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August 2009

August 25, 2009

Markowitz Campaign Staffer Moves On


As I noted in this week's "Fair Game" column, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz is conducting a national search for a campaign manager.

Well, now the guy who's been doing much of the heavy lifting to date has announced he's moving on as of September 30.

Markowitz said hiring a polished campaign pro was not a criticism of the campaign work to date of her dynamic duo — Jason Powell and Reid DeWolfe. DeWolfe worked on Andy Montroll's mayoral campaign in Burlington, while Powell was candidate Barack Obama's Vermont organizer. DeWolfe is also the stepson of Kathy DeWolfe, the state elections director.

“They have done a stellar job for me so far,” said Markowitz of the pair. “We need to build and expand on that good work because it’s going to take a strong team with experience to beat a politician like Jim Douglas.”

Powell late Tuesday sent out a note saying he's transitioning out of the campaign.

"Having fulfilled my commitment through the summer, it is now time for me to move on and explore other opportunities," he said in his note.

Hmm, "explore other opportunities" is right up there with "spending time with my family" as the reason folks give for moving on from politics.

Powell and DeWolfe proved formidable for sure. Markowitz raised nearly $200,000 as of July in her bid to unseat Republican incumbent Gov. Jim Douglas.  She is squaring off in a three-way Democratic primary against State Sens. Doug Racine and Susan Bartlett.

She raised more money than all of her challengers combined, and almost twice as much as her nearest challenger — Racine.


Well, it appears as if commenter Haik Bedrosian knew something all along. In fact, the headline should be made plural.

I heard from Reid DeWolfe this afternoon that he will also be leaving the Markowitz campaign at some point this year. The exact date has yet to be determined.

That means Markowitz will be losing two young, energetic campaign workers who she claims were a large part of her early success.

I'm sure this pair won't have a hard time finding a place to land, but I am surprised Markowitz is letting them go after she put together such an impressive early show in fundraising numbers — both in terms of donors and dollars.

The Bornemann Conspiracy

I was in a hurry yesterday when rewriting and posting this snooze release about the new head of the Ethan Allen Institute (deadline work for the column and such), and missed doing a bit of homework on Rick Bornemann.

Bornemann is a former utility exec and lobbyist who will take over as president of the free market think tank from retiring State Sen. John McClaughry.

Turns out the guy's got a colorful history as a lobbyist. And, the firm he worked for was Governmental Strategies, Inc. (not Government Strategies as the release noted).

Other media outlets have hinted at his digressions, but here's the full recap on why he ran afoul of federal election laws.

In 2005, Bornemann was fined $5000 by the Federal Elections Commission for taking part in a scheme to funnel $60,000 in campaign contributions to several top Republicans in 2002 while working for the Kansas-based Westar Energy. Those lawmakers included: Tom DeLay (R-TX), Joe Barton (R-TX), Billy Tauzin (R-LA), Sam Graves (R-MO) and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).

On his own, according to the FEC, Bornemann earmarked $10,400 to 17 different campaign committees.

According to the FEC complaint, Bornemann wrote an email to his client — Westar Energy — in 2002 that they needed to give money to top members of Congress, including $25,000 to a political action committee backed by DeLay, "to develop a significant and positive profile for the Company's federal presence."


Westar was fined $20,000, while two company officials were fined $8500 and $7000, respectively. Bornemann was the only other person fined. The FEC's ruling in this case, according to a variety of reports, also clarified how corporations can, and cannot, direct fundraising efforts using company time and money. Essentially, the FEC ruled it was OK to bundle as long as corporate execs and lobbyists weren't doing it on the clock.

In its ruling, the FEC said it was clear Bornemann wasn't simply volunteering to help fundraise. "Instead, the lobbyist involved was advising the corporation regarding its employees’ political contributions (including impermissible facilitation thereof) and delivering those contributions for, and as a compensated representative of, the corporation," the commission said in its ruling. “A lobbyist volunteering in his individual capacity on behalf of a campaign may collect and forward (‘bundle’) contributions on behalf of the recipient campaign, party or political committee. In such instances, the lobbyist-volunteer may personally solicit contributions, including from employees of clients.”

Ah, D.C. rules.

McClaughry said the EAI board was well aware of Bornemann's FEC fine when he interviewed for the job and discussed the matter thoroughly. He claims it was a case of being wrapped up in an investigation involving two energy execs who had run afoul of their own company. In fact, the two Westar executives were later ousted from the company, according to documents on file with the FEC.

Vermont Yankee critics will love his other stint in life.

As a utility executive in Connecticut starting in 1987, Bornemann was the lead representative from the Seabrook Joint Owners Executive Committee and helped the nuclear power plant in Seabrook, N.H., win an operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. From there he went to work for a group that later became the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Hey, maybe the guy should be working for Entergy. Or, Vermont's Public Service Department.

