Tag Archives: VTGOP

VT GOP Fundraising: Lie down with rodents, get up with ticks

Considering that Vermont Republicans — and our Governor in particular — often bill themselves as being outside the national fray and belonging to the long-fabled (mythical?) “northeast moderate Republican” club, they sure have a history of inviting outspoken GOP nutcase-stars to join their fundraiser events. In the past notables Maine Governor Paul “Bring back the guillotine” LePage and former Congressman Allen West, who believed religious coexistence “would give away our country,” headlined  VTGOP fundraisers.on skids

Now conservative New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu will be the headliner at an August fundraiser for the Vermont Republicans. The Governor will address issues both states face. “As a region, we can continue to have important conversations on affordability, energy, the environment and important regional economic issues,” he promises, according to VTdigger.com.

And as an extra, the Vermont GOPer’s could likely get some helpful tips on how to restrict voting rights. In a recent diary I wrote that Governor Sununu is right in lock-step with the not-so-moderate national GOP trend to limit voter registration. Shortly before this year’s election on Boston talk/news radio Sununu alleged Democrats practiced voter fraud and said: “[…] when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re [Democrats] busing them in [to New Hampshire] all over the place.” He got a pants on fire rating for that one from politifact.com.

President Trump referenced alleged New Hampshire vote fraud as justification when he announced his Election Integrity Commission. After taking office Sununu called for “tightening up” voting laws. Last month New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, readily agreed to hand over voting records. He has since said NH will “hold off” Commission vice chairman Kris Kobach’s fifty-state request for voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth, party affiliation, last four social security number digits and voting histories since 2006 pending the outcome of an ongoing legal challenge from the ACLU.

Sununu is unlikely to offer the same level of wacko blather as LePage or West, but his support for boosting his own and Trump’s voting restrictions is at odds with the concerns of average Vermont voters. But regarding the VTGOP’s “moderate” reputation and character: maybe a true view of the party’s reputation is exposed by the characters they  choose to headline their fundraisers.

Updated: Buying Out Democracy

Post Election Day update: Some national down-ballot state news such as this may get lost in the storm after Trump’s shocking win:[Democrats suffered some of their worst down-ballot failures on election night in the secretary of state races, the low-profile but quietly influential office that oversees elections in each state.

The GOP flipped four seats. Three were open seats: Missouri (Jay Ashcroft), Montana (Corey Stapleton), and Oregon (Dennis Richardson). The Oregon contest was the most surprising, with the GOP winning their first statewide office in more than a decade.]

What  are the Koch Brothers are up these days?  Well, we know the Kochs aren’t paying to woo Vermont voters to build a coal plant in the state. State Sen. Joe Benning (R) humorously suggested a clever headline-grabber what-if thought experiment to drive home his point about the level of outrage there might be were it the “evil” Koch Brothers offering payments to Vermonters to build a coal plant — rather than Iberdrola’s  wind power generating facility.kochbrosbucktalk

Of course the Kochs spend their time and political money   ($900 million in campaign 2016) much higher up the policy food chain than mere voters.

So then what are the Kochs up to these days ?  I mean in addition to running thousands of dollars worth of ads in Vermont supporting Benning’s fellow VTGOP legislative candidates through their Republican State Leadership Committee.

Well, according to the NYTimes.com, the ultra wealthy conservative Koch Brothers, the Republican State Leadership Committee, and other lobby interests are setting their sights on secretaries of state — the people in charge of impartially running elections.

The targeting of secretaries of state with campaign donations, corporate-funded weekend outings and secret meetings with industry lobbyists reflects an intense focus on often overlooked ballot questions, which the secretaries frequently help write.

The ballot initiatives are meant to give voters a direct voice on policy issues such as the minimum wage and the environment. But corporate and other special interests are doing their best to build close ties with the secretaries because a difference of even a few words on a ballot measure can have an enormous impact on the outcome.

This is of particular importance in states that regularly hold direct-vote ballot initiatives on policy issues. And Koch’s RSLC involvement may take this to a new level:  Republicans have turned to initiatives to push their agenda as a counter to liberal activists, according to an internal party memo.

