Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In Closing Weeks, Outside Groups Spend Half a Million Dollars on Vermont Candidates

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 5:27 PM

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In the past three weeks, outside groups have spent nearly $473,000 on television ads, mailers and other mass media supporting Vermont political candidates.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of that came from the conservative super PAC Vermonters First, which has been almost entirely bankrolled by Burlington super-donor Lenore Broughton.

Since Oct. 6, the organization has spent $322,000 on mass media. The next five biggest-spending outside groups all support Democratic candidates, but their combined spending in the past three weeks pales in comparison: just $138,000.

In that period, $192,000 of Vermonters First's cash has gone to ads and mailers backing the Republican candidate for state treasurer, Wendy Wilton. Thanks to Vermont's quirky campaign finance disclosure laws, it's impossible to determine precisely how much money Vermonters First has spent on Wilton's candidacy in total — but it's likely far greater than that.

Since the super PAC was founded two months ago, it has spent at least $814,000 attempting to influence the election.

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This Week's Paper: Halloween Edition

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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In this week's paper-and-ink edition of Seven Days, featuring an exclusive look at Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's Halloween costumes on the cover...

Illustration by Matt Morris

The Fact Checker: Does MacGovern Oppose Abortion, Even in Cases of Rape?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM

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Each week in Fact Checker, reporters and editors from Seven Days and VTDigger.org will evaluate the veracity of statements and rate them on a five-point scale: True, Mostly True, Debatable, Mostly False and Udder Bull.

CLAIM: “NO-CHOICE: At Least 15 GOP Senate Candidates Oppose Abortion For Rape Victims,” Oct. 26 story on Huffington Post, which said Republican U.S. Senate candidate John MacGovern opposes abortion even in cases of rape.

FACTS: Last week, the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel sought to determine how many GOP Senate candidates share the view of Missouri’s Todd Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock that abortion should be illegal, even in the case of rape. Terkel originally wrote that 13 held the same view, but subsequent corrections to the story reduced that number to 11.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scott Criticizes Negative New Ad from Brock

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 8:41 PM

A new TV ad released Tuesday morning by Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock is drawing criticism from the top elected official in his own party: Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

"I've never bought into the notion that negative campaigning is something Vermonters necessarily want to see," Scott says. "I'm sure there's some portions of the ad that are accurate. It's, I guess, the innuendos. It just seems a little over-the-top to me. I'm not comfortable with that kind of thing."

Brock's 30-second ad brutally slams his Democratic opponent, Gov. Peter Shumlin, on everything from land deals to out-of-state travel to "thousands of taxpayer dollars spent to settle undisclosed discrimination and misconduct allegations."

Here, watch it for yourself:

 

Scott says he first saw the ad during an editorial board meeting with the Barre/Montpelier Times-Argus and the Rutland Herald Tuesday afternoon. He says it reminded him of the nasty 2010 gubernatorial campaign between Shumlin and former lieutenant governor Brian Dubie.

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Shumlin: Vermont "Escaped the Bullet" of Superstorm Sandy And Is Ready To Help Our Neighbors

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM

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As a glimmer of sunlight peeked out of the clouds above Vermont's Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury, Gov. Peter Shumlin had equally bright news to report to Vermonters in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"We are pleased that we have escaped the bullet on Sandy without more damage [and] without loss of life," the governor told reporters Tuesday morning. Shumlin was quick to thank the hundreds of emergency personnel and utility workers who were deployed in recent days, some of whom were pulled in from as far away as Ontario. He also offered resources and equipment to nearby states to help in their recovery and cleanup.

As several million residents of New York, New Jersey and much of New England are without power and cleaning up after devastating flood and wind damage, Shumlin authorized the deployment of two Vermont National Guard helicopters to New Jersey to help in that state's recovery. The governor also said he'll be speaking to President Obama and regional governors and mayors later today to offer any assistance they may need.

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Hurricane Sandy Roundup: Vermont Avoids Storm's Worst

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 11:34 AM

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Vermonters prepped for the worst with Hurricane Sandy approaching, but it looks like the state largely escaped the storm's wrath.

