Monthly Archives: October 2012

Pro-single-payer group sprouts a PAC, begins pushing statewide and local candidates

The well-funded pro-single-payer group called “Vermont Leads” has launched its own political action committee.

Funded entirely by an out-of-state union, Vermont Leads earlier this summer aired a six-figure ad blitz urging voters to support single-payer. More recently, the group won headlines for picketing outside the Burlington home of Lenore Broughton, who has poured at least $680,000 of her own money into getting Republicans elected next Tuesday.

With Nov. 6 fast approaching, Vermont Leads has turned its focus from issue advocacy to electioneering, launching a PAC that is separate from the tax-exempt nonprofit that aired the TV ads.

Mass media filings submitted yesterday to the secretary of state’s office show that Vermont Leads PAC has spent about $13,000 on a series of mailings supporting statewide and local candidates.

Democratic candidates Cassandra Gekas (lite guv), Doug Hoffer (auditor), Peter Shumlin and Beth Pearce (treasurer) are all featured in the postcards.

The group is pushing five candidates for Senate – they look to be paying special attention to Franklin County and the Northeast Kingdom. The group is also supporting 14 candidates for the House.

Peter Sterling, executive director of Vermont Leads, has been up front from the beginning about the source of the group’s money. The Service Employees International Union doesn’t have a single member in Vermont, but says it’s underwriting the single-payer advocacy because its believes that if Vermont can pull off single-payer, then the program will spread to other states where it does have members.

Some view the SEIU’s interest in single-payer as a ploy to win the political clout it will need to pass a labor bill next year that would allow it to enlist more than 5,000 home-care workers in Vermont.

Brock goes for the jugular in new ad you’ve gotta see to believe

In a new television ad reminiscent of something Vermonters might have seen during the Shumlin/Dubie smack-down of 2010, Randy Brock has broken out the knives with a 30-second spot set to hit network airwaves this morning.

It’s a compilation of Brock’s best political hits from the summer and fall, and touches on everything from Gov. Peter Shumlin’s East Montpelier land deal to the four months he spent out of state during his first 21 months in office.

Keep out a close eye for the infamous Facebook photo of Shumlin with campaign manager Alex Mac Lean and DGA staffer Liz Smith at the 2011 Preakness.

Yeah, Brock went there.

The final touch: a nasty edit job that tries to make Shumlin look like he’s mounting some kind of cover-up over government settlements with state workers.

You’ve got to see it to believe it. Head over to www.RandyBrock.com. If the spot doesn’t show up on the splash page, then click through to the main site and look for it on the right-hand column, underneath the maroon “Volunteer for Brock” square.

According to a mass media filing, Brock will spend $25,000 to air the ad, however the campaign will use the spot to mount a late-race fundraiser aimed at getting it in front of more eyeballs.

 

With only a week until Election Day, pols cede center stage to Sandy

A storm named Sandy may have relegated politics to the backburner for at least a couple days, but don’t expect politicians to batten down the hatches on their campaigns.

With only a week until Election Day, retail politics is in full swing. And Republican candidate for governor Randy Brock today said he won’t let Sandy take the wind out of his sails.

“I always get the best responses at sign waves or other events when it’s snowing and the wind is blowing,” Brock said. “People know you want the job and are willing to endure some discomfort to get it.”

As a practical matter, the storm will force some rescheduling. Incumbent Treasurer Beth Pearce was to have received a high-profile endorsement earlier this morning from former Gov. Howard Dean. The Democrat’s campaign called reporters Sunday evening to say the Statehouse event had been postponed until later in the week.

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Under fire from GOP super PAC, House Democrats launch counteroffensive

Having seen more than 40 of their local candidates targeted by a Republican super PAC in recent weeks, House Democrats on Monday launched a counteroffensive aimed at neutralizing the conservative group’s impact on tight races.

In a series of radio advertisements and mailings, the Vermont Democratic House Campaign and Vermont House Solidarity PAC chides “Vermonters First” for contaminating local politics with outside money.

Fueled by nearly $700,000 from a single donor, Vermonters First has used radio ads and glossy mailings to target local Democratic candidates that, according to the super PAC, want to expand the sales tax and revoke Medicare.

