Tag Archives: Randy Brock

Potential candidates for governor abound

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin’s surprise announcement Monday that he will not seek re-election throws the 2016 gubernatorial election wide open — and several candidates on both sides of the aisle say they are interested.

A potential surprise candidate emerged Monday when former Shumlin Chief of Staff Bill Lofy told the National Journal that Democratic Congressman Peter Welch “would be the prohibitive favorite” if he were to jump into the race. Welch has served as Vermont’s lone representative in the House since 2006, and has handily won re-election every two years.

Rep. Peter Welch

Rep. Peter Welch

Welch Chief of Staff Bob Rogan said Monday that Welch will consider his options and has not ruled out a run for governor.

“It’s likely Congressman Welch will seek re-election to Congress but this news comes as a surprise so he will be taking the time he needs to thoughtfully consider how he can best serve Vermonters,” Rogan said.

Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith made clear after the legislative session ended last month that he wants to be governor. But Smith said at the time that he did not want to run in a primary against Shumlin.

“I was pretty clear that I was not running … a primary against the governor. I was also pretty clear that I was interested in running for statewide office. So, it does change the dynamic,” Smith told reporters Monday.

Smith said he and Shumlin have worked together for years “for years trying to make sure that the state of Vermont could be an even better place than it is now and I think that we all owe a debt to Peter for his great work as governor.” He credited Shumlin for his response to the devastating impact Tropical Storm Irene had on Vermont.

Smith said he will consult with many people before deciding if he will launch a campaign for governor.

House Speaker Shap Smith

House Speaker Shap Smith

“I need to spend some time talking with my family first and foremost. This would be a really major decision for our family life. I acknowledge that and I want to make sure that they’re on board with it. I also want to talk to friends and Vermonters to see whether they think it’s a good idea for me to run for governor,” Smith said.

As someone who has never appeared on a statewide ballot, Smith could face a challenge with name recognition.

“I think that we all think that we’re better known than we are. I do find myself on occasion in other parts of Vermont where people say, ‘You’re that speaker guy, right?’” he said. “I don’t think any of us should overestimate how many people know us.”

Meanwhile, former state senator and current Google executive Matt Dunne, has made clear that he’s also itching to return to the Vermont political scene as governor. Dunne, who was part of the five-way Democratic primary in 2010 that Shumlin eventually won, said he plans to consult with his wife, Sarah, as well as his past supporters, before making a decision.

“As I shared with people during the campaign five years ago and more recently, there’s no better job in the world than to represent the people of the state of Vermont and to be able to have a role in helping to move the state forward,” he said. “I will absolutely be considering a run for governor. I’ve been flattered by the large number of phone calls and text messages and Facebook messages and emails I’ve received this afternoon and will take time to talk things over with Sarah and a number of people across the state of Vermont before making a decision.”

Dunne, who is the head of community affairs for Google, said he is not setting any time frame for announcing his decision.

Matt Dunne

Matt Dunne

“I’m not going to set a hard date. It’s going to depend on making the time to have that conversation with Sarah and my kids, who are old enough to be aware of what a campaign means this time, as well as touch base with folks who have supported me in the past and others who have just reach out to me today,” he said.

Doug Racine, a former lieutenant governor and candidate in the 2010 Democratic primary, could also consider a bid. He was fired as secretary of the Agency of Human Services last year by Shumlin.

A number of Republicans have been considering a run — even against Shumlin if he were to run again. But Monday’s announcement by the governor may make the prospect of running even more appealing.

At the head of the pack is Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican and a member of Shumlin’s cabinet, who said last week he is considering a run for governor. Scott, known for being an affable politician but one who has not yet had to take strong policy stands as lieutenant governor, said he intends to decide his political future over the next several weeks. Monday’s announcement, he said, will not impact that decision.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

“Certainly it was a bit of a surprise, coming today, but as I’ve said consistently, whether the governor decided to run or not run will have no bearing on my decision making,” Scott said. “I’ll contemplate this over the next few weeks.”

Scott said he wants to be governor if the situation is right.

