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Monday, July 23, 2018

Dems Largely Unknown in Vermont Gubernatorial Race, Poll Shows

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 12:48 PM

Gov. Phil Scott is the only candidate for governor who a majority of Vermonters have heard of, a new poll shows. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Gov. Phil Scott is the only candidate for governor who a majority of Vermonters have heard of, a new poll shows.
Forty-three percent of Vermonters approve of first-term Republican Gov. Phil Scott's job performance, according to a new public opinion poll, while 28 percent disapprove. Scott's Democratic and Republican rivals, meanwhile, are struggling to gain traction ahead of the state's August 14 primary election — and remain largely unknown to those surveyed.

The poll, commissioned by Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, is the first conducted by in-state media organizations since the 2016 election. For that reason, according to Castleton University professor Rich Clark, it's difficult to determine how and why Scott's popularity has waxed and waned during his first term.

“This is what we miss by not having some regular polling in the state,” said Clark, who ran the Castleton Polling Institute until the university shut it down in March.

The public media poll surveyed 603 Vermonters on landlines and cell phones between July 6 and July 16. Its margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent, though the margin is greater for sub-groups of data, such as political party affiliation. VPR and Vermont PBS hired Clark to craft the questions and analyze the data; New Jersey-based Braun Research made the calls.

The poll suggests that Scott has little to fear in the August primary. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed had never heard of his sole Republican opponent, Springfield grocer Keith Stern. Among Republican voters, 10 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Stern, while 2 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.

The four Democratic gubernatorial candidates on the ballot are also largely unknown. Fifty-nine percent said they had never heard of former Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO Christine Hallquist. More than 70 percent were unfamiliar with her primary-election rivals: Southern Vermont Dance Festival director Brenda Siegel, Lake Champlain International executive director James Ehlers and 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn of Bristol.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Leahy: Trump's Supreme Court Pick 'More Than Frightening'

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 2:18 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy and other senators discussing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy and other senators discussing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Senate has vetted 19 Supreme Court nominees since Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) took office in 1975, but Vermont's senior senator said the stakes have never been higher than they are over President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

“I’ve never seen a president act as though the Supreme Court has to be a wing of the White House instead of an independent branch of government," Leahy said in an interview Tuesday. "And they made it very clear that the president expects it to be.”

Leahy is the longest serving member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to hold confirmation hearings on the nomination. The full Senate must approve Kavanaugh's nomination before he can replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement at the end of June.

As special counsel Robert Mueller investigates whether Trump and his campaign were involved with Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Leahy said the independence of federal courts is as important as ever.

“We’ve got the Russia investigation, which is a significant one, and here we’ve got [a nominee] who said that the president should be above the law when they’re president,” Leahy said.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Sanders Speaks Out for UVM Medical Center Nurses

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2018 at 6:20 PM

Sanders with union vice president Deb Snell and lead negotiator Julie MacMillan - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Sanders with union vice president Deb Snell and lead negotiator Julie MacMillan
Updated 9:51 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized administrators of the University of Vermont Medical Center and called on them to meet face-to-face with hospital nurses during a press conference at his Burlington office on Friday.

More than 1,000 nurses are prepared to strike on July 12 and 13 amid contentious contract negotiations. Nurses are calling for salary parity with the nurses at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, N.Y., which is a member of the UVM Health Network. The union says the hospital is dangerously understaffed because low salaries create long-term vacancies and high turnover rates.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Leahy Bill Would Limit Feds' Authority to Search Near Borders

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 3:44 PM

  • Kym Balthazar
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation Thursday that would reduce the area near international borders where federal agents are allowed to conduct warrantless searches.

United States Border Patrol agents have for years established temporary checkpoints along Interstate 91 in southern Vermont to ask motorists about their citizenship and where they’re going. Some are detained for additional questioning. Because the checkpoint is within 100 miles of the Canadian border, federal law allows agents to do that without a warrant.

Federal law gives authorities expanded power near the borders in order to protect national security. But Leahy said in a statement that a range of 100 miles from the border is unreasonable. The new legislation, cosponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), would shrink the that zone from 100 to 25 miles.

"[T]his 100-mile zone is neither limited nor reasonable," Leahy said. "It includes marine borders. At present, it encompasses almost two-thirds of the population of the United States. This includes major cities such as New York, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles, even the 'border town' of Richmond, Va., as well as entire states such as Maine, Delaware, and Florida."

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Vermont Labor Leaders Respond to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 5:42 PM

Burlington teachers picketing in 2016 - FILE: MOLLY WALSH
  • File: Molly Walsh
  • Burlington teachers picketing in 2016
Labor leaders in Vermont remained resolute in the face of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that is viewed as a historic blow to unions.

The high court determined in a 5-4 vote that nonmembers of public-sector unions do not have to pay dues for collective bargaining.

When unions negotiate with employers, the contracts they fight for benefit all employees, regardless of union status. Nonunion members have been required to pay "fair-share" fees in 22 states, including Vermont, to cover the costs associated with collective bargaining.

