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May 12, 2011

Dear Vermont Lobbyist: Burn Eyeballs After Reading

See_no_evilIn response to claims that it illegally solicited money from registered lobbyists during a legislative session, the allegedly non-existent reelection campaign of Gov. Peter Shumlin has added a lengthy disclaimer to its campaign emails.

The disclaimer — which appeared at the bottom of an email issued today to supporters — suggests that registered lobbyists, or a registered lobbyist's employer, should NOT read the email they in all likelihood just read.

Talk about burn after reading.

I wonder if memory erasure will be covered as a standard health care benefit under Green Mountain Care?

Here's the full text of the disclaimer (which appears beneath Shumlin's signature):

"This e-mail is not intended for any registered lobbyist or registered lobbyist employer with the State of Vermont. If you are a registered lobbyist or registered lobbyist employer with the State of Vermont, do not read this e-mail. Instead please notify the sender that it was improperly delivered and return the original transmission to [email protected] The Campaign to Re-Elect Peter Shumlin For Governor is prohibited from soliciting registered lobbyists or registered lobbyist employers for political campaign contributions until the final adjournment of the legislature. The Campaign to Re-Elect Peter Shumlin For Governor will not accept political contributions from any registered lobbyist or registered lobbyist employer in response to this e-mail."

Today's email — titled "Getting Tough Things Done" — extols Shumlin's legislative successes. He asks people to write letters to the editor, tweet or post on Facebook thanking lawmakers and his administration for their work. It also has a nice big red "DONATE" button at the bottom — just above the disclaimer.

The disclaimer appears to be an attempt to help the campaign comply with state law, which forbids lawmakers and the governor from soliciting money from lobbyists, or their employers, during the legislative biennium. Two fundraising emails issued by Shumlin's campaign earlier this year raised eyebrows as they were received by lobbyists.

In response to the earlier emails, Pat McDonald, executive director of the Vermont GOP, filed a complaint with Attorney General Bill Sorrell, asking the state's top cop to investigate whether Shumlin violated the law by sending solicitous emails to lobbyists. Like Shumlin, Sorrell is a Democrat.

Within days of McDonald's complaint, the Vermont Democrats filed a similar complaint about Shumlin's predecessor Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who sent a similar solicitation via snail mail in 2009 during the legislative session.

Mike McShane, a deputy attorney general, told Seven Days the AG's office received the complaints*, but wouldn't say how long the office would take to investigate the complaints or whether the office would combine the two complaints into one investigation of state campaign finance law.

For her part, McDonald tells Seven Days she's happy the governor's campaign staff put the disclaimer in the email. She only hopes they opt for better placement on future solicitations.

"Glad to see that the governor, and I am sure others, are paying attention," said McDonald. "Only suggestion on the fundraising email would be to put the 'do not read' comment at the top. Otherwise very pleased to see the note."

Jesse Bragg, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, said the email dislcaimer is in addition to the campaign's effort to scrub the emails of known registered lobbyists and registered lobbyist employers from the campaign's solicitation list.

220px-MagrittePipe That is, if there is a reelection campaign.

Shumlin has been coy about whether he's really running for reelection, despite the fact that this is the third fundraising email this year his "campaign" has sent to potential donors. In addition, he held a fundraiser in Rhode Island with same-sex marriage activists, and a major in-state fundraising party will be held next week by major Democratic donor Crea Lintalhac.

I never knew Shumlin was such a fan of Belgian artist René Magritte, famous for painting of a pipe under which was written, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." Of course it wasn't a pipe, but just the image of a pipe. In Shumlin's case there are all the telltale signs that it really is a reelection campaign, save the official announcement that he is, in fact, a candidate.

* This post was updated to clarify a sentence regarding Deputy AG Mike McShane's comments.

"Today's email — titled "Getting Tough Things Done" — extols Shumlin's legislative successes. He asks people to write letters to the editor, tweet or post on Facebook thanking lawmakers and his administration for their work. It also has a nice big red "DONATE" button at the bottom — just above the disclaimer."

In other words: "Please people, be a cheerleader for me. It's not enough that we did whatever we did and accomplished whatever we accomplished. We need to make sure that people think what we did was great. So go out there and convince people that what we did was fantastic, great, and wonderful. Be a cheerleader."

Why? Why do we need to "hype" whatever happened in the legislative session? It is what it is, right? Why do we need to cheerlead our accomplishments? If we did things we think are good, isn't that enough by itself? Isn't this exhortation to supporters to engage in a cheerleading campaign a little icky and embarassing?

There is no way Governor Shumlin can attempt to claim he has not already been running for re-election and only focusing on his job, including the fact that the disclaimer includes these words, which make it appear to be somewhat official (mentioned twice for good measure within the disclaimer):

The Campaign to Re-Elect Peter Shumlin For Governor ....

Sounds like an announcement of sorts to me.

It is great how they finally confirmed the campaign does indeed exist.

Not too mention how his campaign Website (Peter Shumlin for Governor), was up to April 15th being actively updated by someone with news about his role as Governor, much in the way the official Governor Website has been doing.

For what it might be worth, it should also be noted how the social media buttons on the campaign Website link to the official social media streams of the Governor's office, sort of as they are one in the same or so it would seem.

One cannot believe how anyone believed the disclaimer would pass the straight face test, any more than their denials of the existence of the campaign had managed to do, let alone how some lawyer or whomever allowed the above words to be included if the campaign does not exist as the Governor and others keep trying to suggest.

Such things will not go away by him and his campaign playing coy, it will only keep coming back to haunt them.

Of course he will run again, slow news day or what? Shay seems to have a fascination over the fact that Shummy hasn't said for certain. Who FREAKING cares? The man will run again, if he doesn't VT will be a better place. I mean really, wouldn't it have made more sense to report this along with a statement from someone over whether charges had been or will be filed? Or a quote from the Sec of State over the violation of election laws? Nope, instead we get half an article rehashing the fact that Scumlin won't say if he is going to run again, even when it would take an IQ of 50 or under to not know the answer to that...

Again, I think we would have a better system if eliminated the no doubt well intentioned laws that force situations like this one where a governor can't admit the obvious.

"This e-mail is not intended for any registered lobbyist or registered lobbyist employer with the State of Vermont..."

Here's your lede:


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