“Sure. I think that given the right circumstances, if I think that I’m the right person to lead Vermont and can help in some way, and my family and business will survive this, then I want to be governor,” he said. “It has to be more than about you. It has to be about others and the whole of Vermont.”

The lieutenant governor was not at Monday’s announcement and said Shumlin did not tell him before making the public announcement.

“I understand. Politics is what it is. I’m not surprised. This obviously had to be a tough decision to make and he wanted to share it with those closest to him,” Scott said.

Former State Auditor and Sen. Randy Brock, who was soundly beaten by Shumlin in 2012, says he may also seek the governorship.

Randy Brock

Randy Brock

“I’m certainly considering running again and been talking with people over the past several weeks and have some more to do. It’s something I’m considering but no decision has been made. It’s a decision that will be made over the summer,” he said.

Brock said any potential candidate “needs to declare relatively early because there’s a lot of work to be done, not the least of which is significant fundraising challenges.” Shumlin’s announcement, Brock said, will not sway him in either direction.

“It was always a possibility, and probably a real one after the 2014 election, that Gov. Shumlin would not run again,” he said.

Scott Milne, meanwhile, who lost a razor-thin election to Shumlin in November, said he has not yet determined if he will again seek the office. He said be believes “t’s a good move by Peter to step aside.”

“I believe Vermonters are more aware now than at any time this decade just how bad things are, and how much needs to change in order to save Vermont,” he said. “Whether as a candidate, or as a citizen helping good people get elected in 2016, I am looking forward to the campaign trail again.”

Now that the race for governor features no incumbent, more candidates could explore the idea of entering the race.

Shumlin said during his afternoon announcement that he will work to support the Democratic nominee in 2016.

“I’m going fight to ensure that whoever takes my place as governor is a Democrat with the values and priorities to build upon, rather than undermine, the extraordinary progress we have made,” he said.


Brock bows out

MONTPELIER — Republican Randy Brock, the Vermont GOP’s nominee for governor in 2012, announced in an email Sunday that he will not challenge Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin again this year.

Brock, a former state auditor and state senator, had been publicly mulling a run. His decision comes after Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann and former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman already bowed out this year.

Scott Milne, president of Milne Travel, is the only other known Republican considering a run. Milne has said he wants a primary, however.

“I will not be a candidate for Governor of Vermont in 2014,” Brock wrote in his email. “This decision has not been easy to reach. I have arrived at it over several months after careful thought, much input and serious deliberation.”

Brock lost the 2012 race to Shumlin after winning only 38 percent of the vote after putting about $300,000 of his own money into the campaign. Brock said he was not prepared to pump his own cash into a race this year.

He said he is opting out of challenging Shumlin again this year despite persistent urging to do so from supporters.

Randy Brock

Randy Brock

“I am thankful to the many Vermonters who have called upon me to run. I have heard from people from all over our state offering words of encouragement,” he wrote. “This outpouring of support from so many has been extremely heartening and I will always be grateful for their unwavering loyalty.”

Brock, noting that his name will not appear on a ballot for the first time in 10 years, said he will miss being out on the campaign trail. But, sitting the election out “is the right decision for me and my family,” he said.

He pledged to remain “involved in helping to shape public policy.” The former auditor also said he plans “to continue to contribute to the debate through critical analysis and commentary.”

Lisman declines gov bid

MONTPELIER — Campaign for Vermont founder and former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman announced Wednesday he will not launch a bid to unseat Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Lisman, the former chairman of the JP Morgan Chase Global Equity Division, said he was considering a campaign for governor at the urging of Vermonters. But in a statement issued Wednesday Lisman said he will instead focus on advocacy efforts.

“I love Vermont and believe that she faces serious challenges as seldom before in her history,” Lisman said in his statement. “At this time, however, I believe I can best contribute to improving Vermont’s future by publicly and vigorously advocating for a focused, core set of moderate, nonpartisan and common sense government reforms. Indeed, this coalition building effort is the best approach to policy change and consistent with my focus since 2011.”

Bruce Lisman

Bruce Lisman

Wednesday’s announcement follows on the heals of one made by Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, who just last week said she would not seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination and challenge Shumlin, a two-term Democrat.

