"Welcome to the Race"
Vermont politicians handed in their final fundraising tallies Monday, just three weeks before Election Day.
Final to you, that is. Candidates will keep bringing in the bucks, but the public won’t know who gave what to whom until after the last ballot is cast.
Nevertheless, Monday’s report cards give at least some sense of which candidates are making the grade. And, quite clearly, Vermont’s A+ fundraiser remains Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin.
For the umpteenth time in his bid for a second term, the governor out-raised his opponent, Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin). Shumlin took home $173,000 in the past month, bringing his campaign total to $1.2 million.
And the dude is straight hoarding it. Shummy spent a paltry $33,000 in the past month and still has more than a million bucks left in his campaign chest.
That soon will change. On Tuesday, the gov placed a $125,000 television ad buy, which campaign manager Alex MacLean says will get him on air by week’s end for the first time this campaign.
Does that mean Shummy’s worried about all those Brock ads that show the gov imitating George Harrison?
“No, we’re not concerned,” MacLean says. “The governor just wants to get his message of creating jobs and growing the economy out to as many Vermonters as possible. Television advertising is the most effective way to do that.”
The Brock campaign certainly agrees.
“We’re putting 85 percent of our resources on TV,” his de facto campaign manager, Darcie Johnson, says, “because it’s the most effective, most economical way to reach voters — bar none.”
But Brock has a little less to spend on the tube these days. In the past month, he raised just $45,000 — his smallest haul since candidates began monthly reporting in August — and spent $177,000 of his campaign total of $692,000. That leaves him with just $107,000.
Nevertheless, three days after Brock’s last ad buy went dry, he plans to release a new spot Wednesday focused on Shumlin’s taxing-and-spending record.
Which brings us to the $300,000 question: Last week, Brock hinted to reporters that he might personally loan his campaign even more cash — beyond the $300,000 he’s already coughed up. But no such loans were listed on Monday’s report. So what gives?
“Wait and see,” Johnson says. “We’re working on a few things here and we don’t have anything right now to say about that.”
As for Shummy finally investing in TV ads, Johnson simply says, “Welcome to the race.”
The big story coming out of Monday’s campaign finance filings was Burlington’s Six-Hundred-Thousand-Dollar Woman. Last month, the mysterious megabucks donor Lenore Broughton gave $548,000 to the conservative super PAC Vermonters First, for a total contribution of $682,500 (see this week’s cover story and accompanying profile).
But Broughton’s not the only one making it rain.
As he has throughout the campaign, Shumlin continued to haul in the special-interest cash this month. Of the $173,000 he raised this period, a full $57,000 of it came from business interests.
Among them? Honeywell ($6000), PepsiCo ($2000) and Mott’s ($1000). A trio of telecommunications firms called in a thousand bucks apiece: FairPoint Communications, Verizon and T-Mobile. And a pair of ski resorts — Killington ($2000) and Mount Snow ($2000) — also made it rain, er, snow.
The Democratic Governors Association, which Shummy is expected to chair next year, hasn’t yet bought television ads for its next chief, as it did when Shumlin first ran for governor two years ago. But the group donated $6000 last month.
And those crazy folks at the National Rifle Association also shot over $2500 to Shummy’s campaign.
So what’s the governor’s special interest total this election cycle? He’s now raised $49,000 from advocacy groups, $57,000 from unions and $223,000 from corporations.
As for Brock, when it comes to corporate money, he’s a man of the people. Which is to say, companies aren’t handing him the dough. No wonder he’s loaning it to himself.
When it comes to special-interest cash, Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) has got Shummy beat by a long shot.
Despite facing practically zero opposition in November, Welch reported Monday that he’s raised $894,000 throughout the two-year election cycle. Of that, a full $516,000 came from political action committees.
That’s nearly 58 percent, folks.
Asked to ’splain why he raised more from PACs than people, Welch’s campaign pointed out that if you look at the number of checks written, 84 percent of them came from individuals — mostly Vermonters.
Um, yeah. But unlike Home Depot, which has given Welch a cool 10 grand this cycle, most individuals aren’t cutting five-figure checks.
Welch’s PAC money comes from a wide array of corporations, unions and advocacy groups. He’s been particularly successful at milking dairy groups and others with interests before the House Agriculture Committee on which he serves. Like the Dairy Farmers of America ($9000) Agri-mark ($4500), the United Egg Association ($3000), Land O’Lakes ($2500) and, wait for it, the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative ($2000).
Nothing beats Big Beet.
