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October 2013

October 17, 2013

Welch Raises $213K in Campaign Cash; Leahy, Sanders Raise $30K

The Federal Election Commission was closed early this week when quarterly fundraising reports came due, but that didn't keep members of Vermont's congressional delegation from reporting how much money they'd raised.

Of the trio, Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) collected by far the most for his campaign coffers in the three months ending September 30. The four-term House member took in more than $213,000 and spent nearly $64,000, leaving him with $1.3 million in the bank. 

Welch's two-year term expires in November 2014, while Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) six-year terms end in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

Both senators raised roughly the same amount last quarter. Leahy took in $31,000 and spent $68,000, leaving him with $1.6 million cash on hand. Sanders, meanwhile, raised $33,000 and spent $35,000. His $4 million war chest remains by far the largest.

Continue reading "Welch Raises $213K in Campaign Cash; Leahy, Sanders Raise $30K " »

This Week's Issue: The State of Tech in Vermont


The Vermont Tech Jam comes to Burlington this Friday and Saturday, and Seven Days is marking the occasion with a package of technology-focused stories in this week's issue. Read about the world-leading companies that call Vermont home, one of iTunes' most popular kids podcasts, and an eerily intelligent robot that lives in Lincoln.

If you're looking for something even newsier, we've got that, too.

Get this week's issue on paper, online or on the app.

Vermont Delegation Votes to Avert Default, Reopen the Federal Government

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) voted for a last-minute deal Wednesday night to avert a national default and reopen the federal government.

Though the deal was seen as a victory for President Obama and congressional Democrats — and a stinging rebuke to conservative Republicans — Vermont's congressional delegates expressed little joy over the resolution to the 16-day standoff.

"It's a bad deal — only in the sense that we never should've gotten here," Leahy said Wednesday evening. "The grownups should've stopped this from happening a long time ago ... It never should've come to this."

The bill, which passed the Senate by an 81-18 vote and the House by a 285-144 vote, funds the federal government through January 15 and raises the debt limit through February 7. It also sets in motion bicameral negotiations to resolve Congress' longstanding budget disagreements.

Welch, who had rallied support for a no-strings-attached bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling, shared Leahy's frustration with the two-week ordeal

"This is a spectacle that was inflicted on the American people and was completely unnecessary," he said Wednesday afternoon. "We didn't pick this fight, but we had to wade through it."

Continue reading "Vermont Delegation Votes to Avert Default, Reopen the Federal Government" »

October 15, 2013

Lisman's Campaign for Vermont Drops $60K on New Ads

Bruce Lisman — the man, the myth, the legend — is coming to a television screen near you.

The retired Wall Street executive and dabbler in Vermont politics features prominently in a new TV ad his political advocacy group, Campaign for Vermont, plans to air in advance of this winter's legislative session.

In a press release announcing the ad, Lisman promises that future ads "will focus on specific reforms for which we will be advocating" next year, "like our detailed proposals to transform state government with transparency, establish ethics laws for elected officials and build the best education system in the world."

But this one's totally devoid of specifics. Just a lot of chatter about making Vermont affordable, creating jobs and helping families become more secure.

"No one calls for brighter colors or cuter puppies or offers to teach the world to sing in harmony," the Burlington Free Press' Terri Hallenbeck notes, "but you get the drift."

Here's what it looks like:


Continue reading "Lisman's Campaign for Vermont Drops $60K on New Ads" »

Homemade Health Exchange App Wins HackVT Competition

HackVT 2013 - Team Galenerds
Left to right: Matt Woodside, Michael Commo, Michael Tamlyn, Drew Johnson

As the state moves closer to throwing the switch on health care reform in January, Vermonters are hopping online to use the Vermont Health Connect website. The new exchange, which has taken months and millions of dollars to build, displays all of the plan options and features a calculator that tallies what subsidies you may be eligible to receive.

But what if you just want to know how your asthma medication will affect your potential insurance rates? Or how much you can expect to pay if your child breaks her foot? Vermont Health Connect might not be able to answer quick and dirty questions like that — but an app built in 24 hours by volunteers could.

A team of employees from a Burlington-based health care software firm built just such a thing during last weekend’s third annual HackVT, a hackathon hosted at MyWebGrocer’s Champlain Mill HQ in Winooski. Thirty-one teams of participants stayed up all night to code some kind of Vermont-themed app in 24 hours. This year’s projects included a mobile app to navigate state parks, a "livability index" for Vermont cities and towns and an app to help users learn healthy food and exercise habits — oh hey, that last one was the app that my team built, full disclosure.

But the winner was a "Health Connect Scenario Calculator," built by a team of Galen Healthcare employees calling themselves the "Galenerds." The app allows prospective health care buyers to compare the costs of different levels of insurance under the exchange — plus the cost of not having insurance — based on a user-selected combination of scenarios and medical events. Are you single, making $40,000 a year and want to know what it would cost if you got in a car crash? The app can help you figure that out. Married and planning to get pregnant? You can input those options, too.

Continue reading "Homemade Health Exchange App Wins HackVT Competition" »

Morning Listen: Internal Docs Show Police Misconduct in Rutland

MorningreadRuh-roh, Rutland.

Despite the down-and-out city's efforts to shed its unfortunate reputation, which we covered in a 2012 cover story, Rutland just got another black eye: According to internal documents, the Rutland City Police Department has been plagued by officer misconduct, a culture of fear, and favoritism.