With a mass media budget of only about $10,000, Nick Charyk, head of the Vermont Democratic House Campaign, says he won’t be able to come close to matching the expenditures made by Vermonters First. But he says Democrats couldn’t let the GOP campaign go uncontested.

“In a perfect world I wouldn’t spend any money on this sort of broad messaging,” Charyk said Monday. “But after four rounds of these mailings, the last of which targeted my folks by name, it became clear we had to do something to counter this message.”

Mailings headed to voters in select districts are graphically almost indistinguishable from the anti-Democratic versions produced by Vermonters First.

“I wanted people to read our mailing with those (Vermonters First) pieces in mind,” Charyk said.

Whereas the Vermonters First mailings rail against the ills of “one party rule,” however, Charyk’s version touts the virtues of nonpartisanship.

“When Irene hit, we came together as Vermonters to rebuild our state,” reads a quote on the mailing from House Spaker Shap Smith. “In the Legislature, it didn’t matter if you were a Republican or a Democrat. We were all in it together.”

To underscore the message, the other side of the mailing features a quote from House Minority Leader Don Turner in which he praises Smith’s work during the redistricting process earlier this year.

“We really appreciate the effort of the majority leadership, and the speaker, to allow us to work with them to obtain a reasonable resolution to the redistricting puzzle,” says the quote from Turner, a Milton Republican. “We’re thankful that we were able to work together.”

The mass media offensive also includes four radio spots, one of which features Smith.

“This election season we have seen some misleading ads that claim to represent everyday Vermonters,” Smith says in the spot. “Since our first town meeting, Vermont has been a state where everyone’s voice is heard. Your vote is your voice – don’t let it be drowned out by big money this Election Day.”

It was the first-ever radio ad for Smith, who says claims being made by Vermonters First “aren’t something you want to leave unrebutted.”

For more on the Dem campaign, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.

New poll gives Pearce edge over Wilton

The most fiercely contested race of the 2012 elections could come down to party affiliation, according to a newly released poll of Vermont voters.

A survey of 1,220 likely voters conducted in late September by a left-leaning polling firm out of North Carolina aims to handicap the political horse race between incumbent treasurer Beth Pearce and challenger Wendy Wilton.

When voters aren’t supplied with party identification, according to the survey by Public Policy Polling, Wilton and Pearce are in a statistical dead heat. Asked, however, whether they would vote for “Democrat Beth Pearce or Republican Wendy Wilton,” the incumbent gains a clear 46-percent-to-37-percent advantage.

The $4,000 poll, commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal political action committee based in Washington, D.C., is being used not only to tout the electoral benefits of a ‘D,’ but to show broad support generally among Vermonters for one of the party’s defining policies: single-payer health care.

The poll found that 53 percent of Vermonters “approve of Vermont going forward with Green Mountain Care, a single-payer health care system that will guarantee coverage for everyone in the state.”

The survey found that 38 percent disapprove.

For more on the poll, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald

The Candidates Speak: Attorney General’s Race

We asked the candidates for attorney general five questions about their candidacy for the office. Their responses, delivered by email, are below.

Sorrell, William

Democrat Bill Sorrell

Republican Jack McMullen

Republican Jack McMullen

Progressive Ed Stanak

Progressive Ed Stanak

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: Beyond prosecuting offenders, what role should the attorney general play in curbing the state’s narcotics problem?

Ed Stanak: The term “narcotics” has a specific definition under Vermont law and means “opium, coca leaves, pethidine and opiates…”.
While the attorney general has powers and duties comparable to state’s attorneys in the prosecution of criminal narcotics violations, such prosecutions should be left to the state’s attorneys unless conflicts of interest or other unusual circumstances arise. The role of the attorney general therefore should be one of assessing the effectiveness of existing policies and statutes in order to determine how to best attain a just outcome on behalf of the public interest.
This requires a substantial realignment of the so-called 40-year-old “war on drugs” — a system involving enormous expenditures of public funds and a huge increase in the number of Vermonters subject to the corrections system. The result has not been productive. The attorney general should prepare a comprehensive assessment for the consideration of the legislature. An immediate priority must be stopping the illicit flow of drugs into our communities from pharmaceutical corporations licensed by the government. These drugs are prescribed by physicians and encouraged by health insurance providers to be marketed in large quantities.
A priority would be reallocating law enforcement resources on narcotics rather than on cannabis products, which should be legalized and regulated as are alcohol products. Drug use by many young people is essentially an economic justice issue. Given access to skill training programs and employment opportunities, the use of narcotics and related crimes against persons and property will diminish. The attorney general should seek just outcomes for all members of the Vermont community. Although convictions for violations of existing criminal provisions is a responsibility, a larger obligation is to lead as an advocate for change benefiting all and resulting in more prudent uses of public revenues.