Sandy's wind wasn't as devastating as feared. According to the National Weather Service, gusts in Vermont topped out at 72 miles per hour atop Mount Mansfield, 61 mph near Lyndon Center and 60 mph in Underhill. At its worst point more than 16,000 Vermonters lost power, though that number is now below 10,000 as of this writing, primarily in Rutland, Windham, Windsor and Bennington counties. About six million people in total on the East Coast lost power due to Sandy. As expected, rainfall was not an issue in this storm — most Vermont locations got well below an inch of rain.

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Commentary: The Island of Misfit Candidates. Or, Why Bernie Will Never EVER Lose

Sanders' reelection, forever assured given clownlike opponents.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 10:54 AM

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That Bernie Sanders will retain his U.S. Senate seat in next week's election is a foregone conclusion. So you could be excused for not tuning in to the formality that was the U.S. Senate debate on Vermont Public Television last Thursday night. But if you were one of the estimated 26 people who did watch, then you were witness to perhaps the strangest and most unintentionally hilarious 90 minutes in the history of Vermont politics.

When ol' Bernardo is the most even-keeled voice in the room, you know you've entered a political Twilight Zone. Nothing against the distinguished gentleman from Vermont, but subtlety and nuance has never been his strikeout pitch. Yet in comparison to the rogue's gallery of challengers he faced on this night, Bernie was a vision of stoicism. To call these folks eccentric would be an act of charity so generous that Paul Ryan would probably enact legislation against it.

What follows is a brief rundown of some of the evening's highlights, with a declaration of who really won the day. You can view the entire debate — highly recommended — right here.


NAME: Peter Diamondstone

PARTY: Liberty Union

BASIC PLATFORM: Fuck you, Bernie.

LINE OF THE NIGHT: "Fuck you, Bernie." OK, he never actually said that. But he might as well have — and did catch himself just before dropping a nuclear f-bomb on at least one occasion. Regardless of the question or topic, the ever-agitated Diamondstone attacked Bernie's voting record on military spending, accused the Senator of being a puppet for Lockheed-Martin and repeatedly bemoaned Burlington's impending Sanders-led transmogrification into "Bagram 2." Bonus points for rocking shorts and a t-shirt at a debate for national office.


NAME: Cris Ericson

PARTY: United States Marijuana Party

BASIC PLATFORM: We have no idea.

LINE OF THE NIGHT: Where to begin? Every time the camera panned to Ericson, we found ourselves giggling in anticipation like a stoned 15-year-old. While Ericson's assertion that the F-35s could turn Burlington into a smoldering crater because increased solar flare activity might trigger the planes' nuclear weapons was breathtaking, we're going with this gem from early in the debate regarding the danger of China's relationship with Iran: "When President Obama spoke about the big yellow bird, I don't think he was talking about [Big Bird]. I think he was talking about China. You know, Chinese people, Oriental people are referred to as yellow."


NAME: Laurel LaFramboise

PARTY: VoteKISS

BASIC PLATFORM: No relation to former Burlington mayor and current state Senate candidate, Bob Kiss, or, sadly, the band Kiss — or even Mini-Kiss. LaFramboise's central idea is a constitutional amendment shortening and simplifying legislation to create transparency in government. The KISS part stands for "Keep It Short and Simple."

LINE OF THE NIGHT: One of the more coherent candidates on the panel, LaFramboise made a salient point in her closing argument regarding Sanders' bloated campaign cache: "What he's gonna do with $6.9 million when he's a shoo-in is beyond me." 


NAME: John MacGovern

PARTY: Republican

BASIC PLATFORM: We gotta send somebody out there, right?

LINE OF THE NIGHT: In those moments when he appeared to actually be awake, the Republican Party's sacrificial elephant certainly looked the part of a GOP candidate: a stiff, graying, affluent white guy. MacGovern also seemed to be comically under-informed on issues that didn't overtly involve gobs of money, in particular, the F-35 debate, which he admitted to only having learned about recently. But we found endearing his reliance on the pseudo-catchphrase, "Get the facts and let the chips fall where they may," as an answer to pretty much every question posed.


NAME: Peter Moss

PARTY: Peace and Prosperity

BASIC PLATFORM: Taking down these guys.

LINE OF THE NIGHT: A mix of your kindly Old World grandfather and Colonel Klink from "Hogan's Heroes," Moss is just friggin' adorable. And paranoid. On term limits to discourage career politicians he said, "This helps the real decision makers, who are the Bohemian Club, who meet once a year in July in California. … The politics you see on the media, which the Bohemians own and manipulate, are a make-believe of two parties, which are really one party with a donkey face and an elephant face. I am running to reveal the truth of these machinations."


