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September 17, 2012

Conservative Super PAC Bankrolled by Burlington's Lenore Broughton

Since the emergence of a Vermont-based, conservative Super PAC was first reported a week and a half ago, political observers have been wondering who's bankrolling it.

The answer came Monday when the group, Vermonters First, filed its first fundraising report with the Secretary of State's office.

And the answer is ...Lenore Broughton.

While not exactly a household name, the self-described "former speech/language pathologist" is one of Vermont's most generous contributors to conservative causes. The Burlington resident owns and finances True North Reports, which bills itself as "an online communications service dedicated to fostering public debate over Vermont based issues from a free market perspective."

According to the report filed Monday, Broughton donated $100,000 to Vermonters First on August 27. She has since performed $34,500 of "research and consulting" work for the group, which she donated as an in-kind contribution.

Broughton did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday, but Vermonters First treasurer and consultant Tayt Brooks said, "Lenore is someone who's lived in Vermont for 40-plus years and obviously feels like many Vermonters do that there should be some balance in the discussion of these important issues and believes there should be some balance in the legislature."

A longtime conservative political operative, Brooks is a former executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, served in former governor Jim Douglas' administration and managed Republican Kurt Wright's unsuccessful Burlington mayoral campaign this year.

According to the report, the Super PAC has made just two expenditures since it was founded late last month: a $25 bank fee and a $98,200 advertising buy through California-based Target Enterprises. Previous media reports had indicated the two week ad buy at WCAX, WPTZ and on cable television amounted to at least $70,000.

Last Monday, Vermonters First went up with advertisements backing state treasurer candidate Wendy Wilton and state auditor candidate Vince Illuzzi, both Republicans. Today, the group went live with a new, 30-second advertisement focused on "health care and the financing of health care," Brooks said. It does not mention the names of the candidates for governor, he added.

The report does not include a payment to Brooks, but he said an $8,000 monthly payment to his consulting firm will be in Vermonters First's next monthly filing.

Brooks declined to say whether the group had secured the support of other donors, but he said he planned to focus on continued fundraising now that its ads are on-air.

"Just like anything you see out there, it's important there's a product people can see, touch, hear," he said. "Now that we have some television advertisements up and running, we now will start again the fundraising process."

As to whether Broughton had committed to replenishing the Super PAC, Brooks said, "Lenore is very interested in making sure this project is successful. She has said to me obviously she is willing to help out and make sure Vermonters hear a balanced discussion out there."

According to opensecrets.org, Broughton has donated at least $210,100 to federal candidates and parties during the past three election cycles. Recipients of her contributions include Rep. Michele Bachman, Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Allen West — for whom she and True North hosted a fundraiser in Vermont this summer.

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