VCV-VNRC’s Psychotic Break

This is one weird year political year. Up is down, left is right, cheetos for president, etc. Add to the Bizarro world catalog this little tidbit.

Vermont Conservation Voters, which functions as the electoral arm of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, came out with its primary endorsement list. Noticeable by his absence is Chittenden Senator (and ol’ GMD pal) Philip Baruth.

What’s the big deal? Well, here’s a little supporting info for your consideration:

  • Philip has a lifetime voting record – according to VCV’s own scorecard – of 93%. Yes, that’s a nine. As in ninety. And three. Ninety-three. Percent. Out of a hundred.
  • This is the same Philip Baruth who was elected to office running on a platform predicated on climate change, back when some folks told him that wasn’t a local enough issue to win with (me for one).
  • Senator Baruth is the sitting Senate Majority Leader. One of the 3 or 4 most powerful legislators in the state. More on the decidedly icky implications of that in a moment.

The reasoning from VCV is that the big renewable bill that the Governor vetoed was famously not one that the environmental community was happy with by the time it hit Mr. Shumlin’s desk. As Majority Leader, it was incumbent on Philip to do some of the heavy lifting on both the admittedly inadequate compromise, as well as the attempt to override the veto.

So fine, you may say. He doesn’t have 100% (although he actually did have 100% the previous session, it should be noted). He’s still a 93% lifetime voter, even if one issue means he gets a big ol’ demerit for ’16. Duh, right?

To VCV, not so much duh. This one issue singularly trumped everything. This of course begs the obvious question; why bother rating legislators on a scorecard in the first place? If it clearly means so little to VCV, it becomes a rather tough case to sell it as meaningful to others,  n’est-ce pas?

Sadly it’s a bit worse… there are the Chittenden County Senate endorsements they did hand out. Consider (as per our other ol’ buddy Mr. Walters):

  • VCV did endorse Tim Ashe, who has a 91% lifetime rating (that’s 2 less tha-.. well, you can do math I’m sure)
  • They endorsed Dawn Ellis. Who is not a legislator yet. So she doesn’t even have a rating at all.
  • VCV offered 5 primary endorsements – that’s out of six slots. So its not like somebody else moved up into his spot, they just kicked him out of the clubhouse.

In light of those things, it just gets weirder. Is it personal? Did Baruth run over somebody’s cat?

But I promised a little ickiness, so here it is.

If you’re an operation who does business in the Statehouse and you go out of your way to kick a legislator in the crotch like that, you’ve got to figure they won’t like it. They may not like to work with you so much. Hell, they may freeze you out even. After all, Statehouse politics are ALL about relationships, because humans are first and foremost social creatures, like it or not. This is lobbying 101.

So if you’re gonna go out of your way to give the ol’ groin kick to someone, you want to think very carefully about kicking the groin of the freaking Senate Majority Leader, because the Senate Majority Leader can freeze you out of a hell of a lot more than their good graces… the Senate Majority Leader can freeze you out of nearly everything. For that reason, picking a fight with someone that far up in leadership so casually is generally considered advocate malpractice. I worked for a few years at the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and the very idea would have been unthinkable in that office.

So why do it?

Because they can. That’s what’s icky.

Everybody knows Philip is on their team. They don’t have to worry about getting frozen out because they know full well he is a deeply committed environmentalist, and he always will be. Endorsement or no, he will never stop working hard on the issues that are important to VCV and VNRC.

So as a member of the family, he gets kicked in the groin when a more garden-variety, stereotypically soulless politician would have not only been given a pass, but would probably be deferred to. That’s just all kinds of screwed up. And some of those VCV board members – folks like Jake Perkinson and former Representative Mike Fisher – should really know better.

VCV has made the point that withholding an endorsement from Baruth in the primary (when it matters) doesn’t preclude the possibility of him receiving one in the General Election (when it really doesn’t matter… adding a little more insult to injury, perhaps?).

Philip has a seemingly endless supply of decency and goodwill, so I’m sure if that comes up, he will be as gracious as always. I don’t think I’d be that gracious about it.

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