Bill Sorrell: Beyond the prosecution of offenders, the attorney general should use the “bully pulpit” of the office to advise the general public and opinion makers of the extent of the problem, the need for more resources for treatment and to warn of the addictive qualities of the street drugs, prescription medicines subject to abuse and today’s synthetic “designer drugs.”
I have alerted health care providers to the problems of drug diversion by employees in health care facilities. As part of this effort, my office created and has widely distributed the training video “Drug Diversion in Vermont: When Healing Hands Harm.”
I, personally, and members of my staff have presented at trainings and workshops for various groups on drug abuse issues, including two recent programs for prescribers focusing on the efforts of some individuals to “doctor shop” in order to obtain multiple prescriptions for addictive pain medications.
Collaboration is key to more effectively combating drug abuse. Given the many hats worn by the attorney general, the office should continue to be involved in various collaboration efforts.

Jack McMullen: If elected, I would convene a statewide task force comprised of the attorney general, the state’s attorneys, law enforcement, mayors and selectmen, mental health professionals, and members of the judiciary, to hammer out a uniform statewide policy for dealing with drug-related crime. As part of the work of the task force, I envision defining the boundaries between the three types of criminals involved in drug-related crime.
The three categories are: hard core criminals (violent criminals, repeat offenders, drug dealers, and out of state offenders), offenders involved in their first crime with no associated violence (burglaries, house breaks), youthful offenders who are caught with small amounts of drugs for personal use. The first group would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and gotten off our streets. The second group would be sent to a court diversion program to interact with their victims, make restitution, and have their criminal record expunged if they successfully complete the program. The third group would bypass the courts and criminal system and be sent straight to treatment.
Another job of the task force would be to recommend court diversion and treatment programs across the state not just in the selected places that offer them now. In addition, I envision a recommendation for a gradual shift of resources from prisons toward diversion and treatment as the statewide policy begins to gain traction.
The purpose of the approach to the second and third categories would be to set nonviolent offenders on a path to productive citizenship which follow-up studies show would benefit society far more than the offender who, of course, would also benefit.

Who had the biggest impact on your political career? What did you learn from them? And how do those lessons show in your work today?

Jack McMullen: Admiral Rickover. He was a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States at about age 10 in 1910. He left the Tsar’s Russia with his family to escape the manifest discrimination and persecution Jews suffered as a matter of state policy in those days. Despite that background, the Admiral was nominated to attend the Naval Academy and rose, by dint of merit and his accomplishments, to become a four-star officer in his adopted country. He was both a Renaissance man and a grateful patriot in spite of sometimes experiencing discrimination here in the U.S. (albeit a much milder form than in Russia). I learned from the Admiral how to identify what is important in a challenging situation and develop a clear action plan to resolve things in the presence of great uncertainty. I also admired the Admiral’s belief in merit as the sole criterion for selecting his staff. He didn’t care if you were from “Mars” (as a metaphor for someone not naturally aware of societal norms). If you could do the job to his standards, he would hire you and judge you on your performance.

William Sorrell: I aspire to follow the lead of my mother, the late Senator Esther Sorrell. Her fundamental concern for the well-being of Vermonters and her respect for the weighty responsibility of holding public office guide me in my role of being Vermont’s attorney general. Her intelligence, wisdom, energy and integrity are qualities to which I aspire. Every day I try to bring these qualities to the office of attorney general.  My record of achievement of over fifteen years of fighting on behalf of Vermont and Vermonters is a testament to her example.

