How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the VT Senate Rules Committee

Wednesday’s Vermont Senate Rules Committee meeting on ethics and disclosure ended in a minute and huff. Well maybe it ran longer than a minute — but it did end in a huff. The meeting, called  to discuss new ethics disclosure rules for those serving in the Vermont Senate, ended with an abrupt adjournment on Wednesday.

The finger-pointing, heated conclusion to the Senate Rules Committee meeting came after an exchange between two of the chamber’s leaders, Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, and the Senate President Pro Tem, John Campbell, D-Windsor, who was backed up by veteran and influential Sen. Richard Mazza, D[?] -Grand Isle/Colchester.

The dust-up between the party leaders peaked when Baruth, the Senate Majority Leader, felt the other two Democrats were not taking him seriously, while Campbell, who holds the most powerful post, and Mazza, a senator for more than 30 years, were offended and thought Baruth was accusing them of “hiding something.”

Senate President Pro Tem, John Campbell, D-Windsor walked out after a “dust-up “with Senator Phillip Baruth.

Said Campbell: “Wait. I didn’t say it’s laughable,” Campbell shot back, then talking over Baruth said. “No, no, don’t. You have reporters here. Do not, Do not…”


Campbell’s unease at openly discussing ethics and financial disclosure with reporters present recalls the classic admonition from Dr. Strangelove “Gentlemen, we can’t fight here: this is the war room.”  We can’t discuss disclosure — you have reporters here.

The fact that the discussion, limited as it was, is taking place at all perhaps shows Senate leader Campbell’s views may have evolved since 2014. When asked then to react to actions the Vermont House successfully took to formalize ethics guidelines Senator Campbell saw no need to make similar efforts in the Vermont Senate. “I think most people are ethical,” Campbell said “Hopefully, you elect people you trust.”

Sure, Senator Campbell, hopefully most people are ethical but, gentlemen, this is the Senate rules committee isn’t it?

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