Cyrus Patten: Vermont is ready for something new

Editor’s note: This commentry is by Cyrus Patten, the first executive director of Campaign for Vermont. Previously he worked in social services, most recently at the HowardCenter and previously at Spectrum Youth & Family Services and Northeastern Family Institute. He lives in New Haven.

Last month I joined as executive director an organization I believe is positioned to affect measurable, positive change. Since its founding just a two years ago, Campaign for Vermont has grown from an idea into a productive, effective organization.

I’m appreciative of the incredible work that has been done thus far by Bruce Lisman, Tom Pelham and Mary Alice Mckenzie. They have achieved some major milestones; not the least of which was attracting a diverse group of individuals that span geographic, political and ideological realms.

In its brief history, Campaign for Vermont has affected change in a real way. There is now a vibrant and persistent discussion statewide around the need for ethics standards in Montpelier. The Legislature is acting on education system reform. And the depth of our partner network continues to grow daily.

I genuinely believe Campaign for Vermont serves a much needed role in this state. Party politics and business-as-usual continue to result in tired and benign solutions. We need, now more than ever, creativity and innovation.

Vermont is a place where individuals matter; and each has the potential to impact the way our government works on our behalf. Because of this direct line to our representatives, there is no better place than Vermont to affect change. I am excited for where Vermont can go next. First, I need to resolve something.

What harm could come from some measured and thoughtful feedback? Do Vermonters not hold honesty and humility in high regard?


Our critics have claimed Campaign for Vermont is a conservative campaign. They have attempted to undercut the momentum by attacking the motives of our founder. Yet in a state government thoroughly dominated by one party, nearly any constructive criticism will be met by partisan resistance. I know enough of our legislators to say they are by and large a respectable and honest group of people.

Assuming my impression is accurate, what harm could come from some measured and thoughtful feedback? Do Vermonters not hold honesty and humility in high regard?

In an attempt to put this matter to bed, the following is my commitment, on behalf of Campaign for Vermont.

• We will put progress before partisanship. Always.

• We will be solution focused.

• We will work with our representatives to form productive relationships.

• We will connect Vermonters to their government, offering realistic solutions that come from real people.

• We will mercilessly hold our representatives accountable.

• We will apply our values equally across political orientations.

If you agree that Vermont can do better, that we could all benefit from pragmatic, non-partisan dialogue, join us.


  1. Dave Bellini :

    All one need do is mention CFV and the attack will begin. People close to the Administration will label this organization as some radical right wing organization, it is not. What’s missing in Vermont politics today is there’s no debate of the issues. We have one party with complete control, that was elected fair and square, yes. The Administration and the legislature have used this power to stifle any real discussion. Decisions are made at 109 state street and the legislature carries out the instructions. The best examples of this is both the Administration and the legislature teaming up to keep information about funding of universal care from the public.
    The legislature passed a law, the Administration thumbs its nose at the deadline, the legislature says: “OK boss, we’ll push off the deadline till after the election.” Next we hear that the Administration doesn’t want to be “rushed” into releasing data on how many Vermonters are uninsured. And this is A-OK with everyone. “Yes boss, after the November election.”

  2. Bob Stannard :

    Let me be the first to say that these are wonderful words; just like the wonderful words that have been uttered by CFV’s founder over the past few years.

    The original makeup of the group was predominantly Republican. The founder, Mr. Lisman, prior to shoveling millions of his own money to build this not so non-partisan group, was exploring the idea of a run for governor. He was told he was not well known enough.

    Next thing you know he’s heading up a group of exiled Republicans (exiled by the voters as Mr. Belini accurately points out). The initial website had adoring pictures of Mr. Lisman; a former executive who made a lot of money at Bear Stearns; a company that collapsed leaving thousands of people without their money.

    Now the group has “evolved”. There’s a new board chair and now a new E.D. Wonderful. Who’ll take a #1 bet that we can now expect to see Mr. Lisman’s name on the ballot asking to be CEO of our state?

  3. Bob Zeliff :

    Conservative business interests are well represented on the CFV board, but are there any progressives?

    The data they are using often comes from conservative think tanks. They claim they are “solution focused” but seem to favor only conservative points of view.

    Many of the most transformative ideas from the last 50+ years have not come from the conservative point of view. Social Security, Women’s rights, anti discrimination, Gay rights, Medicare, you get the idea.

    Maybe the board of CFV should be a bit more balanced to allow it to consider and embrace broader perspectives and better live up to it’s published goals.