Ed Stanak: My father was involved in the reform wing of the Democratic party in Jersey City, N.J., a city controlled by “machine politics.” He took me to meetings at the neighborhood reform “clubhouse,” where I listened to the ethnic mix of Italians, Greeks, Irish and others who came together for the common good. One evening before an election all four tires on his car were flattened. The next morning we gathered our signs and went to the polls for the reform candidates. From my dad, I acquired the essentials of political involvement.
While a freshman in college I worked on the campaign of Robert Kennedy for president. I had just left his New York City headquarters when the news of his assassination was broadcast. From Kennedy I learned how passion can be transformed into political action.
I arrived in Marshfield in the summer of 1973 and my neighbor was Wallace Whitcomb, retired sergeant of arms for the Statehouse. Over the years, Wallace taught me the fundamentals of politics in the Green Mountains.
I first met Bernie Sanders in 1979. Over the years I helped with his campaigns. I opposed his first run for congress. My late buddy Stewart Meacham (one of the founders of Vermont’s food coops) and I thought that by opposing Bernie we’d get him to run again for governor. Bernie taught me political perseverance and reconciliation.
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey is a civil rights activist and former legislator from Northern Ireland. She and her husband were the victims of an attempted assassination in 1981 and were shot in front of their children. Bernadette spoke at the Barre Opera House in the late 1980s and stayed at our home. Bernadette instilled in me a sense of political courage despite personal risk.

If you could unilaterally impose one single change to Vermont criminal statutes, what would it be?

Sorrell: I would extend the current six years statute of limitations for manslaughter cases arising from infant abuse deaths.

McMullen: To establish a statewide drug crime policy along the lines outlined in Question 1, so that no matter where a drug crime was committed in our state, it would be treated the same way given the nature of the offense, the risk posed by the offender, and which of the three categories noted he or she fell into.

Stanak: There are actions and behaviors by individuals which are unacceptable and even harmful to members of the community but may not meet the basic legal test of “mens rea” – the guilty mind, knowledge that the act is wrong. One in three of all inmates in the Vermont correctional system have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. Three out of five female inmates have such illnesses. Four out of five inmates have some level of substance addiction. These characteristics are the realities of the Vermont prison system, which now devours more public funds than we spend on college education.
This downward spiral, both in terms of costs to taxpayers and society at large due to outcomes such as recidivism, will worsen unless steps are taken to distinguish criminal acts from acts resulting from illness and addiction. Currently, some state’s attorneys in Vermont recognize the issues at hand and have successfully implemented diagnostic and treatment alternatives to criminal prosecution. Similarly, there are specialized “drug courts” and “mental health courts” in a few counties.
As encouraging as these steps are, they are a fragmented approach to statewide problems. A unilateral change to the criminal justice system would be to implement such programs on a uniform statewide basis. A standardized pre-trial process in all counties identifying individuals with mental illness and/or addiction problems would divert a significant number of people from the criminal justice system into treatment programs with a resulting decrease in costs and, hopefully, a decline in repeat offenses..

Should Vermont Yankee continue to operate? If yes, why? In not, what specific actions will you undertake to ensure it doesn’t?

Stanak: The operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is a danger to the health and economic well being of Vermonters. The plant must be closed. This has been the position of candidate Stanak since 1979 when he wrote a brief to the Vermont Supreme Court on behalf of six Vermonters who sought to shut down the plant.
The current lawsuit regarding enactments by the Vermont legislature to curtail plant operation, and pending before the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, has minimal likelihood of success in ending the operation of the plant because of the factual record in that case and the legal principle of federal preemption. Drawing upon experience as an administrator of Vermont’s environmental laws, candidate Stanak believes that the pending application by Entergy Inc., to the Agency of Natural Resources seeking renewal of its permit to discharge hundreds of millions of gallons of heated water into the Connecticut River is the best means to cease operation of the plant. The state has clear jurisdiction over discharges. The attorney general must work closely with the  Agency secretary to ensure a thorough review of the application for the continued discharge. Evidence will demonstrate that the characteristics of this discharge do not comply with Vermont’s water quality standards and other applicable regulatory standards. Appellate litigation resulting from a denial of the discharge permit renewal would then be the means to successfully close the plant.
An additional comment is necessary. Hundreds of workers are employed at the plant and their future economic wellbeing must be considered in the closure of the plant. To this end, steps must be taken to increase the plant’s decommissioning funds in order to include adequate resources for the retraining of the displaced workers.

