McMullen takes swipes at Sorrell

Jack McMullen took part in one of the most memorable political races in Vermont’s history when he took on high-school dropout dairy farmer Fred Tuttle and suffered an embarrassing defeat.

Now, McMullen is looking for a fresh start, and hoping to make his way into Vermont’s history books in the win column in a bid as the Republican candidate for attorney general.

The attorney general’s race has gotten a lot of attention this year on the Democratic side, with TJ Donovan taking on 15-year incumbent Bill Sorrell in a primary. McMullen is the GOP’s sole candidate for the office, and this time he knows how many teats a Holstein’s got.

McMullen takes 1998’s lesson with a laugh, but he also makes a point to stay in the moment.

“A good laugh was had at the time. I think I made the papers in Uzbekistan as a matter of fact,” he said in an interview at the VTDigger office Tuesday. “What better human interest story than a recent full-time arrival – Harvard educated – versus a lifelong farmer Vermonter dropout from high school. So believe me, after 16 years, I know there are four teats on a cow and also how to say Calais, and you know I can see the humor in it myself, but shouldn’t we be talking about home invasions and whether we appeal at millions of dollars the nuclear issue, or for that matter data mining or campaign finance reform? Half the Legislature knew that was unconstitutional.”

McMullen was widely seen as a “flatlander” trying to buy his way into politics in the 1998 race, in which he lost the U.S. Senate Republican primary to Tuttle, who once he had secured the Republican nomination, endorsed incumbent Sen. Patrick Leahy. Since then, McMullen’s been living in Burlington full time and is involved in civic life alongside his job with the Cambridge Meridian Group, described on its website as a “strategy management consulting firm focused on providing strategic insight and market intelligence to companies for long-term growth and success.”

“We serve high-tech companies and also Fortune 500 companies. We also do – about 25 percent of the work is in large commercial litigation, that is two corporations fighting it out. We deal with issues of competitive rivalry, that is anti-trust and also damages, what harm was done by this bad action? So that’s how I’m familiar with trial work, not as a lawyer but as an expert witness in these trials,” McMullen said of his work.

McMullen said his approach – coming from a business background instead of exclusively law, will help him approach the attorney general’s office differently. He uses the recent change in Cabot Creamery’s logo as an example of misdirected efforts by the current AG. Cabot removed the word “Vermont” over an outline of the state from its logo because of Vermont product-labeling regulations.

“I think Cabot is a good example of something where a more business-like approach to weigh a more black and white interpretation of the law against the plusses and minuses for Vermont makes a lot of sense,” he said. “This is a company with deep roots in Vermont.”

“I think Cabot is a good example of something where a more business-like approach to weigh a more black and white interpretation of the law against the plusses and minuses for Vermont makes a lot of sense,” he said. “This is a company with deep roots in Vermont.”

McMullen said the limited resources of the attorney general’s office – the office operates on under $10 million annually – should be used elsewhere.

“It just kind of makes your head explode to think this is what we’re doing with our limited resources at the attorney general’s office,” he said.

McMullen turns to recent instances of crime as an example of where the Sorrell should be devoting the offices resources.

“What are the real problems the attorney general should be dealing with? These are non-partisan issues,” he said. “We’ve got a growing drug problem in this state, fueled largely by two things: People from out of state coming in and realizing enforcement isn’t that great here – easy pickings in other words, and prescription drugs, which are being abused.”

McMullen chided Sorrell for not putting the weight of the office against the drug issue.

“Where is the attorney general on this? I mean, where is the proposal for differential sentencing, if you’re coming from out of state to commit mayhem here, why aren’t we having a stiffer sentence for those kinds of people,” he said “We don’t need visitors who lay waste to our peace of mind. I don’t see that being stressed by our attorney general, do you?”

A lack of stricter enforcement, McMullen says, could lead to an increase in criminals coming from out of state to sell drugs in Vermont.

“This is screaming for the attention of law enforcement. What’s the top law enforcement organization in the state? The attorney general’s office.”