    Just some measured and thoughtful feed back.

    • joanie maclay :

      Dave Bellini… Once again I will agree with you.
      Have we both mellowed with a little age under our belts? Or are we just ready for change? I see VT heading for an unpleasant result IF we do not do something drastic about our spending! Plain and simple. This Administration MUST take a thorough look at the State Employees Insurance Plan.
      It is self funded, viable and has worked to serve it’s many members with financial responsibility. Again this is a plain and simple solution! It’s a no brainer!

  4. Kathy Callaghan :

    Why is it that the moment a group or an individual appear(s) on the horizon – and questions the status quo in Montpelier – even if ever so gently – folks like Mssrs. Stannard and Zeliff leap on them like mad dogs?

    One can almost rely on the defenders of Shumlinism to attack anyone, anywhere any time they feel that another thought process might be emerging. It’s so predictable as to be humorous if it weren’t so sad.

    On the other hand, the obvious need to quash any open constructive discussion on health care reform in Vermont says a lot.

    To paraphrase Mr. Zeliff: Maybe the legislature and the discussion in Montpelier should be a bit more balanced, to allow it to consider and embrace broader perspectives and better live up to Vermonters’ needs and expectations.

    • Steven Farnham :

      Let’s get something straight.

      For you to assume that someone who launches criticism (or a completely unhinged attack) on your hero, is automatically a cosy, gushing Shumlin sycophant is an utterly illogical and idiotic conclusion.

      It may be that Shumlin has mishandled a lot of things, but some people prefer a rather bungled and expensive execution of good intentions over any execution of bad intentions.

      They jump all over CFV like “mad dogs,” because it is necessary to counter all the negative press CFV gives to the Governor’s agenda.

      The opposition has fought health care reform tooth and nail. Having failed to defeat it legislatively, all they have left is to cut off it’s funding, or scare people into believing the funding isn’t there.

      When CFV becomes interested in the success of single payer, and shows interest in helping any way they can to make it work better, you’ll see Mssrs. Stannard and Zeliff respond to CFV much differently.

  5. Kim Fried :

    Thank you Mr. Patten and CFV for providing an alternative to the one party administration and the Governor’s appointees that are simply policy yes men and women running agencies that use to pay attention to their Mission Statements rather then strict directives from the Governor. CFV hopefully will bring Vermont citizens back into the process. You ask ” Do Vermontters not hold honesty and humility in high regard?” I believe they do and with more accountability brought to bare on this administration just maybe Vermont and Vermont’s politics can be improved. CFV will, is, providing us with this service. Thank you.

  6. krister adams :

    Please remember, Mr. Lisman profited hugely at Bear Stearns where he lead an organization which gouged millions of Americans of all stripes, mainly middle income folks. Do we really want this man and/or his organization to lead Vermont?

    • Does “Global Equities” mean anything to you?

      It really should, if you want to offer commentary Lisman’s career and legacy.

      • Tom Pelham :

        Justin….good question. The record will show that when Bear Stearns went under, it was not related to the segment of Bear Stearns’ 14,000 employees who worked in “global equities” but to those who worked in “fixed asset” investments and associated derivatives. Krister Adams in two comments has falsely conflated, and likely intentionally so, Bruce Lisman with the demise of Bear Stearns. But he’s wrong. I could say, without proof, the Krister Adams is at work at 8:59 a.m. and 2:29 p.m. on a public payroll at the Vermont State Housing Authority slinging denigrating comments during work hours, but I have no proof of such and therefore won’t make the assertion absent reliable proof.

        Comments on VtDigger enhanced the conversation when links supporting assertions are provided, but demean the conversation when blatant falsehoods are used to sling mud. When I first met Bruce Lisman just over two years ago, I was curious about his Bear Stearns tenure. The fall of Bear Stearns has been well chronicled and the bad guys in the firm’s 14,000 employees have been publicly identified. Yet, from Mother Jones to the Huffington Post to the Wall Street Journal and New York times, I could find no such link to Bruce Lisman. I did learn that he was a native Vermonter who did well yet never severed his ties to Vermont. His generosity to the Boys and Girls Club, the Shelburne Museum, to UVM, and the Smithsonian Institute as well as democrats and republicans alike, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, attest to such. The only link I could find was a small reference in a WSJ article of Bruce encouraging his section employees to stay focused and that Bear Stearns would weather the storm. This, frankly, shows how much Bruce was out-of-the-loop as to what was happening in the fixed asset section.