McMullen: The attorney general’s shop should not be a policy shop but rather a law enforcement operation. The job of shutting down Vermont Yankee is a policy question properly left to elected legislators and the governor. Our present governing party has strongly indicated its desire to shut the plant down. If they can find a constitutional way to do that, I would defend the law created to put the policy into effect at the trial level and on appeal should that be necessary independent of my personal views on the suitability of closing or leaving open the plant. In my judgment, the current appeal from Judge Murtha’s ruling in the Entergy lawsuit has a very low probability of success. Rather than gambling the $4 million to $8 million it will take to pursue the appeal, I would speak with Governor Shumlin to ask what measures he would like to see Entergy take if it remains open — possibly measures to improve transparency or safety. I would then negotiate the best deal I would with that company in exchange for withdrawing the appeal. We could better use the millions saved to repair damage from Irene or to fight drug-related crime.

Sorrell: Vermont’s law giving our legislature a real say on the future operations of Vermont Yankee should be upheld and thereby give effect to the state senate’s bipartisan 26-to-4 vote against continued operation of the plant.
Consequently, I will continue fighting the Entergy case at the federal appeals court in New York City. My office will also work with the Agency of Natural Resources on the thermal discharge permit process and, as requested, render assistance in the pending certificate of public good proceeding before the Public Service Board.

What distinguishes you from your opponents in this race, and in what specific ways will those distinctions make you a better attorney general?

Sorrell: First, I am the only candidate admitted to practice law in the courts of Vermont. Second, I have over fifteen years of experience as attorney general. The attorney general is the state’s chief law enforcement officer and I am the only candidate with criminal law experience. Prior to becoming attorney general, I served twice as the Chittenden County state’s attorney, spent ten years in private law practice, and was Gov. Howard Dean’s secretary of Administration for nearly five years. I have a very strong record in the areas of environmental protection, consumer protection and criminal justice.
Finally, I have concrete priorities for this next term, including enhancing our consumer protection efforts, stepping up our efforts to improve Lake Champlain’s water quality and putting greater effort into investigating and prosecuting the downloading and sharing of child pornography.

Stanak: I did not attend law school. I learned law through the Supreme Court’s “reading law” clerkship program. I immersed myself in legal work involving criminal prosecution, property law, indigenous peoples rights, contracts and environmental protection. I also taught legal research for more than 10 years to a broad cross section of Vermonters some of whom are now members of the judiciary and others who are practitioners in state agencies and private firms. I have been involved in many grass-roots efforts and organizations ranging from the anti nuclear movement to service as the president of the state employees union when I fought  not only for our members but in the early efforts for health care coverage for all Vermonters.
I worked as a state employee for more than 30 years in administering Act 250 in a strict but fair manner. All of these experiences have provided me with the skills and insights necessary to be an activist attorney general. While I am motivated by a deep sense of commitment for taking action for the majority of Vermonters – sometimes described as the 99 percent – I am also anchored in a firm understanding of process and the ethical obligation for fair application of the law.
Having said that, we are at a “tipping point” in the history of Vermont and I am convinced that if specific actions are not taken for economic justice and in opposition to the corruption of democracy by large corporations, it will soon become most difficult, if not impossible, to restore the socioeconomic equity that was established in the 1930s after a period when many endured enormous suffering and a few prospered tremendously. We have a responsibility to those who will come after us.

McMullen: I have a management as well as a law background that would give me a different perspective in the office. A modern manager would focus the preponderance of resources on the most important problem facing the state. That problem is drug-related crime that has exploded in the last two years and is now at a tipping point. We must act decisively on this problem or risk losing our traditional status as a low crime state. Vermonters have a right to feel safe in their homes and communities. That is why many of them have come here to raise a family or stayed here despite the lesser economic opportunity.
Modern management suggests anticipating problems rather than waiting for them to happen then trying to pick up the pieces with litigation — a costly, time-consuming, and unpredictable tool. I would try to get ahead of problems by advising the legislature when I think laws they are drafting have undue constitutional risk. I would try to advise them of the small corrective actions they could take to avoid constitutional problems while still preserving the core of the policy the law is aimed at implementing.
I would favor negotiation over litigation, as a first approach, in instances of alleged civil wrongdoing. I would be as vigilant as the current attorney general has been on consumer protection against corporations engaged in questionable activities but would add questionable government activities to the list, something he has essentially ignored except for embezzlement cases.
I would investigate situations like Burlington Telecom and the massive apparent conflicts of interest among elected officials, wind developers, and VPIRG — with hundreds of thousands of contributions flowing one way and millions in state subsidies flowing the other.

