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.”