“Ballot initiatives will not be the left’s mechanism for gaining power and advancing their agenda when voters have already rejected them,” said the memo, from the Republican State Leadership Committee, in February 2015 as the group prepared fund-raising efforts. “It’s time for conservatives to take back that power by rejecting their efforts and promoting our own.” NYTimes.com

Ironic as hell that big money is using the ballot-initiative/referendum process to do an end-run around legislatures. But the penny-wise Koch Brothers may figure it is a lot cheaper and more efficient to buy/influence with a few Secretaries of State than feeding friendly herds of state legislators.

Phil Scott’s partisan “wedgie” from the past

Lt. Governor  and Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott tweeted the following from the NBC5 debate between himself, Democrat Sue Minter and Bill Lee last night: “It’s so unfortunate that people create these wedges between us to distract people from looking into the truth about us.”philtweetwedge2

But whoa! Steady up on that high’n mighty horse yer ridin’ there, Phil. Some voters who listened to the debate may recall back in fall 2011 when you, Mr. Scott, clumsily wedged partisanship into what had been a politics-free zone for the Irene recovery efforts.

Here’s what he told his fellow Republicans at a fundraising dinner that he observed – or thought he observed – during the Irene recovery effort: “…. As I crisscrossed the state and witnessed recovery efforts, and saw the truck drivers, the equipment operators, the law enforcement personnel, the National Guard members, the municipal leaders … and it may have been my imagination, but I do believe most of them who were doing the work were Republicans.

philxthreePerhaps caught up in the moment, alone with GOP buddies at last, he continued hammering the wedge home, for his Republican teammates, making it personal:

“… We are the doers. We’re the ones that get the work done … Isn’t it ironic that with the majority of Vermonters declaring themselves Democrats, that Governor Shumlin would have to lean on Republicans like myself and Neale Lunderville to help steer the ship, to come up with common sense solutions during adversity to get things done.

Several days after his 2011 remarks and a flurry of criticism, Scott clumsily backtracked. He suggested that he didn’t really mean it and probably wasn’t a good thing to say.

That was then and this is now. Back then, alone with his GOP team Scott thought “…most of them doing the work were Republicans.” Now Phil is shocked – shocked – by such partisan talk and soft-pedals it, since most of them doing the voting are Democrats.

The RSLC, with friends like these…

I can’t say for TV but the Republican State Leadership Committee’s ads in support of local VTGOP candidates are being run in heavy rotation on Vermont radio this weekend – and, they are … everywhere!!! rslc-ads-2

The RSLC is a national conservative political action committee (founded and advised by Karl Rove and funded with donations from Koch Industries) dedicated to electing state level conservative GOP legislators. Their national big business funded ads, with no intended irony, are attempting to rally Vermonters around a banner for local control.

This spring they pledged $50,000 to target 22 Democratic Vermont legislators for defeat. In the 2014 election when all was said and done the RSLC ended up spending over $300.000.

A funny thing in the latest ad blitz is that three Democrats – Rep. Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington) and two NEK state senators, Bobby Starr and John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans) – who have been reliably friendly to VTGOP causes are on the RSLC’s hit list.

The American Conservative Union recently proclaimed the Vermont legislature had a “a small pocket of conservatism” and went so far as to give Democratic State Senators John Rogers, Bobby Starr and House Rep. Cynthia Browning’s 2015 voting records  a big conservative thumbs-up. Rep. Cynthia Browning’s voting record got a perfect 100% from the ACU. And NEK Senators Rogers and Starr came in at 43%, still respectably above the lowest rated VTGOP Senator, Diane Snelling at 29%.[corrected]

While collateral damage to three highly ACU-rated Democratic friendlies, if any, won’t show up until the votes are counted on November 8, the RSLC-funded ad war is keeping a lot of radio stations happily selling ad time.

And you know – as Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers want us to believe – nothing says local control more than big businesses’ national super-PAC ads bombarding Vermont.

