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Off Message: Vermont News and Politics

Election 2014

August 28, 2013

This Week's Issue: Natural Gas, Intervale Angst and a Look at Lisman


After you're done with the big cover story about the future of Burlington's urban farmers, dig into this week's news and politics stories:

Get this issue now in print, at the links above or via our iOS app.

August 15, 2013

In VY Loss, Sorrell Sees Political Redemption — and Jabs Donovan

Sorrell announceMoved on from last summer's Democratic primary for attorney general?

Bill Sorrell hasn't.

After a federal appellate court ruled against the state Wednesday in its bid to shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, we reached out to Attorney General Sorrell for comment. His office, with the help of outside counsel, argued the case.

In a voicemail message in response to our call, Sorrell said he was "disappointed" that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court judge that the state improperly considered radiological safety when it tried to close the plant. 

But Sorrell clearly wanted to focus on the positive.

In the same decision, the court reversed an earlier finding that the state violated Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp.'s constitutional rights by demanding lower energy prices. The court's reversal means that Vermont won't have to pay Entergy's considerable — and rapidly growing — legal bills.

That's a signficant victory, at least in Sorrell's eyes.

"We're very happy we didn't violate Entergy's constitutional rights, so consequently we're not on the hook for something in excess — and potentially well in excess — of $5 million of attorneys' fees for them," Sorrell said in the message.

And then the AG said something surprising: "For those who questioned the wisdom of taking the appeal to the 2nd Circuit, that was a great decision because we saved millions of dollars on the constitutional issues."

To whom was Sorrell referring?

Continue reading "In VY Loss, Sorrell Sees Political Redemption — and Jabs Donovan" »

August 11, 2013

Progs Seem Eager to Take on Shumlin ... If They Can Find the Money and the Candidate

Progs bethel 004The absence of some of the party's brightest stars didn't prevent Vermont Progressives at a meeting on Saturday from considering a race next year against Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin.

The 40 Prog faithful who gathered on a dazzling August afternoon in Bethel's town hall (right) reached no conclusions about election strategy in 2014. Most speakers, however, did express support for running what one described as "a serious statewide campaign."

Morgan Daybell, the party's former executive director, argued instead for investing the Progs' "limited money" in insurgent campaigns for the legislature in each of the state's 14 counties. One reason for taking that more grassrootsy approach, Daybell suggested, is that the party can count only "a limited number of people willing to be credible [statewide] candidates."

State Rep. Chris Pearson, a Prog who probably could project political credibility on a statewide stage, tilted toward the let's-go-for-it position during a cordial 20-minute dialogue with Daybell.

Continue reading "Progs Seem Eager to Take on Shumlin ... If They Can Find the Money and the Candidate" »

August 08, 2013

Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope.

Pearson & Progs"Should Progs challenge Shumlin in '14?"

That's the question Burlington Free Press reporter Terri Hallenbeck put to Vermont Progressive Party leaders in Tuesday's paper. The occasion for the query was the Progs' upcoming state committee meeting (at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bethel Town Hall), which will feature an hourlong strategy session focusing, in part, on whether to run a candidate against Gov. Peter Shumlin, a second-term Democrat.

So should they? Maybe. But will they? I highly doubt it. Here are two reasons why:

Reason 1: For a bunch of lefties, Prog Party leaders have become mighty pragmatic.

Since 2008, when Progressive activist Anthony Pollina and Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington split the left-of-center vote and handed Republican governor Jim Douglas a fourth term, the two parties have avoided statewide confrontations. In 2010 and 2012, the Progs flirted with a guber run, but backed out both times, preferring to focus on building their ranks in the legislature.

That strategy has mostly worked. 

Continue reading "Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope." »

August 07, 2013

Fair Game Overtime: Where Does Leahy's PAC Money Come From?

DSC04806In this week's Fair Game, we touched on Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) use of a "leadership PAC" to collect contributions from corporate and union political action committees.

As we noted, only a slim minority (14 percent) of the $136,000 he raised in his traditional campaign account last quarter came from special interest groups. But a majority (70 percent) of the $197,000 he raised for Green Mountain PAC during the first half of the year came from those sources.

We focused in the column on contributions Leahy reaped from the aerospace and weapons industry. But that's not the only sector forking over the dough. Here's a sampling of other groups who contributed $2500 or more to Green Mountain PAC during the first six months of 2013:

  • Labor: IBEW ($5000), Laborers' Political League ($2500), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers ($5000)
  • Banking: Bank of America ($2500), Deloitte ($5000)
  • Entertainment: Directors Guild of America ($2500), National Association of Broadcasters ($3500), News America/FOX ($2500), Commissioner of Major League Baseball ($5000), Sony Pictures ($5000), Walt Disney ($2500), Viacom ($2500)
  • Telecom/Cable: Comcast/NBC ($5000), DirecTV ($2500), EchoStar/Dish Network ($2500), National Cable and Telecommunications Association ($5000), Verizon ($2500)
  • Law: Alston & Bird ($5000), American Association for Justice ($5000), DLA Piper ($2500)
  • Aerospace/Military: Boeing ($5000), General Dynamics ($5000), Lockheed Martin ($2500), Raytheon ($2500), United Technologies ($3500)
  • Technology: GoDaddy ($2500), Microsoft ($5000), Netflix ($2500)
  • Beverage: Miller Coors ($2500), National Beer Wholesalers ($500O), Wine and Spirits Wholesalers ($5000)

Again, those are just contributions to Green Mountain PAC. Some of those very same organizations also gave money to the senator's traditional campaign account. For instance, General Dynamics gave another $1000 to the Leahy for U.S. Senator Committee; GoDaddy gave another $2000; and Raytheon gave another $1000. 

Continue reading "Fair Game Overtime: Where Does Leahy's PAC Money Come From?" »

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