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Paying for Innocence 

Fair Game

Published August 11, 2010 at 10:13 a.m.

Fair Game is Seven Days’ weekly political column.

Last week Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford delivered a blow to storyteller Malcolm “Mac” Parker, ordering him to stand trial on a series of charges stemming from a decade-long, $13 million film fundraising effort.

The trial will take place in early November in Superior Court in Montpelier.

State regulators are investigating Parker for allegedly failing to register as “securities” the investments that nearly 800 people made in his film, Birth of Innocence. He also faces charges of failing to register as an agent to sell securities and provide investment advice, as well as charges of securities fraud.

Over the past 10 years, Parker has raised at least $12.8 million, more than $3.6 million of which was paid to Dr. James Louis Soteriou, a “silent partner” who disappeared earlier this year. Another $1.2 million was spent on the film, according to court records.

Those were the numbers as of mid-February 2007. Court records show additional significant deposits were made between then and late 2009. But when the state froze Parker’s assets in late 2009, he had only $10,000 in the bank.

A complete accounting of Parker’s fundraising efforts, and expenses, was due in March, but never materialized. Judge Crawford reiterated he wants all that info by September 3.

Now, in a new plot twist, about 30 investors representing roughly $3 million of the missing money want the court to ensure the film is completed as it was originally described to them. According to emails obtained by “Fair Game,” Parker wants to tweak it to include the drama of the state investigation. The film itself is largely a new-age exploration of self and spirit.

Crawford agreed to take up the group’s “petition,” which states that investors are “currently experiencing dire shortages of funds to live on, and many also risk losing what amounts to their entire life’s savings, saved college funds and their credit because of his mishandling of funds.” A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in Washington Superior Court.

One of the aggrieved investors is Robert Melik Finkle, who gave Parker nearly $525,000. He first invested $100,000 in 2002 when Parker told him he only needed $400,000 to make the film. Over time, Finkle invested more — everything above and beyond his basic living expenses.

“I’m not bragging,” said Finkle, 74. “I’m admitting that I was fooled into believing him, and I’m very angry. That was my life’s savings, and for me the future looks very bleak.”

Parker stopped making regular interest payments to Finkle in early 2009, doling out only what the man said he needed to survive. Finkle estimates that, with interest, Parker owes him roughly $630,000.

Investors who remain supportive of Parker believe Finkle and like-minded investors are only creating more problems.

“The result, far from a expeditious conclusion, will be literally years of litigation ensnaring all interested parties in a morass of differing views, needs and expectations,” investor and Parker confidant Christopher Parker told “Fair Game” in an email.

Meanwhile, Sharon Gutwin, who loaned Parker $100,000, is trying to act as an intermediary between the two investor camps in hopes of holding the group together.

Everyone still believes in the movie, she claimed, which is remarkable given all that’s transpired.

“A lot of people do believe in the goodness of the movie, and that’s a good Vermont story. This is not New York City and Bernie Madoff,” said Gutwin. “This is about Mac Parker and a bunch of people who like him. It’s hard to believe they would give that much money to a person just because he’s asking for it.”

Hard to believe, indeed.

Billy’s Bailout

Republican Len Britton has been a big hit on the Internet with his satirical ad “Better Get a Paper Route, Billy” poking fun at a serious issue — the growing federal deficit.

Britton lays blame at the feet of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and his ilk for out-of-control spending that, he says, is mortgaging the future of our kids. Britton hopes to unseat Leahy in the November election.

Now Britton’s back with a new, equally clever sequel that features two kids and a G-Man in a sinking raft. Another G-Man is adding water to the boat with buckets labeled “stimulus” and “pork spending.”

“Hey, mister, you’re going to sink this boat,” exclaims “Billy.”

“Better bail faster, Billy,” the G-man recommends with a chuckle.

The ad is a big hit on conservative websites and National Review Online. So far, it’s been viewed 25,000 times. The original “Billy” ad, 38,000 times.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning Wonkette website lampooned the ad, questioning why a Senate candidate would promote drowning kids to score political points. Some people are so touchy.

Britton, a former Hollywood screenwriter, is penning the ads himself but can’t seem to turn his online fame into fortune. This July 15 campaign-finance report showed little improvement in fundraising since April 30. He’s raised roughly $92,000, spent $87,000 and has about $4600 in the bank. At least it adds up. But the campaign reports $64,000 in unpaid debts, down from a reported $73,000 in unpaid debts on April 30.