Chittenden resident and VPR reporter Nina Keck paints a gloomy picture of the department — but it's not the first time the Rutland cops have made headlines. As former Seven Days news editor Andy Bromage reported in 2011, Rutland police Sgt. David Schauwecker was charged in 2010 with removing pornography seized as evidence for his own use, and then lying to investigators to deflect attention. Another patrolman resigned after allegedly using improper force on a man handcuffed in a holding cell.

Apparently, things haven't changed much. Former police officer Chris Kiefer-Cioffi — who spent 27 years in the department — told Keck the "good ol' boy club is running rampant in that department," and alleges supervisors knew about misconduct and, in some cases, participated in it.  

The troubled department has been under the leadership of Chief Jim Baker since January 2012; Baker stepped in following the controversial ousting of a former chief. Keck reports that while Baker was "shocked" by the state of the department when he took over, not everyone thinks the new chief has done enough to right the listing ship. Keck reports:

As Baker works on repairing the department, allegations of favoritism continue.  Top Rutland City police officials, including Baker, were sued earlier this year by former officer Andrew Todd, who alleges he was forced out of his job because of widespread management problems.

Todd left the police to become a state trooper just as Baker arrived in 2012. According to the lawsuit, Todd, who was the only African American on the force, complained several times to supervisors Geno and Tucker about the alleged unethical and racist behavior of two fellow officers.

According to Keck, city officials stand behind Baker and the changes he's making in the department. But as Keck reports, "whether those changes occur fast enough or restore the public trust remains to be seen."

October 14, 2013

Media Note: Word of Gas Pipeline Opposition Spreads to New York

PipelineIt's been in the Vermont headlines for months: Many residents on this side of Lake Champlain oppose a Vermont Gas project to build a pipe south to Addison County — not to mention the company's Phase 2 plan to extend the pipe under the lake to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, New York. 

Hundreds turned out for a rowdy Public Service Board hearing in Middlebury last month. Homemade signs — now weathered, but still visible — dot Route 74 in Cornwall and Shoreham; others direct passersby to grassroots websites such as "" and "" 

But it seems to have been a strongly worded letter of opposition from the Cornwall selectboard to Governor Peter Shumlin that finally got the attention of New York. An article headlined "Some Vermonters oppose IP pipeline" ran in yesterday's edition of the Plattsburgh Press-Republican. The Albany Business Review subsequently picked up the news for a brief notice in today's morning edition, billing their item "Gasline for upstate NY factory faces opposition from another state."

Continue reading "Media Note: Word of Gas Pipeline Opposition Spreads to New York" »

Morning Read: State Pays D.C. Firm for Vermont Media Intel

MorningreadVermont Public Radio's Bob Kinzel is totally a Negative Nancy.

At least, that's the conclusion a Washington, D.C. consulting firm drew in April after the state of Vermont paid the company $18,000 for intel on reporters covering the roll-out of the state's new health care exchange.

The Vermont Press Bureau's Peter Hirschfeld had the details in a shocking Sunday story in the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus outlining the lengths to which Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration has gone to manipulate press coverage of the exchange, called Vermont Health Connect.

Continue reading "Morning Read: State Pays D.C. Firm for Vermont Media Intel" »

October 11, 2013

Sanders to Travel South With Democratic Super PAC

DSC05683After sitting in on the U.S. Supreme Court's oral arguments for a major campaign finance case Tuesday morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stood outside the court and railed against the influence of super PACs in American politics.

Next week, however, Sanders plans to join forces with a Democratic super PAC for a three-day, four-state tour of the southern United States. Organized by South Forward, Sanders' "Fight for Economic Justice Town Hall Meetings," will take him to Jackson, Miss., Birmingham, Ala., Atlanta, Ga., and Columbia, S.C.

"It's just a great opportunity and the response has been overwhelming," says South Forward executive director Jay Parmley, who says he expects between 150 and 200 people to attend each of Sanders' town hall meetings. "I think he'll be able to provide a shot in the arm for progressives and a shot in the arm for Democrats."

Continue reading "Sanders to Travel South With Democratic Super PAC" »

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Scoreboard.newWho won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics? 

Troopers, supers, guns, glass, reporters, editors, publishers, politicians, the dearly betrothed and... deer.

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, Oct. 11:


Vermont's congressional delegation — Still no polls in Vermont (come on, Castleton!), but national surveys suggest that Sen. Patrick Leahy's, Sen. Bernie Sanders' and Congressman Peter Welch's no-compromise stance on the government shutdown/debt ceiling impasse remains popular in these parts. Runner-up winner: VPR's "Vermont Edition," which schlepped down to D.C. this week to broadcast a rare, three-way interview with Vermont's tres amigos.

Jim Deeghan — So much for two years in the slammer! After nine months in jail, the ex-Vermont State Police trooper is back in town. No word on whether he padded his time sheets in the prison kitchen.

David Blittersdorf — The wind magnate and AllEarth Renewables chief got cheeky this week by billing ISO New England $5490 after the regional transmission authority bumped his Georgia Mountain turbines offline. Runner-up winner: UVM, which is accepting a million-dollar donation from Blittersdorf for an endowed professorship on Friday afternoon.

Burlington Free Press reporters — Who will soon have one of the sickest views in the city from their new Bank Street digs. Note to Seven Days editor/publisher overlords: Where's my damn window?!

Deer — Because hunting legend Larry Benoit has bagged his last buck. May the great herd in the sky be plentiful.


Continue reading "The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers" »

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