Rising Star Chef Food and Wine Show

Summer 2009 170 This summer's excess of extraordinary food continued Saturday in an unprepossessing field across the street from the Topnotch Resort & Spa. A smallish, white tent held a dozen stations staffed by some of the country's culinary luminaries. Familiar faces like Mark Timms of Norma's (who organized the event) and Sean Buchanan of Solstice cooked alongside the likes of James Beard winner Mike Lata of FIG in Charleston, SC.

I started with a sambal egg from Zaina Dell' Aquila, Chef at the Condé Nast commissary, which hosts meals by notable cooks throughout the country, including Timms. Dell' Aquila, a native of Singapore, prepared a dish with a fusion of flavors that exist harmoniously side-by-side in her native land. The Malaysian hardboiled egg, bobbing in a dish of fiery red sauce, blended with the best Thai green curry I've ever had, spooned over aromatic yellow rice and topped with crispy fried onions.

Ford Fry of JCT Kitchen and Bar had more of a connection to Vermont than most of the other out-of-town chefs – he studied at NECI. Eating his Humboldt Fog chevre-stuffed fresh pasta seemed daunting in 90 degree weather, but they were so delicately creamy that they made me forget my sweat.

Timms' Norma's table (pictured) presented filet mignon on toast, covered with gorgeously seasoned, locally foraged chanterelles and a poached egg, which made its own luscious sauce for the tender steak. I also have to speak of my affection for Steve Bogart – late of A Single Pebble – and his anise-scented red pine chicken. Chicken bedecked in pork loaf? What a way to eat two of the tastiest animals at once!

Continue reading "Rising Star Chef Food and Wine Show" »

A Friend of Joe's: Larry McCrorey, 1927-2009

The local jazz community is saddened this week by the passing of saxophonist Larry McCrorey, who died at his Grand Isle home on Saturday. McCrorey was 82.

McCrorey, a physiology professor at UVM from 1966 to 1993 and ardent social activist, was a pillar of the Burlington jazz scene. Most recently, he was a fixture at Halvorson's "Friends of Joe" series, the weekly tribute to late, great Burlington sax man, Big Joe Burrell. 

In celebration of his life, Seven Days asked members of the local jazz community to share their remembrances of Larry McCrorey. This page will be updated as more submissions come in. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below.

I first met Larry in 1975 or so. I had moved to VT from Chicago several years earlier, where I had played with many players with Larry's skills and background. But I was amazed and delighted to find someone like that here!

Larry was one of the most multi-dimensional people I've ever met. Furthermore, he seemed to pull off each of his multiple dimensions with complete skill and aplomb, as if that was all he did. If you met him on the bandstand (as I did) you'd never guess that he was also a Dean at UVM … and, I imagine, his colleagues at UVM must have felt the converse as well!

We played jazz together many times over the years. In fact, it was on one of Larry's gigs with the band "Just Jazz" at a now-defunct club called "Hawk's Point" that I met Big Joe Burrell, and invited him to come to sit in with our still-gelling Unknown Blues Band at Hunt's … but that's another story.

Because of our similar musical backgrounds, I immediately felt a bond with Larry. And the bond continued to grow as I got to know him better. I really loved him, and will miss his vitality and enthusiasm enormously.

Till we meet again, my friend!

Paul Asbell

Guitarist (Kilimanjaro, Unknown Blues Band)

Continue reading "A Friend of Joe's: Larry McCrorey, 1927-2009" »

Crazy Paving

IMG_2472 In the words of my soon-to-be bestie Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, "Thank God for Paving Projects." I really mean it — thank you to the being that lives in the heavens for the paving that is going on in Burlington, and around the state, including the crazy alien nighttime paving that's happening on VT 15 in Colchester. The fluorescent lightning they're using to illuminate the work looks like they're trying to usher the mothership down to Earth. 

Currently in Burlington, there are eight or nine paving projects in some stage of construction, says my other new bestie Erin Demers, Burlington public works engineer. For 2009, the city allotted $3.2 million for 35 paving projects. They're supposed to finish all of these projects by Halloween, so they're hammering now to get them finished. And for that I thank them — them being the people who are out there sweating to the oldies laying asphalt in scorching heat.

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August 24, 2009

Rick Bornemann to Head Ethan Allen Institute

The Ethan Allen Institute, long associated with former news commentator and former legislator John McClaughry, has a new president and chief executive officer.

RIck Bornemann, a former utilities executive and lobbyist, will take the helm of the 16-year-old free market think tank next month, according to a release from the institute this afternoon.

Earlier this year McClaughry announced he would step down as the organization's chief, but plans to remain on as vice president.

Bornemann was born and raised in Connecticut and is an economics graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts. He returns to New England after a 25-year career in the nation’s capital.

Beginning  as a legislative aide to an Oregon Congressman, he served as a legislative  affairs representative for what is now the Nuclear Energy Institute. He became a vice president of United Illuminating (a Connecticut public utility), and then of Kansas City Southern Industries (a Midwestern railway holding company). He was most recently a strategist and lobbyist for Government Strategies Inc., a Washington government relations firm, according to the EAI release.

During his career in Washington, Bornemann specialized in business, tax and regulatory issues, with a special focus on economic development, transportation and energy.

