In a lobbyist disclosure form filed with the secretary of state today, Bruce Lisman, founder of Campaign forVermont, revealed he spent more than $200,000 of his own money on the nascent organization between Jan. 1 and March 31.
It’s a significant amount of money byVermont standards, and Lisman sought to get out in front of the news with a press release fired off to news outlets moments ago.
“I am spending my own money because I am concerned about the economic damage current policies are having on lower and middle income Vermonters,” Lisman said in a written statement. “The futures of our state and our young people are at stake. I’ve worked hard and have done well. Spending my money onVermont’s future is more important than standing by passively.”
The Vermont native and UVM graduate made quite a name for himself on Wall Street, where he rose to head the global equities division at Bear Stearns, a position he held when the investment firm collapsed in 2008.
Most Vermonters by now have probably heard Lisman’s voice on their local radio station. He’s bought air time to run dozens of ads, some of which criticize the Shumlin administration’s stance on taxes, health care and energy.
Lisman swears his group is a policy outfit with no political motives. But his sustained focus on hot-button political issues has perked Democrats’ antenna.
The Vermont Democratic Party earlier this year asked Attorney General Bill Sorrell to launch an investigation into Campaign forVermont, alleging the group had run afoul of campaign-finance laws that prohibit 501(c)4 organizations, like his, to advocate for the election or defeat of a specific candidate.
The group’s tax status allows it to raise unlimited funds without disclosing the names of its donors, so long as it doesn’t cross the line into electioneering.
Sorrell summarily dismissed the complaint. But the incident served to expose the adversarial relationship between Democratic party officials and the political newcomer using his considerable resources to air conservative talking points.
Lisman has repeatedly denied any interest in running for political office this year, and he insists his organization is totally apolitical.
“Across the board, the future ofVermont’s prosperity is at risk. From the pursuit of expensive energy, an impenetrable education financing system, an all-in-bet on a new health care coverage system and a state budget growing faster than our economy, Vermonter’s hopes for a more realistic and common sense approach for a prosperous economy are being highjacked,” he said.
With lines like that, he’ll have a tough time convincing people he isn’t out to defeat the Democratic incumbent.
The disclosure forms show that Lisman’s group spent $194,000 on advertising, $15,000 on compensation, and $3,000 on “other.”
The release indicated that Lisman “will continue to conduct outreach” in the future.