The Candidates Speak: Lt. Governor’s Race

Cassandra Gekas

Cassandra Gekas

Phill Scott

Phil Scott

 

 

 

 

 

We posed 5 questions to the candidates for Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Cassandra Gekas and Republican Phil Scott. Their answers, provided by email, are below.

Q: It’s April of 2014, and the sitting governor passes away before he was to sign into law a controversial bill with which you disagree vehemently. After being sworn in to serve out the remainder of the term, would you sign the bill? Or use your executive power to prevent it from becoming law?

Phil Scott: If I were ever to find myself in this unfortunate position, I would take a page from the Howard Dean playbook and respect the process. I think it would be important during that time of crisis to establish a sense of consistency. So, to answer the question, I might not sign the bill, but I would not use my executive power to veto it, either. (If the governor does nothing with a bill that crosses his or her desk, the bill becomes law.)

Cassandra Gekas: As an elected official, there are times when you must weigh your personal values against the recommendations of your colleagues or what is politically popular. In Vermont, where the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately, this can be particularly difficult when the two leaders do not have a shared vision for the future of our state. Continue reading

State treasurer race drama picks up again

MONTPELIER — State Treasurer Beth Pearce held a press conference Monday afternoon in the Statehouse after a radio show debate, calling certain portions of her opponent’s campaign “just plain wrong.”
Pearce also called into question a campaign issue by challenger Wendy Wilton over transparency, suggesting the city of Rutland’s electronic reports don’t show the detail of her state office. Pearce also said Wilton flip-flopped on health care stances and was politicizing an office that should be nonpartisan.
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Treasurer’s Race Profile: Wilton & Pearce

From the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus:

Wendy Wilton

Beth Pearce

 

 

 

 

 

By David Taube | Staff Writer

MONTPELIER — The two most prominent candidates for state treasurer are an incumbent who points to a track record of savings to taxpayers and a challenger who sees alarming shortfalls in funds.

One of the most closely watched statewide races for this year’s General Election is between Democrat Beth Pearce, the state treasurer, and Republican Wendy Wilton, the Rutland city treasurer.

“We’ve got serious deficits we got to deal with,” said Wilton, who says her city’s $5 million deficit has become a $3.8 million positive fund balance during her time as treasurer.

The pair’s viewpoints clash in several key areas, including pension reform, how debt affects bond ratings, and when one should issue financial forecasts of the state’s proposed single-payer health system.

The campaigns also have made personal and professional issues part of the race, concerning whether it’s questionable if a top state official rents or owns a home and how much overtime is acceptable in the treasurer’s office.

Read the full article here at the Times Argus >>>

And, don’t miss: Rutland officials say Wilton was a key part of the team by Gordon Dritschilo

Deputy auditor overseeing Pearce probe is supporter of Wilton’s

Joe Juhasz, the deputy auditor assigned to oversee a probe into Treasurer Beth Pearce’s oversight of the state pension system, made a financial contribution to Wendy Wilton’s campaign last month.

Juhasz today confirmed the donation and said he’s a longtime Republican who’s also written checks this year to Republican candidate for auditor Vince Illuzzi and Republican candidate for governor Randy Brock.

Pearce, the Democratic incumbent, and Wilton, her Republican challenger, have locked horns this fall in what has become one of the more contentious races for statewide office.

Juhasz, who gave $200 to the Wilton campaign on Sept. 13, said his support for the Republican won’t in any way color his inquiry into Pearce’s management.

In a letter to Republican Auditor Tom Salmon earlier this week, Wilton campaign manager Bradford Broyles accused Pearce of “inadequately managing overtime expenses associated with the Retirement System Reengineering Project.”

Wilton has said that the 3,000 hours racked up by a single employee over the last three fiscal years are of particular concern.

Pearce has said that the overtime expenses were offset by savings from a position she opted to leave vacant. She said her office has come in $500,000 under budget in the two years since she was appointed to the post.

According to a piece by Anne Galloway at Vermont Digger, however,(http://vtdigger.org/2012/10/19/wilton-presses-state-auditor-for-probe-into-excessive-overtime-in-treasurers-office/ ) Pearce neglected to mention that the overtime costs were being paid for with “special pension funds” not part of the treasurer’s general fund budget.