NAME: Bernie Sanders

PARTY: Independent

BASIC PLATFORM: I'm Bernie Sanders, bitches!

LINE OF THE NIGHT: Under constant attack from all sides for most of the night, Bernie was his usual curmudgeonly self. But both longtime foil, Peter Diamondstone, and moderator Mark Johnson landed blows that seemed to rattle the champ. In particular, when Johnson pressed the senator on whether he'd still support the F-35 as a weapons technology if Vermont were not in the running to land the planes, Sanders not-so-gracefully skirted the question, declining to delve into hypotheticals. It was a cop-out and fairly nonsensical, which, on this night, was par for the course.


AND THE WINNER IS!: Moderator Mark Johnson, for keeping a straight face throughout. His performance was reminiscent of Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek on those old "Celebrity Jeopardy!" skits on SNL. We have to imagine the respected WDEV radio host was calling into question the entirety of his distinguished journalism career when he had to ask Ericson to clarify her breathtakingly goofy Big Bird statement: "Were you suggesting that Mitt Romney, in the debate when he used the reference to Big Bird, that he was not talking about the Big Bird from Sesame Street?"   

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Monday, October 29, 2012

350.Org Activists: Fossil Fuel Industry Stirred Up Sandy

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 6:26 PM

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As clouds scudded across Burlington's skies, about 50 activists gathered on Church Street Monday afternoon to "connect the dots" between weird weather and the fossil fuel industry.

The rally was sponsored by 350.org, a political-action group formed by Vermont author Bill McKibben to address climate change. About a dozen supporters of the movement stood on the steps of city hall holding signs with the logos of oil companies pasted at the center of the meteorological symbol of a hurricane.

The Burlington event took place the day after 350.org unfurled a giant circular banner in Times Square emblazoned with the demand to "End Climate Silence." The New York action was organized on the eve of the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, described as the largest Atlantic storm in recorded history ever to hit the northeastern United States.

Katherine Blume, a local leader of 350.org, told the Burlington crowd that Sandy is the newest dot in a series that includes record-high temperatures, "glaciers melting all over the world" and a growing death toll attributable to climate change. "We saw one of the dots last year with Irene and unprecedented flooding in Vermont," Blume declared. "Why aren't we hearing over and over in the media and in our schools that we're facing a planetary emergency called climate change?"

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Gekas Says She's Been Offered a Job by Public Employee Union

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 6:06 PM

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Election Day is still a week away, but Cassandra Gekas says she has already lined up a new job if her bid for lieutenant governor falls short.

The Progressive and Democratic candidate said Monday she's been offered a job as legislative coordinator — or chief lobbyist — for the Vermont State Employees Association, which represents 5200 state workers.

"I've had an interview with them and they've said they want to bring me on, so now it's sitting there until after the election," Gekas said.

Gekas said she reached out to VSEA executive director Mark Mitchell last week upon learning that the union was hiring. During a job interview last Thursday, according to Gekas, "He said it's yours if you want it."

She added, "I don't know what their processes are like, but I can't do anything official because I want to see where the race turns out. That's where my energies are focused."

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What to Expect From Hurricane Sandy — a Seven Days Preparedness Guide

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 1:30 PM

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So, you wanted some much-needed relief from the seemingly endless barrage of 2012 election coverage and campaign advertising? Well, you've got it — in spades.

Hurricane Sandy now has Vermont's full and undivided attention and will continue to dominate the airwaves and blogosphere for the foreseeable future — or at least as long as the power stays on. (Is it just me, or does the latest NASA satellite photo of Hurricane Sandy look like a huge fist about to punch the entire eastern seaboard in the groin?)

For the latest, straight-from-the-horse's-mouth local forecast from The National Weather Service Office in Burlington, click here

In the meantime, here's the 11 a.m. update from Vermont Emergency Management's emergency operations center in Waterbury:

Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said he does not expect Hurricane Sandy to be another Irene in terms of the scale or breadth of devastation in Vermont. The storm's punch is expected to peak in Vermont at around 8 p.m. Monday night, with the strongest winds and heaviest rains lasting through 4 a.m. Tuesday morning.

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