The VTGOP is hair today

It’s “all business in the front and party in the back” that’s a description of the classic mullet hair cut,famous in the 1970’s and 80’s, infamous by the 1990’s. And now with 20,000  votes for Trump  in the primary the Vermont Republicans needed a general election strategy to cope with Trump for President in a blue state. So,by intent, or by accident the VTGOP has styled itself a political “mullet”cut.vtgopelephaint1

At the presentable front of the “mullet”, gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott has denounced Trump and pledged to write in Jim Douglas for president rather than the party nominee (Scott picked the “Donald Duck for President” ploy). So he isn’t brave enough to totally disown Trump’s deplorable basket of views and  vote for Clinton, as many well known national Republicans are doing.

Randy Brock, the VTGOP candidate for Lt. Governor had supported John Kasich for President and denounced Donald Trump, but as far as I know, remains mostly mum on a write-in Douglas presidential vote — or one for Clinton.

Meanwhile on the backside of the VTGOP “mullet” you can find caucus leader Don Turner in the Vermont House of Representatives joining other Vermont Trump supporters, including Darcie Johnston (Johnston ran Randy Brock’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign). Turner boldly declares: “I am not afraid to say that I’m going to vote for Donald Trump,”  He does add the thoroughly meaningless comment that he will not endorse Trump for president. So,Don Turner isn’t afraid to vote for him, but curiously is afraid of endorsing the man.

So, “Dude! Check out the VTGOP’s hair style! Equivocation in the front, Trump supporters in the back!!” Or maybe it’s not a mullet at all, just a bad GOP comb over.

And coming next week: birtherism goes local: Was Phil Scott born in Vermont? Of course I am not endorsing this ridiculous question, but since people are talking and questions are being asked …!

Carbon Tax Hysteria

I’ve been staying off the GMD front page during my campaign to return to the House, but I just can’t stay silent while the Vermont GOP slings hyperbolic lies in Franklin County and on the internet. Our friend at the Vermont Political Observer has been covering the fuzzy math on this, but I want to call attention to a couple of local candidates who are beating the drum louder and louder in Franklin County.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 8.59.16 PM

I walked in to get some documents about my parent’s property at the Swanton Town Clerk a few months ago around the end of the session, and Rep. Marianna Gamache had left a petition on the counter.  It had a shocking headline: “STOP THE DEMOCRATS’ CARBON TAX!”

A Franklin County Republican once told me that there’s a big difference between being an advocate and being a legislator and boy does someone need to take his advice. The more radical Carbon Tax proposals have no hope of moving forward as is, but they bring up important conversations that we need to be having. I wouldn’t support a carbon tax that dramatically increased the cost of gas or heating fuels in a single year, but there are some related policies that are going to be critical to our energy and transportation infrastructure in the coming years.

One such policy, with bipartisan support, is moving from “cents-per-gallon” fuel taxes to a “vehicle miles traveled” approach to paying for our transportation budget. I drive a hybrid and get 52 mpg in the summer. That means I fill up half as much as the average car, and pay half the amount of fuel taxes. As cars have become more efficient, and some drivers have gone fully electric, the transportation fund has taken a hit. With alternative fuels there is a disconnect between how much fuel you pump and how many miles you drive. We have to make sure the way we pay for the roads is fair and doesn’t overburden a particular group of users. Wow, something Phil Scott and I agree on.
Another example is a heating fuel surcharge to support low-income weatherization. I’ve always thought that it was crazy to give heating subsidies to folks year after year (LIHEAP) when we could make their homes more comfortable and energy efficient with a one-time investment in insulation and other cost-effective weatherization.
So, would Mike McCarthy support a big scary carbon tax that radically increases costs to everyday Vermonters? No. I would however make improvements to how we pay for the heating and transportation programs that are smart policy and better for the environment. These energy policies will save the vast majority of Vermonters lots of money compared to the way we currently pay for heat and transportation programs.
Most of what you just read was published as a response to the County Courier’s candidate question of the week: “Do you support the proposed carbon tax?” Do you know what Rep. Corey Parent’s response to this question was? One line: “No, because we cannot afford it.”
Thanks for the thoughtful discourse on climate change and energy policy Franklin County Republicans. This is about what we’ve all come to expect.

Will Phil Scott need a bigger fig leaf?