According to Galloway, special-fund spending under Pearce has increased by about $325,000.

Pearce’s camp said the Wilton allegations are groundless, calling them “election-year politics at its worst”

Juhasz said he’s unconcerned about even the appearance of a conflict of interest as he investigates Wilton’s claims. He said Salmon is aware of his political contributions.

“I said we will do what we always do – send a letter of preliminary review,” Juhasz said this morning. “And then the normal process is to ask some questions so we understand what the issues are.”

While he’s been responsible for overseeing the inquiry, Juhasz said he won’t be part of the five-person management team that decides whether to launch a formal audit based on Pearce’s response.

“I have no way of assessing whether the charges made in the complaint have any validity or not,” Juhasz said. “So the first thing we want to do is educate ourselves about the project and how the costs are allocated.”

Pearce won’t be required to deliver responses to the inquiry until after Nov. 6.

Top adminsitration official moonlights as campaign surrogate

As part of its annual convention last evening, the union representing Vermont’s nurses invited candidates for political office to share with its membership their “health care priorities.”

The Vermont State Nurses Association drew several statewide hopefuls to the event, including Randy Brock, Cassandra Gekas, Bill Sorrell, Jack McMullen and… Steve Kimbell?

Kimbell isn’t running for office, of course. But the commissioner of financial regulation has apparently assumed a role as political surrogate for Peter Shumlin.

“It was after normal working hours and the campaign asked me if I was available and I said yes,” Kimbell said today.

Kimbell said he checked with state lawyers first to make sure it’s okay for him to stand in at candidate forums on behalf of his boss.

“Apparently, if you’re a state employee, what you do on your private time in the political world is your own business,” Kimbell said.

Continue reading

Shumlin campaign up with first television ads since 2010

For the first time in a long time, Peter Shumlin is paying to get on TV.

Owing to his role as governor, the first-term incumbent enjoys pretty frequent face time on network television already. Beginning later this week, he’ll complement that earned media with a $125,000 ad buy that will, according to campaign manager Alex MacLean, “deliver a positive message of Gov. Shumlin getting tough things done.”

“They highlight the fact that together with Vermonters, he’s balanced two tough budgets without raising broad-based taxes, created thousands of jobs, and helped Vermont recover from Irene in less time and less money than anyone imagined,” MacLean said this afternoon.

The Brock campaign, meanwhile, today began airing the last of a three-part ad series aimed at undercutting support for Shumlin. After hitting him on jobs and single-payer, Brock’s team this time is trying to label Shumlin as a “tax and spend” Democrat.

Shumlin this fall has been eager to talk about his record on taxes. He recently told members of Associated Industries of Vermont they’d be hard pressed to find a more fically conservative candidate than himself, R or D.  

According to a mass media report filed with the secretary of state, the Brock campaign also spent about $5,000 on a statewide fundraising mailer that will look to use an anti-incumbent message to raise money, something that’s proven hard to come of late for the Republican incumbent.

Beth Pearce aims to wow with latest campaign-finance report

Beth Pearce over the last month raised more than $53,000, bringing her total for the cycle to about $186,000. Her haul over the last 30 days marks a significant increase over the previous month, when she raised about $37,000.

We just spoke with Republican challenger Wendy Wilton, who said she raised about $25,000 over the last 30 days, for a total this cycle of about $75,000.

From the Pearce campaign:

State Treasurer Beth Pearce announced today that her campaign raised $53,435.00 in the latest finance period stretching from September 15 to October 15. To date, the campaign has raised a total of $186,179.71 from 626 donors.

“I want to thank everyone who has contributed my campaign,” stated Treasurer Beth Pearce. “I am proud of the support of my fellow Vermonters. Together we are building a strong, grassroots organization to ensure victory on Election Day.”

The Pearce campaign’s latest single-month filing of $53,435.00 is significantly greater than the previous month’s showing of $37,259.05.

Campaign Manager Ryan Emerson praised the showing, noting Treasurer Pearce’s increased fundraising momentum. “Since the last filing deadline of September 15th, Vermonters have heard from both candidates and have responded with acclamation for Beth, giving her the strongest single-month fundraising total to date.”

The election will be held on November 6.