Scott Milne, president of Milne Travel, and Randy Brock, a former state senator auditor and the GOP’s failed 2012 nominee, are the only other known Republicans considering a run.

Lisman was being viewed by Democrats as a serious challenger. The Vermont Democratic Party in recent months attacked Campaign for Vermont, a group that Lisman has pumped more than $1 million into, for being a conservative organization cloaked as a nonpartisan advocacy group.

Despite declining to run, Lisman’s announcement included an indictment of Shumlin’s tenure as governor, saying Vermonters are concerned about the state’s future. He said he plans to focus on the need for job growth and economic development, comprehensive ethics standards in government, transparency in health care reform and reducing property taxes.

“The vast majority of Vermonters, from all different parts of the state and all different backgrounds, want to see expanded job opportunities and economic growth which stem from a stronger business environment, a return to responsible budget management, ethics standards in government, enhanced transparency, particularly on health care, and a better and more effective education system,” Lisman said.

The plans Lisman laid out in his announcement could set him up for a future run.

“I will focus on showcasing the public’s growing frustration about these issues and the need to implement tangible solutions for true change, change that Vermonters are demanding” he said. “Vermonters have made it clear they are not satisfied with the direction of the state and I will make it my mission to influence citizen-led forward progress.”

In September report, Shumlin administration told of “critical” problems with insurance exchange

Acknowledging the severity of the technological glitches in Vermont’s new health insurance website, Gov. Peter Shumlin Thursday issued a surprise announcement extending the deadline by which residents will have to enroll for policies in the new marketplace.

But key members of the administration have known since at least the middle of September of defects in Vermont Health Connect, some of which, they were told by outside consultants, were potentially substantial enough to derail the enrollment timeline.

In a 192-slide Power Point presentation, conducted on Sept. 11 and 12 and prepared at the behest of the federal government, managers at the Department of Vermont Health Access detailed a range of “risks” in the online marketplace, and presented “workarounds,” “mitigation” plans, and “contingencies.”

The so-called “Operational Readiness Review” also includes a presentation from Gartner, Inc., a Connecticut-based tech consultant hired to review the website. Gartner concluded that Vermont Health Connect should be given “RED” status – as opposed to ‘yellow’ or ‘green’ – “due to significant risks to meeting the October 1st deadline for Go-Live.”

The most “critical risks,” according to Gartner:

  • “Time in the schedule to remediate errors found in testing is minimal and unexpected difficulty in resolving system issues will put the schedule at risk. Concurrent System and User Acceptance Testing will be occurring in the Staging environment, which creates complexities in test execution (data management; user management; etc.).”
  • “The project schedule continues to be compressed as environment availability issues delay deployment and testing. Additional delays will put the Go-Live date of 10/1 in jeopardy. The project schedule must be updated to account for delays and changes immediately communicated to project stakeholders to determine resource and schedule impact.”
  • “Delivery of the production environments has been delayed and there is a risk there will not be sufficient time remaining in the project schedule to adequately test or address defects, potentially delaying the ability to go live on 10/1. Significant configuration issues delayed the availability of development environments and the production environments are significantly more complex.”

Verbiage used in the Gartner analysis is typical of the technolog-ese employed through the slide show, a copy of which is attached below. The document was requested first from the administration by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.

Portions of the slide show – provided to the Vermont Press Bureau in a separate records request – have been redacted, because they contain information that could compromise the security of the site.

The slide show also features concerns about things like insufficient training for navigators; the ability of consumers to enroll through the web; and the lack of in-house manpower that might be needed to deal with the volume of paper applications in the event of online dysfunction.

That the administration knew about possible defects on the site isn’t revelatory – Shumlin, his health care czar Robin Lunge, and Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson have long said there would “hiccups” and “bumps in the road.”

More surprising, perhaps, is the confidence Shumlin was conveying publicly as recently as last week, when he told a gaggle of skeptical reporters that everything was under control. Amid growing concern over problems being encountered by small businesses and individuals, Shumlin reassured the press that his team would have the problems solved in time to meet the Jan. 1 deadline by which Vermonters needed to have new plans, lest their existing policies lapse.