Will Vermont’s GOP bail out Britton?

Taking to TV

Since Democrat Peter Shumlin started airing television ads a month ago, two more Democratic gubernatorial candidates are following his media lead.

To date, Shumlin has spent $160,000 on TV ads touting his courage and his plan to provide universal health care, universal broadband, universal pre-K and investment in renewable energy.

Last week, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz launched her ad, spelling out some key items embedded in her “JumpStart Vermont” jobs plan. It also highlights her executive leadership and problem-solving skills.

This week Google exec and former state Senator Matt Dunne followed suit with a TV ad that touts his biography and business skills. The ad is narrated by well-known Vermont Public Radio storyteller Willem Lange.

Some familiar faces appear in the ad, too: Sen. Patrick Leahy and former Pres. Bill Clinton. One problem: Dunne didn’t ask Leahy’s permission.

Holy faux endorsements, Batman!

“Senator Leahy would not have agreed to allow his image to be used because he is not endorsing in the primary,” said Carolyn Dwyer, Leahy’s campaign manager.

Dunne’s campaign manager Kevin O’Holleran, said the campaign was not trying to play fast and loose with Leahy’s image, but it has no plans to remove the pic, either.

“We used the best images we had of Matt that touch on the many aspects of his career,” said O’Holleran. The pic in question was a speech to a hometown crowd that just happened to include Leahy.

Sen. Susan Bartlett has no plans to launch a TV ad, but will launch web ads “soon,” says campaign manager John Bauer.

State Senator and former Lt. Governor Doug Racine launched an online ad that will hit TV airwaves Monday. The ad claims Racine will provide “honesty,” not “empty promises” to voters. Racine’s advisor, Joe Trippi, believes that’s the winning pitch.

We’ll know soon enough.

Belaboring the Point

Sen. Susan Bartlett isn’t the only candidate under scrutiny of the Vermont Department of Labor for improperly classifying her campaign workers as consultants and not employees.

Rep. Steve Howard (D-Rutland), a candidate for lite gov, has also been snagged by DOL. As a result, he may have to pay back taxes as well as unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance.

Most of the major unions have endorsed Howard.


Howard’s primary challenger, Rep. Christopher Bray (D-New Haven), says he’s been paying his campaign workers as employees since they were hired — even providing health care.

The only employee expense on Bray’s July 15 campaign-finance report was for workers’ compensation insurance. Bray said the other checks weren’t cut until after the filing deadline because he pays taxes and insurance on a quarterly basis.

That means the figures should show up on next week’s campaign-finance filing. We’ll see.

Progressively Democratic

In last week’s column about the eroding electoral power of Queen City Progressives, I neglected to mention that Democrat Peg Boyle Single is also a candidate in what is likely to be a spirited, four-way House race for two seats — one currently held by Progressive David Zuckerman, and the other by Democrat Kesha Ram.

Boyle Single is in a three-way primary with Ram and school board member Keith Pillsbury.

Two winners will face former Progressive Rep. Chris Pearson, who was defeated by Ram in 2008, and Progressive Diane Gottlieb.

With three solid candidates, the Democrats clearly see an opportunity to take out the last legislative Progressive. If the Democrats win both seats, it would be the first time Burlington Progressives didn’t have a seat in the legislature since Terry Bouricius was elected in 1990.

Telecom Turmoil

After three years at the helm, general manager Chris Burns is leaving beleaguered Burlington Telecom to take a new job outside Vermont. His departure comes just weeks before his contract was to expire; he was not a city employee.

A week ago, the city council held a secret meeting to get an update on BT’s finances from consultant Terry Dorman of Dorman & Fawcett in Quechee. City officials hope Fawcett can help BT renegotiate its lease terms with CitiCapital and put BT on sound financial footing.

In the GM’s absence, Dorman & Fawcett will assume management of BT — not a good sign. Taking over day-to-day management is one of the most drastic steps a “turnaround” firm can take.

Also chipping in will be Gary Evans, CEO of Minnesota-based Hiawatha Broadband. Evans runs a fiber-to-the-home telecom and earlier this year started giving BT advice. Hmmm.

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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.


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