Race for treasurer drawing most outside interest as liberal super PAC hits airwaves for Pearce

Vermont’s liberal super PAC is doing what it can to counteract Vermont’s conservative super PAC with a $15,000 ad blitz aimed at promoting the candidacy of incumbent Treasurer Beth Pearce.

With such relatively little drama across the rest of the statewide ticket, the race for treasurer has become the marquis match up of 2012, thanks in part to the huge sums of money being poured into the race by GOP benefactor Lenore Broughton.

The Burlington resident is the lone underwriter of Vermonters First, the Republican super PAC that has spent more than $200,000 on television and web ads and statewide mailings, many of them touting the candidacy of Republican candidate for treasurer Wendy Wilton.

Now comes Vermont Priorities, the liberal foil to Vermonters First, with an ad buy of its own. According to Todd Bailey, a consultant for the group, Pearce will be featured in a 30-second spot set to hit network and cable airwaves tomorrow.

Vermont Priorities’ newfound largesse comes courtesy of some deep-pocketed political moderates, including David Coates, longtime member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, high-powered Green Mountain Power consultant Steve Terry, “Democrat for Dubie” Mary Alice MacKenzie, and (soon-to-be-former) Senate Majority Leader Bill Carris.

Incidentally, be sure to check out Seven Days columnist Paul Heintz’s breakdown of what could be a brewing mutiny in the Vermont Senate (http://www.7dvt.com/2012pro-tem-or-con_)

The ad gives Pearce credit for Vermont’s highest-in-New-England bond rating, and for fast tracking aid to towns struck by Irene. It also mentions endorsements from Gov. Peter Shumlin, who appointed her to the post in January of 2011, and her predecessor, Jeb Spaulding.

Bailey said the group has raised a total of $25,000, and will buy up more air time to run the same ad, if it can raise more money between now and Nov. 6.

Democrats allege illegal use of Vermont seal by GOP super PAC – UPDATED

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Tayt Brooks, treasurer of the Republican super PAC working to support the candidacies of Wendy Wilton and Vince Illuzzi, said group has removed web ads alleged to have run afoul of a state statute that prohibits the use of the Vermont seal in advertisements.

Brooks said he was unaware of the law until he was notified of the possible violation in an email from the Secretary of State’s office earlier today.

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Vermont Democrats today accused a Republican super PAC of violating an arcane statute that prohibits the use of the state seal in advertisements.

Vermonters First, the political action committee funded by GOP super patron Lenore Broughton, has been spending massive sums of money to bolster the electoral prospects of Wendy Wilton and Vince Illuzzi, Republican candidates for treasurer and auditor, respectively.

In late July, Broughton’s shop began airing 15-second TV ads for the duo. More recently, their smiling faces have begun appearing on internet ads.

Those web ads, according to a press release fired off this afternoon by the Vermont Democratic Party, constitute a clear violation of Vermont Statutes Title 13, Chapter 45.

Both of the ads feature an image of the Vermont seal, that enduring symbol of agrarian enterprise made famous by the Vermont inmates who carefully hid those pigs on the state police cruiser decals. But as VDP chairman Jake Perkinson pointed out, a state law dealing with “flags and ensigns” says “the state seal and coat of arms may be used for commemorative medals or for public displays not connected with any advertising.”

The Wilton/Illuzzi ads, presumably, would constitute political advertising.

We put in a call to Vermonters First Treasurer Tayt Brooks but haven’t heard back yet.

“In a race where a Super PAC funded by millionaire Lenore Broughton is already spending it’s money to lie to Vermonters, every detail counts,” Perkinson said in a release. “Tayt Brooks and Ms. Broughton should take down their ads and stop misusing the Vermont state flag and coat of arms for partisan purposes. Vermonters deserve and expect all players in this race to obey the law, Vermonters First is no exception.”

It would be interesting to see whether the law cited by Perkinson would stand up under challenge. The same chapter bans the reproduction of the U.S. and state flags on merchandise. It also features a provision saying you can’t “publicly mutilate, deface, defile, defy, trample upon, or by word or act cast contempt upon” a U.S. or Vermont flag.

Federal law also prohibits the desecration of a U.S. flag, but it’s a totally toothless statute, since the U.S. Supreme Court has on numerous occasions upheld citizens’ rights to burn disparage or in anyway show public contempt for the Stars & Stripes.