The new deadline gives residents until March 31 to make the transition, and will allow them to renew their existing policies for another three months. That move has prompted its own set of questions, including whether or not people who take advantage of the extension will be subject to a full yearly deductible for the three-month extension, or if it will be pro-rated based on the length of the term.

Asked on Vermont Edition today by Bob Kinzel whether he knew ahead of time how problematic the roll out might be, Shumlin said “we did not know the magnitude the challenges we were going to face.”


On eve of big launch, Brock says new insurance market is a disaster waiting to happen

One of Peter Shumlin’s chief political rivals has exposed what he says are troubling misfires by the technology firm being paid more than $80 million to construct the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.

Randy Brock, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost his bid last year to unseat the Democratic incumbent, has authored an op-ed alleging that CGI Systems and Technologies has missed all but four of the 21 “critical milestones” written into its $84 million contract.

Based on a review of contracts signed by the Shumlin administration, Brock said the state has also failed to collect millions of dollars in financial penalties owed by CGI for missing the deadlines.

The Shumlin administration says CGI has in fact missed more than half of its stipulated deadlines, and that the contractor is on the hook for more than $5 million in penalties, though the administration has yet to make any attempts to retrieve the money. 

Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson said he “fully expects” the penalties will be assessed, but that the state’s priority right now is on getting the exchange up and running. 

Brock says the missed deadlines are symptomatic of system-wide failings in “Vermont Health Connect,” the web-based insurance portal set to launch on Tuesday. And the technological shortcomings, Brock alleges, could threaten the insurance security of the more than 100,000 Vermonters who will soon be required to enroll in plans sold on the new website.

“(D)espite the multimillion dollar advertising campaign, despite the governor’s promise that everything is working fine and the system is on target, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brock writes in his op-ed. “The fact of the matter is this: The system doesn’t work.”

The accusations usher in to Vermont some of the same heated political rhetoric that has characterized the debate over the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill. After remaining mostly silent publicly since his 20-point loss to Shumlin last November, Brock’s op-ed, published Sunday on VTDigger.org, has stoked the embers of a health care debate that figured heavily in the race for governor last year.

News of the missed deadlines, and the uncollected penalties associated with them, was first reported publicly by VTDigger.org last Friday evening. Digger reported the information before it published Brock’s op-ed, but after it received a version of his 2,200-word commentary Friday morning.

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, an organization run by Brock’s former campaign manager, Darcie Johnston, that has been critical of Shumlin’s reform proposals, is featuring Brock’s claims in a media campaign launched Monday. The campaign will include social media outreach, and robo-calls to “thousands” of Vermonters warning them they “could be left uninsured in just three months,” and asking them to call the governor’s office to ask him to delay implementation of the exchange mandate.

The Vermont Democratic Party, meanwhile, hit back on behalf of the Shumlin administration with a press release issued Monday afternoon.

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

Brock ends his campaign for governor

Republican Randy Brock conceded the race just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Before the speech, he had been unable to reach Gov. Peter Shumlin, but he said he planned to wish him success as governor.
“This is the final chapter in the greatest experience that I’ve had in my entire life,” he said.
He plans to remain in public policy 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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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.

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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.

In new ad buy, Brock targets single-payer

Today marks the beginning of another 10-day ad buy for Republican challenger Randy Brock, who will spread about $70,000 between three network TV stations to reach into living rooms across Vermont.

His message to voters this time: Peter Shumlin’s single-payer health care plan “will result in the largest tax increase in Vermont history.”

The 30-second spot opens with Shumlin himself announcing the birth of single-payer on the steps of the Statehouse. But a cautionary female voiceover soon warns viewers that all is not as well as Shumlin would have you believe.

“Wondering how this is going to work? Higher taxes, reduced choice, price controls, rationing of service, doctors leaving,” she says.

In what seems to be the formula for Brock’s autumn ad rollout – a 10-day run of commercials knocking Shumlin’s handling of the economy just expired – the second half of the spot turns the camera’s focus away from the Democratic incumbent and on to the Republican challenger.