Donald J. Trump had rough week after he questioned an Indiana-born California federal judge’s neutrality due to his Mexican heritage. Many Republicans denounced the presumptive nominee’s comments as racist. While some say they’ve had enough of Trump, many will still vote for him.

Blogger Charlie Pierce  puts it all in context: this contempt of judges is not a defect but a feature of Republican politics, and Pierce correctly says Trump’s behavior is an exaggeration, not an aberration.

Part of the conservative brand within the Republican Party has been to attack the integrity of the judicial process, and of the individual judges working within it, every time a decision comes down that sets the flying monkeys aloft.

Republicans, Feel the Quease? For those Republicans feeling queasy due to Trump’s comments — that Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R) characterized as “a textbook definition of a racist” — relief may be at hand. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has a public-service-minded web service for the suffering GOP called Republicans against Trump. Visitors to the site can simply fill out a form, take a pledge and get a free bumper sticker.

And if anyone is wishing to keep score, MSNBC has complied a tally of 64 well-known Republican power brokers and office holders that will never support Trump (but offer no alternative) and a few that will be voting for Hillary.

figleaffPhil 2Here in Vermont the two Republican gubernatorial candidates have taken different tracks dodging Trump. Bruce Lisman is undecided,still apparently withholding judgment on Trump, still “listening to what he has to say.” What do you suppose he will have to hear from the Donald to make up his mind?

And Phil Scott keeps talking about his own common-sense leadership. Apparently though, that “leadership” doesn’t include speaking out against fellow Republican Trump’s racist language.

So for now Scott is reluctant to show much leadership, and he’s looking ever more embarrassingly foolish behind the Jim Douglas for President fig leaf.

Phil Scott supports Hillary Clinton!

Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Phil Scott is helping Hillary Clinton run for President. It must be true: Newt Gingrich thinks so.ScottHRC

 Gingrich : “You’re either for Hillary Clinton or you’re for Donald Trump.

If you’re not for Donald Trump, you are functionally helping Hillary Clinton. I think it’s just that straightforward.”

He can still frame an issue with the best of them, but it seems Gingrich lifted this concept from the Bush era war on terror refrain: you are either with us or against us.

Scott’s declared presidential choice, former Governor Jim Douglas, could prove problematic for those who agree with Gingrich. Bruce Lisman, Scott’s primary opponent, hasn’t jumped on the imaginary Douglas-for-president bandwagon, and significantly, he hasn’t ruled out supporting Trump.

Notice Rubio carried only six precincts !
Notice Rubio carried only six precincts.

Gingrich’s framing also leaves most of elected VTGOP leadership (who endorsed loser Marco Rubio) at odds with local Trump supporters — the biggest block of VT Republican primary voters.

Considering the GOP’s state of disarray it isn’t exactly farfetched that Vermont’s Trump Republicans may start snarling at Phil Scott’s ploy. After all it isn’t much more than a marginally clever dodge to avoid dealing with his party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The big elephant in the room, at the end of May when the VTGOP convenes to choose delegates, will be Trump. Rightwing Republican star John “Tig” Tiegen will be the VTGOP’s featured guest. He is one of the “Heros”of Benghazi (depicted in the movie 13 Hours), a conservative rock star of sorts and an avid Trump supporter.

When he endorsed Trump for President, in February Tiegen said: “Americans want a strong leader, one who cares more about the safety and freedom of the American people than he does winning elections, or what the press might think.”

In the face of Republican cries for a strong leader, it may prove a delicate task for Scott to hide behind his Jim-Douglas-for-president ploy. And even more so when, as the general election heats up, like it or not, he will have to run the race for governor under the Trump flag.Trumpjumping

But for now let’s adjust Gingrich’s remark specifically for Phil Scott: If you’re for Jim Douglas, you are functionally helping Hillary Clinton. I think it’s just that straightforward.

Did Scott Milne just launch a run for U.S. Senate?

Scott Milne recently sold his stake in his family travel agency and began floating serious trial balloons about running against longtime Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. In March he discussed his qualifications with vtdigger.com:

[…] you know, I’m a travel agent and I think I got a shot at taking out the longest-serving senator in Vermont history and currently the longest-serving senator in the United States,” Milne said.

