leader/Problem Solver.” Catchy.) The site is very simple and there’s not much information at all. But in it, Burns says:
I recently moved to Burlington, VT to attend graduate school. I like to work, so feel free to contact me if you think I can help your organization.
Ahh. He was already here. He didn’t relocate from Texas just for this job — which, given the circumstances of Mike Bertrand’s departure, is probably a good thing. He was a hire of convenience: a guy who was already around and looking for a little work to pay the bills and pad the resume. That explains it.
Before we close, let’s compare the resumes of the two parties’ Political Directors, shall we?
In the red corner, Republican Brent Burns, onetime campaign staffer for a Texas Congressman. And in the blue corner, Democrat Nick Charyk, who worked on Matt Dunne’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010, managed Donny Osman’s bid for State Senate that same year, and then spent two years as head of the Vermont Democratic House Campaign, where, by all accounts, he did a brilliant job leading the party to a smashing victory in 2012.
Nick seems to have quite the edge there. Plus, he’s actually from Vermont and knows the state’s politics and players. Burns? Well, he spent Monday introducing himself around the State House.
It’s good to see the VTGOP actually being able to hire a couple of staff members; it’s definitely a sign of progress. But is Burns the guy to spark a Republican turnaround? Color me skeptical.