“And we don’t know how we’re going to pay for it. We don’t know the effect that it will have on our providers,” Brock says. “And we know in all likelihood that it will result in the largest tax increase in Vermont history.”

For a guy with only about $240,000 on hand as of Sept. 15, Brock is hitting the airwaves pretty heavily. He’s spent $140,000 now on 20 days worth of ads, and told reporters yesterday that he had not loaned his campaign any more money.

Either the Brock camp has ratcheted up its fundraising pace consdirably, or the well is nearly dry.

Shumlin, meanwhile, has yet to spend a dime on television, and campaign manager Alex MacLean has declined to say when, or even if, they’ll go up on the airwaves.

Shumlin had nearly $900,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 15. At the rate he’s spending, he may well have a seven-figure war chest. On the day after the election.


With Republican friends like Lauzon, who needs enemies?

Tom Lauzon has carved out a reputation as a bit of a political showman, and at a press conference this morning in which seven of the state’s eight sitting mayors endorsed Peter Shumlin, Lauzon did not disappoint.

The Republican mayor of Barre City didn’t merely endorse the Democratic incumbent, he chided his party for even running a candidate against him.

“I think (Republican challenger) Randy (Brock) is absolutely a fine man,” Lauzon said. “But I think quite frankly this was an ill-advised campaign and people are going to spend a lot of money to try to replace a leader who doesn’t need to be replaced.”

Though he was the lone dyed-in-the-wool Republican on hand to endorse Shumlin, he was by far the most enthusiastic. Lauzon has come a long way since taping the anti-Shumlin robo-calls that rained on Vermont homes on the eve of the 2010 election.

“Brian (Dubie) was, is, and always will be a good friend,” Lauzon said.

But ever since Shumlin in early 2011 went to his house, had a sandwich, and talked things over, Lauzon said he’s been a happy member of Team Shumlin.

“When the governor said he’d like to come have lunch with me and sit in a private setting, I said, you know, here we go – it’s going to be robo-call revenge,” Lauzon said. “But I was struck at how anxious the governor was and how sincere he was to work with me. He said, ‘look, campaigns aside, difference aside, I want to make things better.’”

So why did Lauzon and his wife contribute a total of $4,000 to the Brock campaign?

It’s not that he supports the candidacy, Lauzon explained, but that he had to smooth things over with the GOP for so publicly getting behind Shumlin.

“I received a call from Mark Snelling. Mark said, ‘Republicans are very disappointed that you endorsed the governor.’ And I said, ‘yeah, I understand that Mark,’” Lauzon said. “And he said, ‘I’m very disappointed.’ I said, ‘Mark, I absolutely understand that …’ And he said, ‘if you send $4,000 then you’re off the hook.’ So I did.”

Not that it’ll make any difference, Lauzon said later.

“I have a lot of respect for Randy but quite frankly I think we could send him $40,000 and I don’t think it changes the result at the end of the day,” Lauzon said.

Lauzon tried to put it in perspective later, saying a $4,000 penance to get back in the good graces of the Republican Party isn’t so steep.

“I suppose over the years if I had to add up all the bouquets of flowers that I bought for (my wife) Karen and dinners that I bought when I was like, oh dammit, I was supposed to do that? I forgot,” Lauzon said to a few reporters after the press conference. “You know, it probably comes to a lot more than four grand.”

As for sharing the genesis of the $4,000 Brock contribution publicly, Lauzon said there’s no shame and nothing to hide.

“That’s the honest story. Mark called and said, ‘we’re really upset with you.’ I said, ‘Mark, I get it,’” Lauzon said. “So basically four grand got me of the hook and I wrote the check.”

And if Snelling is upset about the public airing of Republican’s dirty laundry?

“There’s nothing about this that’s private,” Lauzon said. “It was a conversation. I’ve been asked and I offered the truth. So, you know, if they don’t like it, I’m sorry. Don’t make the call again.”


Anti-single-payer group to take to Vermont airwaves

Four weeks after cutting its first television ad, the state’s leading anti-single-payer group has finally raised enough money to put it on the air.

