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April 26, 2012

Lobbying Disclosure: Bruce Lisman Put More Than $200,000 Into Campaign for Vermont

Bruce LismanRetired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman has sunk $212,343 from his personal fortune into Campaign for Vermont, the supposedly nonpartisan "policy campaign" he launched last year.

Lisman (pictured) voluntarily announced the figures ahead of yesterday's filing deadline for quarterly lobbying reports. According to a press release, between January 1 and March 31, Campaign for Vermont spent a whopping $194,343 on advertising, $15,000 on direct lobbyist compensation and $3000 on "other expenditures."

Lisman, who lives in Shelburne, also confirmed that every dime has come from his own personal funds. Because Campaign for Vermont is registered as a nonprofit 501c4 organization, it is not required to disclose the source of its funds. Yesterday's disclosure was the first glimpse into how much Lisman has poured into his extensive — and expensive — paid media campaign.

"I am spending my own money because I am concerned about the economic damage current policies are having on lower- and middle-income Vermonters," Lisman said in the press release. "The futures of our state and our young people are at stake. I've worked hard and have done well. Spending my money on Vermont's future is more important than standing by passively."

Lisman was a high-level executive at Bear Stearns for years, retiring in 2009 as head of its Global Equity Division. Although his net worth is not known, publicly available documents reveal that he has donated tens of thousands of dollars to political campaigns — and earned several times that serving on corporate boards.

According to, Lisman earned compensation totaling $291,499 for serving on two corporate boards between 2006 and 2009: Merchants Bancshares and Central Vermont Public Service. His annual compensation for Merchants ranged from $18,209 to $34,400. For the three years he served on the CVPS board, he was compensated roughly $65,000 annually.

Lisman has consistently said his campaign is nonpartisan — and not a launching pad to run for political office — but Vermont Democrats aren't buying it. Democratic Party chairman Jake Perkinson characterized Lisman's campaign as a "stalking horse" for a political candidacy. The party filed an election complaint against Campaign for Vermont in February alleging violations of campaign law, which was quickly dismissed by Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

In his press release yesterday, Lisman said that Vermonters' "hopes for a more realistic and common-sense approach for a prosperous economy are being hijacked" by "pursuit of expensive energy, an impenetrable education financing system, an all-in bet on a new heatlh care coverage system and a state budget growing faster than our economy."

According to figures compiled by Common Cause Vermont, Lisman was the second highest individual contributor — after renewable energy entrepreneur David Blittersdorf —in the 2010 election. Lisman donated $15,150 to Vermont candidates; all but $1000 of that went to Republicans.

According to a search of the Federal Elections Commission database, Lisman has donated $46,600 to a mix of Democrat and Republican federal candidates since 1997 — from Dems Patrick Leahy and Peter Welch to erstwhile GOP congressional candidate Martha Rainville. Lisman's most recent federal contributions — ones made after he launched Campaign for Vermont — were $500 to Welch's 2012 reelection campaign, and $6000 to the Vermont Republican Federal Elections Committee. Those donations were made in October and December of 2011.

When it comes to state-level candidates, Lisman was virtually all in for Republicans last election. On the federal level, it would appear he's something of a hedge funder.

Photo credit: Josh Larkin/ VT Digger

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