Campaign Shake-up | Inside Track | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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Campaign Shake-up 

Seven Days has learned that the Jim Douglas for Governor Campaign has undergone an unpleasant shake-up resulting in the departure of two top aides: the campaign’s chief fundraiser and the treasurer.

Longtime Republican fundraiser Darcie Johnston told Seven Days the Douglas for Governor campaign suddenly dumped her last month after a year on the team.

“My contract was up for renewal,” Ms. Johnston said, “and they didn’t want to pay. We went in different directions.”

Sources say Johnston’s dismissal was engineered by Douglas campaign manager Neale Lunderville. We’re told that the campaign’s treasurer, veteran GOP activist Jack Lindley, wasn’t even consulted. As a result, say sources, Lindley abruptly resigned. We’re also told Lunderville was irked at Johnston for spreading the word he’d been caught last month taking a midday snooze in the campaign office.

Mr. Lindley told Seven Days he submitted his letter of resignation on Good Friday — the same day Darcie got the axe. He said he did so “as a result of differences of opinion over the campaign’s direction and its management style.”

Lindley, a well-known Montpelier Republican, noted he’s been a “personal friend” of Jim Douglas for 30 years. He denied he resigned because Darcie Johnston’s contract was not renewed.

“I should have resigned before” she was let go, said Lindley. “I was very disappointed with recent decisions regarding the campaign organization and the direction it had taken.” Ms. Johnston’s departure from the Douglas camp, said Lindley, “was symptomatic of the problem.”

Lunderville told Seven Days that, “Since Jim’s message is really beginning to resonate with Vermonters and fundraising is strong, the campaign didn’t believe we needed to spend large sums of money every month for a private fundraiser.”

Asked about Treasurer Lindley’s resignation, Lunderville replied, “We have differing opinions within the campaign, just as the party does.”

As for the midday snooze, Rip van Lunderville said it was the result of working late into the night and being a little under the weather. He declined to discuss any possible role Johnston may have had in spreading the snooze story.

Mr. Lunderville, 27, is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C. He loves politics and previously served for eight months as executive director of the Vermont Republican Party. This is his first shot a being a campaign manager. We wish him well!


Backlash Against the Backlash? — Last Friday, as the Vermont House took up S. 102, something happened that may signal the beginning of the end for the Vermont Taliban. The bill dealt with the issue of equal pay for equal work. Rep. Neil Randall, the ultra-conservative member from Bradford, offered an amendment that would have deleted the statute that prevents employers from requiring an HIV blood test from job seekers.

For Republican Rep. Allen Palmer of Pownal, enough was enough. Chairman of the General Housing and Military Affairs Committee, Big Al told fellow House members that he was “offended” by Randall’s amendment.

“I said I was offended that they would turn a good bill into a vehicle to use for gay-bashing,” Palmer told Seven Days this week.

Apparently Rep. Palmer was heard loud and clear. The Randall gay-bashing amendment was shot down 130-4. Even members who voted to repeal civil unions last year couldn’t stomach it. Friday’s four gay-bashing votes were cast by Randall, Rep. Nancy Sheltra (R-Derby), Rep. John Hall (R-Newport) and Rep. Kevin Goodridge (R-Albany).

Also last week, gubernatorial hopeful Jim Douglas finally went public to condemn the “hate-filled” tactics of Rev. David Stertzbach, pastor of Williston’s Trinity Baptist Church. Mr. Douglas said he regretted his silence two years ago when the Bible-Belter of Williston smeared Barbara Snelling and Peter Brownell.

Stertzbach is currently on the radio with spots attacking Republican Sens. Julius Canns, John Bloomer and Diane Snelling on the issue of civil unions.

The hate-spewing minister announces at the end of his radio ads that they are paid for by Trinity Baptist Church. Interesting.

Hello, Internal Revenue Service?

Using church funds for political propaganda is a major no-no. This should impact upon Trinity Baptist’s nonprofit tax status. Stay tuned.


Déjà Vu All Over Again — Thursday morning at 10 a.m., Billy Greer of South Burlington and Stephen Hutchins of Colchester will be back in town, but you won’t see them strolling down Church Street.

The fiftysomething homeboys will make their only public appearance in the windowless courtroom on the fifth floor of Burlington’s federal building. They’ll be arraigned, yet again, on federal marijuana smuggling charges. The event is free of charge and open to the public. Come see your tax dollars at work.

Yes, yes, I know. This is the same well-known local pair tried and convicted back in 1997 in Vermont’s biggest and longest drug trial ever. The evidence presented by the government spanned the globe, connecting Mr. Greer and Mr. Hutchins to a Dutch-based worldwide hashish smuggling operation known as Octopus. At times the testimony was straight out of a National Geographic special, with a German sea captain taking the jury from Singapore to the Bay of Bengal and around the Horn of Africa.

The stories of running backpacks full of hashish and duffel bags full of cash across the Vermont-Quebec border by boat, single-engine plane, ATV, snowmobile and foot is the latest official update of Vermont’s rich smuggling tradition.

Since the jury verdict five years ago, Steve and Billy have been enjoying the Adirondack air behind the concertina wire at the federal pen in Ray Brook, New York.

Hutchins was convicted of conspiracy to import and export hashish and marijuana and violating the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, a rather draconian law that extends the blanket of U.S. prosecutorial authority to actions on the high seas far, far away from the United States. He was sentenced to 24 years.

Greer was convicted on the additional count of failing to file a currency transaction report when carrying moneybags across the border. He was sentenced to 27 years.

