Toensing’s arrival ushers in new chapter to Shumlin/Dodge land dispute

A high-profile attorney with ties to the Republican Party has become the newest character in an ongoing saga featuring the governor of Vermont and his ill-fated land deal.

Brady Toensing, whose former clients include Republican candidate for governor Brian Dubie, has signed on to represent Jeremy Dodge, the jilted East Montpelier landowner seeking to regain the 16-acre homestead he sold to Peter Shumlin last fall.

Dodge’s children say Shumlin exploited their troubled father by using the threat of an imminent tax sale to snap up for $58,000 a property valued by town listers at $140,000.

But what has until now been a neighborly dispute could soon turn political as Toensing, a veteran Republican operative, enters the fray.

Toensing on Tuesday denied any partisan motivations. In his lone statement to the press, he said he welcomes “the opportunity to assist a fellow Vermonter.”

“Mr. Dodge has been dealing with a sophisticated and shrewd businessman, a businessman who is also the most powerful person in Vermont, represented by one of the best lawyers money can buy,” Toensing said. “Mr. Dodge clearly needed some help.”

Toensing has represented Dubie on at least two occasions, most recently in 2011, when the state alleged that Dubie ran afoul of campaign-finance laws in his 2010 bid for governor by sharing polling data with the Republican Governors Association.

Toensing brokered a settlement in which Dubie paid a $10,000 civil penalty and made a $10,000 contribution to the Vermont Food Bank, though he never had to admit wrongdoing.

Toensing is a resident of Charlotte. But he is a partner at the storied diGenova & Toensing, LLP, a Washington, D.C., law firm founded by his step-father and mother. In a 1998 Washington Post article, reporter Howard Kurtz described Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing as a “classic Washington power couple,” taking to media airwaves to foment political scandal on behalf of Republican interests.

Prior to joining the family firm, Brady Toensing worked as a legislative assistant in the early 1990s for Warren B. Rudman, the two-term U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.

Shumlin has retained his own politically connected lawyer in the form of Jerry Diamond, the former three-term attorney general who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1980 – a race he lost to Republican Richard Snelling.

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