He now, it seems, is exploring whether the investigations into the (alleged ) “Ponzi” scheme at Jay Peak and Q-Burke is an issue that Senator Leahy, a champion of the Federal EB-5 program, may be vulnerable on. Could it have legs for Milne?

mobbingIt seems unlikely, so we will see, but Scott Milne didn’t wait and  jumped head first into it:

“Peter Shumlin and Patrick Leahy have both displayed a lack of competence and a lack of leadership in the way the EB-5 program has been structured and managed,” Milne said, lumping Leahy in with the Democratic governor he nearly defeated in 2014. “On the federal level, I think it just wasn’t structured with auditability and transparency built into it.”

Milne may not have thought this one through. You see he and his business partner Attorney David Boise (his former college roommate and largest contributor to his failed campaign for governor) explored using EB-5 program to help finance their mixed use Vermont development.

B&M Realty and Development has been attempting to build a mixed used development, Quechee Highlands in Hartford near the intersection of Interstates 89 and 91. B&M’s project has been wrangling in the courts over regional land use regulations (one of Milne’s signature issues).

In 2009 at their own expense, B &M partners Milne and Boise joined an EB-5 road trip to Asia with then-Governor Jim Douglas.douglaseb-5Saigon  Milne must have enjoyed the trip.He returned impressed with EB-5 and sang praises to its entrepreneurial qualities without qualification.

“To me, it [EB-5] is the perfect storm of government policy capturing the best of entrepreneurial spirit,” Milne told the Valley News a week after returning from Asia. “I was pleased beyond my expectations.”

Although still hemming and hawing a bit about challenging Sen. Leahy, Milne says former Vermont Republican Party chair Jim Barnett has been advising him.

I’d think Barnett might have told Scott Milne not to tie his shoe laces together if he wants to run … or walk in the election. Penny loafers might be a safer bet for this Republican.milnescottdouglas

Bruce Lisman pitches his southern strategies

Republican Bruce Lisman once again looks to a state down south to find one of his bright ideas for “fixing” Vermont. LISMAN_CHUNK_OUTLINES.indd

Lisman, who is campaigning in the Republican gubernatorial primary, wants to cap Vermont’s budget growth and to that end he casts his budget cutting gaze due South, this time to North Carolina.

In asserting that he could find real savings in Medicaid, Lisman pointed to North Carolina, where auditors found potential for $180 million in savings over a biennium. He said his Medicaid reforms would not unfairly strip benefits from those in need.

Lisman’s suggested southern strategy, according to reports, involves changes that are roiling North Carolina’s Medicaid program. And it is neither fast nor painless, and it is all very controversial:

Hardest hit will be the family practitioners and pediatricians who are supposed to take the lead in providing better medical care for about 1.7 million low-income children and adults in North Carolina. […] In fact, a 3 percent cut in North Carolina’s Medicaid rates, originally slated to start in 2014, took effect Jan. 1 – and doctors may have to go back through last year’s billing and pay that money back.

“This would wreak havoc with the finances of any business,” a statement from the N.C. Medical Society says.

The last time Lisman looked south for inspiration, he found a statewide jobs program from Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana. In this instance, while on one of his Vermont “good Ideas” listening tours, the crowd listened to Bruce praise a D+ rated program from Louisiana.

And it’s as if Bruce didn’t bother or care to do much homework on this one either. A non-partisan research group gave the program a D+ rating. The state-subsidized private-sector jobs created at an annual cost of $1.1 billion had few performance standards, no wage requirements, and according to the state’s own evaluation, subsidized workers unable to afford their own health insurance may fall onto the rolls of Medicaid, negating any positive economic benefits. 

Soooo…Bruce, let’s see how would that work?  Your “good idea”  jobs program is likely to fill up Medicaid rolls at the same time you slash away at Medicaid benefits. Looks like your “new direction” for Vermont might be circular.

So go for it Bruce. A little havoc — kind of like your era on Wall Street circa 2008. No worries for a one-percenter as long he keeps his state’s budget capped at 2% growth?