They appealed the verdict on grounds of juror misconduct and errors by the trial judge but were shot down by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. If they live long enough, they’ll be in their mid-seventies when they get out of prison. Old dudes ready for a nursing home.

The government also appealed. David Kirby, chief of the criminal division at the U.S. Attorney’s office and the lead prosecutor, thought the sentence imposed by Judge William K. Sessions III was too light. He argued the judge should have considered the tons and tons of hashish the Greer/Hutchins crew helped unload in Canada — hash that never made its way into the U.S. The 2nd Circuit agreed and sent the case back for resentencing.

However, while awaiting that resentencing, the boys got a lucky break. A U.S. Supreme Court decision has come down the pike, and it has upset the apple cart big-time. The high court’s ruling in Apprendi v. New Jersey says a jury, not the judge, must decide whether drug quantities deserve sentences longer than the statutory limit.

“We unfortunately got caught in the changeover,” Mr. Kirby told Seven Days. “Greer and Hutchins got a windfall because of [Apprendi].”

Because of that ruling, Vermont’s most famous drug smugglers will likely get their sentences reduced. That’ll mean 10 years behind bars for Hutchins instead of 24. And 15 years instead of 27 for Greer.

Clearly, that’s not music to Mr. Kirby’s ears. When the verdicts were read that May afternoon five years ago, the prosecutor appeared crestfallen. That was because Greer and Hutchins were found “not guilty” on most charges, including that of operating a career criminal enterprise. Conviction on that count would have guaranteed the Vermont hash smugglers life in prison without parole.

In response to the Apprendi decision, Mr. Kirby sprang into action. He dragged witnesses before the grand jury with evidence of a dozen alleged cross-border pot runs by the dynamic duo while they were out on bail. The new indictment alleges Greer and Hutchins made five pot runs by night while attending their trial by day.

Kirby denies there’s any sort of personal vendetta behind his spirited prosecution of Greer and Hutchins. He’s just doing his job.

Hutchins’ attorney, Mark Kaplan, told Seven Days, “We will enter a plea of not guilty and vigorously fight the new charges.”

Meanwhile, outside of the law enforcement arena, the times are a-changin’ when it comes to the War on Drugs. Reality has slowly and steadily crept into the picture. The Republican-controlled Vermont House recently ap-proved for medical purposes the use of the very same product that’s put Steve and Billy and hundreds of thousands of other non-violent citizens behind bars.

Interesting.


Speaking of Mary Jane — Our favorite presidential hopeful got an unexpected medical marijuana lecture last week from a prominent San Francisco politician.

According to a report in The San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno publicly praised Vermont Gov. Howard Dean for signing civil-unions legislation in 2000. Privately, reported the Examiner, Leno urged Ho-Ho to support Vermont’s pending medical marijuana legislation, which is similar to California Proposition 215.

Supervisor Leno is an openly gay man who authored the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s medical marijuana ID program. About 5000 residents of the City by the Bay have received the ID cards. Leno’s message, according to the Examiner, was, “Pot is important to the gay community, too.”

The article also quoted Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Mar-ijuana Policy Project.

“You can’t call yourself a friend of the gay community and be against medical marijuana,” said Mirken.

Our governor, a recognized national champion of gay rights, told the Examiner he doesn’t see the connection.

“If the medical marijuana bill passes, it will apply to everybody,” Dean said. “I can see the link with AIDS, with glaucoma, with cancer, but I don’t see the specific link with gay and lesbian issues.”

It’s been pretty obvious that our favorite presidential hopeful doesn’t want to touch medical marijuana with a 10-foot pole. Of course, three years ago, he didn’t want anything to do with gay and lesbian issues, either.


More DeanWatch 2004 — Busy guy. Ho-Ho spoke to 1000 Minnesota Democrats Saturday at the Hubert Humphrey Day Dinner in Minneapolis and somehow managed to keep his name out of the two major dailies in the Twin Cities. Dr. Dean told Seven Days, however, he got “a great reception.”

Recent additions to his presidential schedule include a May 3 speech to the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Bar Association, a May 4 address to the Empire State Pride Agenda dinner in Rochester, New York, a May 9 speech to the Democratic National Committee’s Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council, and a May 11 speech at the Wyoming State Democratic Convention.

In June, Dr. Dean will speak to medical students at Dartmouth and the University of Michigan and to a mess of Texans at the state Democratic Party convention in El Paso.

Next week, Ho-Ho’s takin’ a little breather. He’s off to Costa Rica on a family vacation.

Let’s see now, how many electoral votes does Costa Rica have?

Just kidding.

On the financial side, Ho-Ho’s PAC, The Fund for a Healthy America, has reported raising almost $30,000 in the first quarter, for a grand total of $138,414 to date.

That’s about what Republican Skip Vallee spent on his unsuccessful bid for the State Senate last time out.

“What’s Dean running for?” quipped Gasoline Vallee. “Pres-ident or a Chittenden County senate seat?”

Funny guy.


VPT Update — Excellent meeting at Vermont Public Television last Wednesday. VPT officials changed their position 180 degrees on yours truly. As you know, we’d been banned indefinitely from “Vermont This Week” since our January 18 comment comparing the Rev. Stertzbach crowd to the Taliban. VPT President John King wasn’t there, but General Manager Dan Harvey was. Mr. Harvey apologized for our treatment. We happily accepted and were subsequently invited back on last weekend’s show.

Gov. Howard Dean was one of many who rallied to the defense of the First Amendment on this one. Dean told Vermont Public Radio’s John Dillon last week, “We all complain about the press, but the truth is that, without the press, the democracy that we have doesn’t work.”

All’s well that ends well, eh?

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.

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