The court majority ruled that requiring such fees violates First Amendment rights, since unions engage in political activism. That means workers can opt out of union fees but still receive the benefits of bargaining.

Union supporters, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have decried the ruling as an attack on working people’s power.

Vermont labor leaders said they were not surprised by the decision and remain optimistic that workers will choose to support their unions.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Milne Won't Challenge Scott or Sanders in 2018

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2018 at 8:57 AM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Scott Milne
Republican businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne announced Thursday that he will not run for statewide office in 2018.

Milne told Seven Days last week that he was considering a run for office this year and had hinted that he might challenge Republican Gov. Phil Scott in the primary or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the general election.

The 59-year-old Pomfret resident and travel agency president ran against then-governor Peter Shumlin in 2014 and nearly unseated him. Two years later, he challenged Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) but lost by a much larger margin: 60 to 33 percent.

In an announcement to supporters and reporters Thursday morning, Milne said that more than 300 people had urged him to run for office in recent weeks. He directly criticized Sanders for an agenda he called "arthritic and driven by politics" but suggested that Sanders' reelection was a foregone conclusion.

"With his next term, I believe he has a final opportunity to prove that he is not just another flavor of the careerist politicians who’ve gotten us into this mess," Milne wrote.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Bernie Sanders to Seek Reelection to U.S. Senate

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2018 at 9:44 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
Updated at 12:20 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has formally announced that he is running for reelection this fall.

In a press release announcing the decision Monday, the two-term U.S. senator said he would seek another six years in Congress to continue fighting wealth inequality in the country.

“Our struggle to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent — a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice — must continue,” Sanders said. “And that is why I’m running for reelection.”

The candidate said he would formally launch his campaign in June with rallies across Vermont.

According to campaign spokesperson Arianna Jones, Sanders plans to seek the Democratic nomination in Vermont’s August primary. If he wins, she said, he would “respectfully” decline the nomination and run as an independent in the general election. Sanders would, however, accept the endorsement of the Vermont Democratic Party.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Sean Hannity's Real Estate Empire Includes Okemo Condo

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 6:32 PM

  • Dreamstime/Zhukovsky
  • Sean Hannity
An investigation by the Guardian revealed Sunday that Fox News host Sean Hannity spent at least $90 million on more than 870 properties in seven states — including Vermont.

The story was sparked by the revelation in federal court last week that Hannity was a client of President Donald Trump's attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, whose home and office were raided the week before by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Speaking on Fox News after the court hearing, Hannity said his work with Cohen focused almost exclusively on real estate.

"I hate the stock market," he said. "I prefer real estate. Michael knows real estate."

Hannity loves real estate so much that he bought dozens of properties out of foreclosure over the past decade, according to the Guardian. Some of those were purchased with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — a fact that Hannity failed to disclose during an interview last June with HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

So where, exactly, are the Fox News host's Vermont holdings?

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Welch Takes Campaign Cash From Telecom Regulated by His Wife

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 1:37 PM

Congressman Peter Welch and Public Utility Commissioner Margaret Cheney at a Vermont Democratic Party gathering - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Congressman Peter Welch and Public Utility Commissioner Margaret Cheney at a Vermont Democratic Party gathering
On March 1, Vermont Public Utility Commissioner Margaret Cheney signed permits for three T-Mobile cell towers in Chittenden County. Five days later, the company's political action committee spent $500 hosting Cheney's husband, Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.), at a campaign fundraiser.

Within two weeks of the permit approvals, on March 12, the T-Mobile PAC cut a $2,500 check to Welch's reelection campaign. Soon after that, on March 27, T-Mobile filed another motion with Cheney’s Public Utility Commission, this time to update equipment at a Jay Peak cell site.

Welch and Cheney maintain that neither was involved in the other’s dealings with T-Mobile. They say a strict firewall separates their respective careers.

But the episode demonstrates how their work with regulated utilities could raise at least the perception of a conflict of interest. It also raises questions as to whether Welch has abided by a 2016 pledge to refuse campaign contributions from companies appearing before Cheney’s board.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Sanders Raises $1.26 Million for Senate Reelection Campaign

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2018 at 3:02 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) reelection campaign brought in more than $1.26 million in the first three months of 2018, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.

That's more than five times what the senator raised during the same period last year, but it's less than the $1.29 million he collected in the second quarter of 2017 and the $1.95 million he raised in the third quarter of that year.

Sanders, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1990 and the Senate in 2006, has not said whether he will seek reelection this November. No other contenders had filed reports with the FEC as of Monday afternoon.

The vast majority of Sanders' donations this year came from individual contributors, though the campaign accepted $10,000 from labor and environmental political action committees, such as the Climate Champions PAC and the National Nurses United PAC.

During the same three-month period, Sanders spent nearly $533,000. That left him, at the end of March, with nearly $6.9 million in his Senate reelection fund. But Sanders, who has declined to say whether he would mount a second presidential campaign in 2020, isn't using the money simply to stump in Vermont.

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