Since last I posted in this space, i’ve been (a) out of town visiting family for THE HOLIDAYS, suck it Fox, and (b) crafting a nice little WordPress blog about my father’s military service in World War II. (Nothing terribly dramatic by Great War standards, but something for me and the folks.)
During my absence, Peter “Test, 1-2, 1-2, Test, Test” Hirschfeld produced a nugget of journalistic goodness for the Mitchell Family Organ. (Paywalled, sorry.) It’s about ten days old now, but since the MFO frequently serves as a little tiny echo chamber where stories go to die, I thought it was worth dredging up.
Basically, it’s about the key role that Vermont Republican operatives have played in generating bad publicity for Vermont Health Connect. The hook: Back in early November when Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson kinda misled a House committee about a single privacy breach? Well, it turns out that the loudest mouth in the anti-reform movement, Darcie “Hack” Johnston, was the one who instigated the event:
Not only was Johnston aware of the security issue when the question about the breach was posed to Larson on Nov. 5, she actually fed the inquiry, via handwritten note, to the Republican lawmaker who asked it.
And then, of course, ran to the nearest camera to bemoan what she called “a really sad day for Vermonters.”
All I can say is, good on ya’, Darse. You’re not quite as useless as I thought you were.
The rest of the article explores “the role of a small group of Republican operatives who have launched an opposition-research campaign aimed at weakening Vermonters’ appetites for… health care reform.”
Using the state’s public records law, Johnston, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock and Brady Toensing, the newly minted vice chairman of the Vermont GOP, have mined primary source material for evidence of technological misfires and bureaucratic incompetence. Johnston and Brock have funneled this information to Vermont media.
Ask me, it’s all good. Searching public records for politically useful material? Absolutely nothing wrong with that. (Makes me wonder, though, about the complicity and independence of “Vermont media,” but that’s a subject for another day.)
But it does raise a very real question about the “new,” “moderate” VTGOP.
We have three names here. Randy Brock, supposedly a nice guy, but he and the Hack have been close for a long time, and he paid her an ungodly sum of money to run his gubernatorial campaign (into the ground). Then there’s Toensing, the scion of DiGenova and Toensing, a particularly nasty DC law firm whose speciality is ginning up fake controversies about Democrats. (He’s the junior partner; his mommy and daddy are the headliners.) Hirschfeld helpfully notes:
Toensing said he acted mainly out of concern as a private citizen who has been affected personally by the technological difficulties that have followed the roll-out of the exchange.
His request came nine days after he was elected vice chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, however…
Hirschfeld quotes “party colleagues” as depicting Brady Toensing as an “opposition-research guru.”
I hope we never hear another goddamned word from any Vermont Republican about how we ought to do things The Vermont Way, meaning with honesty and purity and respect. ‘Cause Brady Toensing is none of those things.
And he’s the #2 man in the state party.
And he got there with the backing of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, alleged nice guy, alleged moderate.
Nowhere in Hirschfeld’s epistle do we see the name “Phil Scott,” or for that matter “David Sunderland,” the new party chair.
What we do have is a pair of tried-and-true attack dogs, plus an embittered former gubernatorial candidate, playing conservative hardball on Governor Shumlin’s signature issue for the benefit of the Vermont Republican Party. And, in the case of brand-new party official Brady Toensing, presumably with the approval of the Vermont Republican Party.
The new, “moderate” Vermont Republican Party.
The new “moderate” party that happily hired “an opposition-research guru” as its vice-chair, and is allowing two prominent members of the bad old non-moderate VTGOP to play point on the party’s behalf.
This is the kind of stuff I would’ve expected from “Angry Jack” Lindley, not from the supposedly kinder, gentler, Philler VTGOP.
Meet the new boss…