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September 10, 2012

Main Street Landing Co-Founder Donates $25,000 to Liberal Super PAC

On the same day a new conservative "super PAC" launched a two-week advertising campaign backing Republican candidates for statewide office, a liberal counterpart received its first five-figure donation.

Shelburne real estate developer and philanthropist Lisa Steele on Monday donated $25,000 to the liberal advocacy group Vermont Priorities, according to board chairman Bob Stannard.

Of that amount, $10,000 is earmarked for the group's Vermont-registered super PAC, "Priorities PAC," which can legally raise and spend unlimited sums to support political candidates, so long as it does not coordinate directly with those candidates' campaigns. The remaining $15,000 will go to the main, 501c4 branch of the organization, which is limited to spending on "issue advocacy."

"We're happy to get her support," Stannard said Monday.

Founded in July, Vermont Priorities plans to support candidates who share the group's liberal positions on health care, the environment and taxes. Though it was the first Vermont-based group to register as a super PAC, its leaders say one of its goals is to roll back recent federal court decisions that led to the proliferation of super PACs.

Steele is a co-founder and owner of Main Street Landing, a Vermont real estate development company best known for its work redeveloping Burlington waterfront properties. She is a member of the Bancroft family, which sold its controlling stake in the Dow Jones Company — owner of the Wall Street Journal — to Rupert Murdoch in 2007. Steele has contributed tens of thousands of dollars this election cycle to President Obama's reelection campaign.

Steele did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

Her contribution comes on the day that Vermonters First, a new conservative super PAC founded by former Vermont Republican Party executive director Tayt Brooks, began a two-week, $70,000 advertising campaign to support state auditor candidate Vince Illuzzi and state treasurer candidate Wendy Wilton.

Stannard said Monday his group was "talking about" whether to use Steele's contribution to counteract the conservative ad buy. He said Vermont Priorities' board planned to meet Wednesday morning to discuss the group's next steps.

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