        To be credible, Krister Adams, Bob Stannard, and Steven Farnham should support their assertions with hard links to supporting documents. Link them right here in the comments section to this article for all to see. The fall of Bear Stearns is well documented. If Bruce Lisman were among its bad apples, the record would show it. Absent such supporting and reliable evidence, their assertions cheapen the conversation here at VtDigger while saying much about the commenter’s credibility.

        • Fred Woogmaster :

          Mr. Pelham:

          Has Mr. Lisman written about the Wall Street fiasco?

          It would be most helpful to know, from him directly, his view of such an American tragedy.
          Please direct me to any of Mr. Lisman’s writings on the subject.

          Thank you.

          • Tom Pelham :

            Fred….he hasn’t yet but I’m sure he will. His perspective is only in retrospect, as the fall of Bear Stearns was as much a surprise to him and most other Bear Stearns employees as it was to the investment community. But looking back, I think he believes there are some lessons to be had, especially in the arena of transparency. In the interim, Bruce is a very accessible person and I’m sure if you contact him via Campaign for Vermont he’d be more than willing to talk to you about his Bear Stearns experience.

  7. J. Paul Sokal :

    I think it’s worth noting the choice of words. “Party politics and business-as-usual continue to result in tired and benign solutions.”
    The dictionary in my computer defines benign as gentle or kindly. Thesaurus suggests: kindly, kind, warmhearted, good-natured, friendly.
    So… possibly a bit sweet….
    Also, “We will mercilessly hold our representatives accountable.”
    I don’t have a problem with tirelessly holding our representatives accountable. Sociopaths are merciless.

  8. Steven Farnham :

    Funny. Mr. Patten makes no mention of CFV’s connections (or lack there of) to ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)

    • Jamie Carter :

      Actually that has been addressed I believe in a previous entry on this blog.

    • Mr. Farnham, Thank you for your comment. Mr. Carter is correct, this has been addressed. But we have not been adequately clear on this issue.

      Campaign for Vermont has not and will not take any money from ALEC. Nor have we coordinated with ALEC in any way.

      I am always interested in meeting people who have opinions about our work, even if they disagree with what we stand for. If you would like to connect, please reach out through the website or Facebook page. I would enjoy connecting.

  9. Philip Beliveau :

    There should be some birds singing and violin music to go along with the tired cliches. There are never any specifics with CFV, just vague platitudes. Where is the money coming from for this campaign?

    • John Grady :

      Phil {something new} is like {hope and change}

    • Mr. Beliveau,
      Below you will find a link a list of everyone who has contributed financially to Campaign for Vermont. This is newly posted information, and will be updated quarterly.

      As part of our commitment to transparency, the Board and I agreed this was an important step to take.

      Thank you for your comment. I will look into the birds.

  10. krister adams :

    Sure thing Justin. Lisman was transferred at B.S. in ’06 to co-lead Global Equities Division. In ’08, according to MarketWatch, “…Bear Stearns tripped up global equity markets on…already jittery over the impact of a widening credit crunch.
    The stock of Bear Sterns, one of Wall Street’s biggest firms, lost nearly half its value and dragged other financial stocks lower with it.”

    Good job, Mr. Lisman.

  11. Don Peterson :

    Anyone who wants a former equities manager anywhere near the state Treasury just isn’t following the news of the last 6 years.

  12. Dave Bellini :

    I actually spoke to Bruce Lisman and found him to be a left leaning moderate. If CFV said they like the green mountains some would say that is proof they want to Astro Turf Mt. Mansfield.

  13. John Fairbanks :

    Funny how so many of CFVt’s commentaries (and ALEC’s recent one, as well) offer mainly gauzy, can’t-argue-with-that generalities about good government, etc., with little or no substance. Perhaps that’s why so many of us (that and the heavily R tilt) are suspicious that this is hardly “something new,” but rather the usual subordinate-everything-to-the-whims-of-business agenda we’ve seen before, with little in the way of substantive, positive economic accomplishment (see the Douglas era, including that part in which the Rs dominated the state government; don’t hear much about that from CFVt).

    • Mr. Fairbanks,
      I would be happy to go over the specifics of our recommendations in person. On our website, we have numerous position papers that describe, in detail, our recommendations.
      Thanks for your comment.

  14. walter h moses :

    Something new, yes. But not Wall Street. Here we go down the path of Tarrant and McMullen again.
    Fred Tuttle, are you watching?



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