“I’m delighted to have been selected to lead EAI to a higher level of  activity and influence, as well as to return to my native New England," said Bornemann in the statement. “Vermont is a state of great beauty, a high quality of life, and good people. If we can couple those assets with sound public policies that lead to  greater economic opportunity and prosperity, it can become a model for the nation."

Continue reading "Rick Bornemann to Head Ethan Allen Institute" »

Putting Truth on Hold?

Today's news that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether some prisoners may have been tortured by CIA personnel or contractors could put the kibosh on Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) call for a nonpartisan "Truth Commission."

Earlier this year, Leahy said only a nonpartisan commission could get to the bottom of the allegations that the Bush administration had condoned torture on prisoners in its custody.

In a statement Leahy said he is hopeful Holder's probe will put to rest questions about whether the U.S. violated international anti-torture laws.

“I recognize how difficult this decision has been for Attorney General Holder, and I am grateful that the Justice Department is finally being led by an independent attorney general who is willing to begin investigating this dark chapter in our country’s history," said Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Leahy thought his approach was best — he offered it as a way to something, as opposed to nothing. The idea, however, failed to attract support from Republicans.

"While I still believe that a nonpartisan, independent review is the best way to get the full picture of how our laws were applied or broken," Leahy added, "I hope this investigation will also bring a measure of accountability to the American people in holding responsible those whose decisions may have undermined our values and our laws."

In a story about Holder's appointment, the Washington Post said the special prosecutor will have a narrow scope — focusing largely on CIA personnel. There was no mention of focusing on former Bush administration officials who authorized the so-called "harsh interrogation techniques."

Show Us Your Signs

6a00d83451b91969e20120a55913f7970c On Tuesday, September 1, gay marriage will become legal in Vermont. To celebrate this historic occasion, infamous activist Fred Phelps and members of his Westboro Baptist Church are planning to travel to the Green Mountain State to picket the Statehouse in Montpelier.

According to the schedule posted on their website, they're also planning to picket the Montpelier Clerk/Treasurer's office. And while they're here, they're going to protest Vermont's Jewish community, as well. They're planning stops at the UVM Hillel office in Burlington, Chabad of Vermont, and the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue and school. 

GLBT activists have already begun spreading the word on Facebook, and are organizing online. Some community leaders are wary of drawing attention to Phelps, but I suspect that there will be no shortage of Vermonters who step up to counter the WBC message.

You can bet that, if they show up, members of the WBC will bring their iconic "God Hates Fags" signs with them. If you're planning a counter protest, or if you just want to comment on Phelps' brand of outrageous rhetoric, we'd like you to send us a photo of your sign. Put it on posterboard, scribble it on notebook paper, make an iPhone app, whatever — the more creative and visually arresting, the better.

We'll create a photo slideshow of the signs we receive on our website, and we'll print a few of them in the September 2 issue of Seven Days. Email them to me at cathy (at)

Sanders Takes Back Anti-Alt Remark, Sort Of

BernieSanders  Sure is great to live in a small state. Your senator calls you back personally when you complain. At least, if you're a constituent who happens to co-own a local media outlet.

Vermont's junior senator, Bernie Sanders, recently got himself in a bit of hot water in unlikely quarters — the alt press. Specifically, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, of which Seven Days is a member. In an August 10 press release (on the Huffington Post) about his new online mini show, "Senator Sanders Unfiltered," he excoriated the consolidation of media ownership and the resulting decline of "robust debate" on critical issues. Not to mention the right-wing monopoly of AM radio airwaves and a certain cable news channel.

Fair enough. But Sanders (or whoever actually wrote this release) went too far when he said: "Even the alternative weekly newspapers, traditionally a bastion of progressive thought and analysis, have been bought by a monopoly franchise and made a predictable shift to the right in their coverage of local news."


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August 21, 2009

A Home for All Budgets — the City Hall Park Microhouse

-1 Since I'm independently wealthy and don't need to do actual work, I find myself with a lot of spare time on my hands. In fact, I am one of those ladies who lunches. These meals, generally taken with friends of my ilk, last hours, sometimes even days, and involve lots of sparkling convo and bubbly alcohol.

Anyway, while I was returning from one of these epic lunches to my office, which is really just the place where I keep all my pencils, I noticed there was a very small house planted in City Hall Park. I thought it might be a domicile of one of the many soot-covered transients who make their home in our fair green space. However, upon further examination, I discovered that the house was not in fact part of some pop-up Hooverville, but rather it was Art. With a capital "a."

The microhouse, as it has been dubbed, is part of the Human=Landscape exhibit at the Firehouse Gallery on Church Street. I'm not quite sure how humans equal landscapes, but the show is pretty nifty. There's a Dale Chihuly-esque glass mobile that I really wanted to touch, and there are a bunch of plastic motor oil bottles with faces of fat men molded into them. There was other stuff there, too, but I'm too dumb to understand it. What really caught my eye was the microhouse.

Continue reading "A Home for All Budgets — the City Hall Park Microhouse" »

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