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom will spend about $12,000 to run the 30-second spot on WCAX and WPTZ between now and the end of the October.

Jeff Wennberg, executive director of the organization, says that with Election Day on the horizon, it made sense for the group to bring the message to a statewide audience. The ad will run during “news and information” shows, he said.

“The good thing is that prior to an election, people are thinking about policy matters and thinking about the direction state and our nation are headed,” Wennberg said this afternoon.

Production was a low-budget affair. The spot, titled “Bureaucrats,” was made using donated space and unpaid volunteer “actors,” according to Wennberg.

“Even so we believe it effectively communicates the message that once the government has full control of our health care system, our access to needed services will be limited, not by medical professionals but by unaccountable bureaucrats in the name of cost containment,” Wennberg said when the ad was released on the internet last month.

The spot features a woman, facing a potentially dire prognosis, and a doctor saying, “I think we need to run a test, if that’s okay.”

“That’s okay with me,” the female patient says.

“Sorry – I wasn’t talking to you,” the doctor says. “Is that okay with you?”

The conceit here is that the doctor is in fact talking to the “bureaucrats” that Wennberg says would, under a single-payer system, be empowered to make health care decisions on behalf of Vermonters.

“Gov. Shumlin’s single-payer health care plan gives unaccountable bureaucrats the power to limit the care Vermonters receive,” the ad says.

As a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization, Vermonters for Health Care Freedom is permitted to engage only in “issue advocacy,” and cannot advocate for the election or defeat of a specific candidate.

Despite the use of Shumlin’s name in the ad, and the fact that it’ll be running on the eve of an election, Wennberg says the group is on sound legal footing.

“We are certainly not advocating that anyone vote for or against any candidate,” Wennberg said. “I believe we mention that the single-payer program is Gov. Shumlin’s single-payer program, and the ad speaks directly to concerns for what that program will do to the doctor-patient relationship if it’s implemented. I think that’s fair game and I don’t think we have any (legal) issues there.”

Republican challenger Randy Brock, who yesterday outlined in greater detail his free-market alternative to single-payer, has made opposition to Shumlin’s health care plan one of the touchstones of his fall campaign.

Wennberg said the ad campaign is also intended to provide a countervailing view to the pro-single-payer ads run by the organization “Vermont Leads” earlier this summer. That group, funded entirely by a chapter of the Service Employees International Union, spent about $100,000 on the ad campaign.

Wennberg has not disclosed the sources of funding for Vermonters for Health Care Freedom.

Untruth and consequences: Super PAC head denies, then admits, dinner with Brock

The head of Vermont’s new Republican super PAC stepped in it big time today when he lied to Seven Days reporter Paul Heintz about the last time he’d met with GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.

Brock this morning held court with reporters outside the Central Vermont Medical Center to expand on the health care proposal he first unveiled earlier this month. When the topic of the GOP super PAC “Vermonters First” came up, Heintz asked Brock about whether he’d met recently with the group’s treasurer, Tayt Brooks.

Why would Heintz care?

The same federal laws that permit super PACs to spend unlimited sums of money to influence the outcomes of elections also forbid them from coordinating their activities in anyway with the candidates whose political prospects they’re trying to propel.

Brock was candid, saying he’d had Brooks over to dinner the night before. Brooks formerly served as executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, and Brock said the two are friends who get together on occasion.

But he was adamant the two did not discuss politics.

“The point is, we didn’t talk about campaign stuff,” Brock said. “He’s not involved in my campaign.”

Immediately after the press conference, Heintz (brilliantly) put in a call to Brooks to get his answer to the same question: when was the last time you met with Randy Brock?

According to Heintz, who details the exchange on his blog, Off Message, at www.sevendaysvt.com, Brooks “at first claimed he hadn’t seen the gubernatorial candidate in months.”

“Asked when he last saw Brock, Brooks said, ‘I really honestly don’t know.’ Asked again, he said, ‘I have to think about it.’ Asked a third time, he said, ‘The last time I saw Randy Brock was probably a few months ago,’” Heintz reports.

Told that Brock had minutes ago shared with the media news of their dinner the night before, Brooks began singing a different tune.

