In which up is down, and I agree with Bruce Lisman

They say politics makes for strange bedfellows; and that is no more so than right here in Vermont where conservatives are fading like fireflies,  and the lion’s share of power and influence is carried in Democratic


All of which makes our particular brand of Republican-lite occasionally champion issues more usually associated with progressive thinkers.  When that happens, once in a blue moon, it behooves us to seize the opportunity to stand on common ground.

So it is with Bruce Lisman of the Campaign for Vermont, who is finally getting down to some respectable brass tacks.  After a couple of years of expounding vaguely about how Vermont policymakers should do “better,” in language straight out of the Republican playbook, Mr. Lisman is actually proposing some pretty radical stuff.

He wants Vermont lawmakers to adopt sweeping transparency rules in the interests of ending cronyism, nepotism and all manner of conflicts of interest.

And I say, “Why not?”

Obviously, Mr. Lisman proposes this from the conservative minority position, in the hope of reducing the huge advantage that Democratic policy enjoys in the state; but no matter what motivates the effort, its time has come.

Mr. Lisman points to the terrible marks Vermont gets for transparency, relative to the rest of the country; and he is absolutely right that we can improve that situation dramatically with a few simple rules.  

He does, however, focus primarily on statewide transparency issues, making it appear to be more of a Democratic failing.  In reality, the failure peculiar to Vermont has its roots in the intimacy of local politics, which generally falls outside traditional parameters of “Democrats” and “Republicans”  even when those labels are nominally applied.

As I have said on many occasions, that intimacy is both the strength of Vermont’s democracy and its greatest challenge.  The clannish nature of local influence blocks frequently obscures the process and discourages challenges of any sort.  Casual conflicts of interest are so common in many towns as to go completely unremarked.

But before a bright light can be shone on the manner in which conflicts of interest control the local process, it is first necessary that strict transparency rules be adopted at the state level, as a model of good behavior.

Mr. Lisman may have finally found a way to be relevant in Vermont; and, while I rather doubt that we will agree on much in the future, on the need to address conflicts of interest in the political process we seem to be of one mind.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

13 thoughts on “In which up is down, and I agree with Bruce Lisman

  1. The ethics/transparency proposal sounded okay to me too.  In the past I’ve surprised myself by agreeing with Jim Douglas (on ridge top wind) .. the only agreement with him I can recall.  So we are evidently not not knee- jerk liberals.  Thank gawd.

  2. Did I miss where/when Lisman finally disclosed the sources of income for the C4V?

    Of course he wants to throw stones at the Democratic majority. Of course Vermont should do better at disclosing conflicts of interest, both in elective office and in secret-membership cabals providing platforms for would-be movers and shakers.

    Fortunately, as Speaker Shap has pointed out, Lisman shot himself in the foot by holding a press conference before even contacting the appropriate committee chairs. Fine finesse, Bruce, and a telling contrast between those who get something done and those who simply want credit for speaking loudly.

    As you point out Sue, in a small state sometimes the person most knowledgeable about a project or an issue is someone who has a personal, professional (money-making) interest in it. In a part-time citizen legislature, those are the people whose ‘expertise’ and interest mean they get called on to testify, or who become lobbyists, or who contribute heavily to select legislators’ campaigns.

    I’m not defending the lack of transparency, just noting some of the reasons it has continued.

    It is past time for things to change. Let’s hope it doesn’t make finding good candidates for the legislature even harder.


    The Wilson Corollary: Self-declared leaders must be rejected at once when they lack the integrity to act in private in accordance with the principles they claim to adhere to in public. ~ Anonymous

  3. support those who are practiced in the art of deception, hiding their subterfuge & chicanery in plain sight while attempting to disguise personal involvement in the very crimes they claim to be fighting while purporting to be ahead of the curve.

    They are malignacies which I do not believe can be rehabbed and serve only to spread their destructiveness using attention-getting hot-button issues which I think we can all agree on.

    Like Jerry Sandusky and his “charity”- a cover to disguise his own illness.

    Lisman is a consummate carpetbagger extaordinaire & nothing more. A self-promoting annoyance who continually claims to be driving the debate & that those who oppose him may be “jealous”. Uh huh!

    Credible info exists that he has researched his chances & cost of running for guv. The latest wealthy carpetbagger seemingly believes VT will stupidly fall for his brand of bs.  

    Supporting these nefarious individuals legitimizes them. Please don’t be upset Sue but he is not one of the good guys imho.  

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