He also raised money this cycle from the likes of Deloitte ($10,000), General Electric ($6000), AT&T ($6000), Lowe’s ($5000) and General Dynamics ($4000).
Do the big corporate bucks make Welch indebted to his supporters?
“No,” says campaign manager Jon Copans, arguing that Welch has a track record of taking on special interests. “Congressman Welch welcomes the broad base of support he has received for his agenda to restore our economy, grow the middle class, make college and health care affordable and end our dependence on carbon fuels.”
Not to mention beet sugar for everyone!
A Yuuuge Amount of Money
Welch’s congressional comrade, Sen. Bernie Sanders, also reported his quarterly fundraising figures Monday and, needless to say, they were simply absurd.
Ol’ Bernardo brought in $753,000 during the past three months, for a total of $6.9 million raised throughout his six-year term. He also somehow spent $453,000 — most of which we presume went to pay for the pasta sauce at his famous spaghetti dinners.
Unlike Welch, Sanders does not accept corporate PAC contributions, though he does take money from unions and other organizations that share his agenda, says campaign manager Phil Fiermonte.
Such groups donated $69,000 to Sanders last quarter and $481,000 during the past six years. That’s about 7 percent of his total haul. The rest of it comes from mostly small-dollar donations.
According to Fiermonte, Sanders has raised more individual contributions — 141,050 this cycle — than any other incumbent senator.
Aside from pasta sauce, where’s that loot going?
The ostensibly independent senator sent $50,000 of it to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last quarter, which works to elect big cohhhr-pa-reht interests — I mean, Democrats — to the upper chamber.
“Bernie’s doing everything he can to prevent the Republicans from taking over control of the U.S. Senate,” Fiermonte explains. “If Republicans control the Senate, people like Jim Inhofe, who think global warming is a hoax, will become chairmen of the major Senate committees.”
And that would be simply outrageous.
So You’re Not Saying No?
After a bruising primary campaign against Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell has taken things down a few notches.
The 15-year incumbent chose not to replace campaign manager Mike Pieciak two weeks ago, when Pieciak announced he was returning to private practice, and the AG’s latest campaign finance report was rather slim. He raised just $12,000 last month.
Meanwhile, Progressive opponent Ed Stanak has picked up labor support, and Republican opponent Jack McMullen loaned his campaign another $144,000.
That had retired Middlebury College professor Eric Davis prognosticating on Vermont Public Radio over the weekend that Sorrell may fail to crack 50 percent of the vote, which Davis believes is symbolically important.
“I think what it probably means is this is his last election and Bill Sorrell will announce his retirement prior to the 2014 election,” Davis told VPR’s Peter Biello on Saturday’s “Morning Edition.”
Damn, Eric! Them’s fightin’ words. What say you, Mr. Sorrell?
“I don’t see how one follows the other,” Sorrell tells Fair Game.
Sorrell says it’s certainly possible he would win by a plurality, but “it’ll be a year from now before I start thinking about what I will do or not do in 2014. I don’t have this Machiavellian thing all mapped out and I never have had.”
But you know who seems like the kind of guy who thinks a few election cycles ahead? Donovan, the up-and-coming Democrat who Sorrell edged out by just 714 votes.
Donovan was quick to back Sorrell’s general election bid, with a fundraising letter and an election eve rally at Burlington’s St. John’s Club.
“I’m supporting Bill,” Donovan says. “People who supported me should support Bill this November. It’s important that we have a Democrat in that office.”
So does that mean Donovan wouldn’t run against Sorrell in two years if Davis is wrong and the incumbent runs again?
“I’m just trying to get by today,” Donovan says. “I ran for attorney general this year. I lost. We’re back to working.”
But, um, you’re not ruling it out?
“You know, I’m focused on getting Bill Sorrell reelected this November.”
Huh. Sure don’t sound like a “no” to us!
Back in February, Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans) joined a crew of Vermont Republicans and former New Hampshire governor John Sununu at a Statehouse press conference to endorse Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
But Illuzzi, who is running for state auditor, now says he is “no longer endorsing or supporting” the Republican candidate.
“I liked the guy as governor. During the primary, he was the most moderate in a pack of nuts,” Illuzzi says.
But that changed after Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comment.
“I have supported seniors, the disabled, the homeless and the working people of this state,” he adds. “I can’t support someone who doesn’t support them.”
We considered contacting Romney’s campaign for comment, but didn’t want to rattle the former gov before Tuesday night’s debate.
Disclosure: Paul Heintz previously worked as communications director for Congressman Peter Welch.