“I did meet with Randy last night,” he told Heintz. “I happened to catch up with Randy last night.”

Neither Brooks nor Brock would talk about what they discussed at Brock’s Franklin County home.

“It was a private conversation,” Brooks told Heintz. “It was not related as far as anything with Vermonters First.”

The dinner conversation between Brock and Brooks may have been within the law. But Brooks’ misstep today certainly won’t inspire public confidence in the super PAC’s independence from the candidates on whose behalf it’s working.

While Vermonters First hasn’t yet run ads specifically championing Randy Brock, a newly released ad critical of single payer asks voters to “Elect balance” in November.

The Vermont Democratic Party was quick to seize on the controversy.

“Clearly Vermonters can’t believe what Tayt Brooks says and it’s no surprise that his organization’s ads are misleading, counterfactual, and negative,” VDP Chairman Jake Perkinson said in a release. “We take any potential collaboration between Randy Brock’s campaign and the Super PAC Vermonters First very seriously. Tayt Brooks repeated refusal to discuss the meeting between himself and Randy Brock only casts further question on the potential collusion. Voters expect and deserve candidates that will not only comply with Vermont law, but also provide an honest and factual conversation.”

Weedmaps aims to help Shumlin find path to victory

Remember the flap in early August over Peter Shumlin’s plea for campaign donations from a national organization that wants to legalize marijuana?

Well Republican challenger Randy Brock ought to have even more fun with the latest cannabis-related contributor on Shumlin’s campaign-finance disclosures.

“Weedmaps Media Inc.” sent the Democratic incumbent a $2,000 check last month. And as the company’s tagline indicates, the online outfit is dedicated to helping medical marijuana enthusiasts “Find Your Bud.”

According to estimates from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which itself has given $2,000 to the Shumlin reelection campaign, Weedmaps is the country’s premier medical marijuana dispensary directory, connecting more than 1 million medical marijuana patients to thousands of cannabis dispensaries nationwide.

Medical marijuana is a serious issue for the chronically ill Vermonters whose pain it helps alleviate. Weedmaps, however, seems to be courting a more recreational user base.

The main page, for example, features a live chat called “What R U Smoking On?” wherein users submit Tweet-length reviews of their current bud of choice.

“Blazing that blue skunk fire dank,” reports “Carnalito22.”

For “Caligoodbud,” the “Starfire bubba kush” has been going very nicely.

Users can also find reviews of dispensaries and their products, to find out in advance whether items like Dr. J’s Buzz Buttons are worth the scratch.

To see how it all works, head over to weedmaps.com, type in your zip code, and the site will reveal medical marijuana dispensaries in your region.

No prescription? No problem.

The good folks at Weedmaps have compiled a roster of physicians eager to provide patients with the doctor’s approval they need to buy their buds legally in states likeCalifornia,Colorado,WashingtonandMichigan.

Type in the zip code for Montpelier, and the site will direct you to a pair of dispensaries inMontreal– Le Holistique Collectif and the Montreal Compassion Centre.

Vermont doesn’t have any medical marijuana dispensaries. Yet. On the heels of controversial legislation passed with Shumlin’s support in 2011, public safety officials last week gave the go ahead for two dispensaries to be located in Waterbury and Burlington. The dispensaries could open their doors as early as next year.

We put in a call to the Weedmaps headquarters in Newport Beach, California, to find out what it is about Shumlin that so impressed them. No response so far.

Shumlin campaign manager Alex MacLean said the donation arrived unsolicited in the mailbag.

“Clearly this is a business that agrees with the governor’s belief that marijuana should be decriminalized in order for our limited resources to be targeted more effectively,” MacLean said.

She said the campaign had vetted Weedmaps, and found it to be a suitable outfit from which to accept a campaign donation.

Strict regulations on the number, size and operating protocols of dispensaries in Vermont were designed to avoid the proliferation of dispensaries in places like California and Colorado, where more permissive guidelines have basically provided an end-run around criminal marijuana statutes.

If future legislation opens the dispensary doors a little wider here, good to know Vermonters will have a Weedmap to help us find our bud.