A lack of action on drugs isn’t McMullen’s only gripe with Sorrell. He also said the state dropped the ball on the Burlington Telecom case.

“If that doesn’t rise to the level of inquiry by the attorney general and action to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again, what does?” McMullen said.

Though McMullen has no qualms about poking holes in Sorrell’s record, he still isn’t sure who he’ll be running against in the fall. Democratic Party Chair Jake Perkinson isn’t either, but he is confident that whoever takes the primary will end up winning in November, and he doesn’t seem to think very highly of McMullen.

“I don’t see Jack McMullen as a particularly credible candidate. He’s not someone who’s been engaged with the issues facing the attorney general’s office,” Perkinson said, pointing out that McMullen doesn’t practice law in Vermont.

McMullen said he didn’t join the bar in Vermont because of the requirements in place when he moved here, but cited his experience in court in other roles as well as his extensive business experience as attributes that would work for him in the office.

“I’m not a member in Vermont because when I came here it required an apprenticeship and I was busy, but I’ve testified in many different jury trials all over the United States so I know how that works, and I think litigation is like a nuclear weapon,” he said. “It’s unpredictable, it’s costly, it’s disruptive. In many situations, not every situation – you’re not going to have a nice negotiation with a home invader – but Cabot, you could sit down and maybe work out your differences in a way that complies with one interpretation of the law and serves Vermont better. I think going after Cabot is bad for Vermont, as well as bad for Cabot.”

Taylor Dobbs

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  • Bob Stannard

    Attorney General, Bill Sorrell, did the right thing. Not going after Cabot would have been wrong. Cabot said that they weren’t use BST milk when they were. They said their cheese was made of milk from Vermont, when it was not.

    Ripping off the Vermont brand should never be taken lightly. McMullen, apparently, would prefer to turn a blind eye when it comes to equal application of the law.

    Thankfully, Bill Sorrell understands the job and does not play favorites.

  • walter moses

    Does Jack know what a hay tedder does yet? He is not a member of the bar in Vermont but will run for AG on the basis of his expertise as a witness? Like what? Can this man be taken seriously? Please Jack, go away, and don’t solicit in front of Walmart in Rutland, you know what happened last time.

  • Just what we need… another corporate lawyer telling us why black is white and white is black etc. like those on Wall Street defending deregulation of the derivative’s market and other financial abuses of the big banks.

    One of the jobs of the A.G.’s office is to defend the people’s interest’s against the power and influence of those such as VT Yankee, or even Cabot if they lie. Just because the big companies have corporate muscle shouldn’t mean they get a pass.

  • Jack McMullen

    For Walter Moses,

    Believe it or not, I do know what a hay tedder these days –a device for fluffing up cut hay to speed the process of hay-making by allowing the hay to dry faster.

    I thought it might be helpful, too, to know that I taught at Harvard Law School and am a member of the bars of two adjoining states and the District of Columbia as well as the federal bar. The current AG’s activity in the courtroom has been limited in recent years to appeals to the Supreme Court (if my understanding is correct)on matters involving federal authority, something I am also qualified to undertake.

  • Dave Bellini

    I agree with Mr. McMullen when he calls for the AG’s office to start dealing with Vermont’s drug problem. I agree that we have people coming from out of state to sell drugs and “enforcement isn’t that great.”

    Vermont needs a real prosecutor. The best candidate for the job is TJ Donovan. He is the only one of the three candidates that actually prosecutes criminals.

    Vermont doesn’t need a prosecutor more interested in the perils of sugar in soft drinks. Nor does Vermont need a corporate consultant to Fortune 500 companies.

    TJ Donovan is overwhelmingly best qualified to address the drug problem Mr. McMullen has underlined.

  • Amelia Silver

    Mr. McMullen was “too busy” to complete an apprenticeship and thus did not bother to get admitted to the Vermont bar? That is possibly the lamest excuse of the year. It’s not hard to be admitted in Vermont if one has been admitted in other jurisdictions, unless one hasn’t practiced for very long,

    Never practiced law in Vermont but served as an expert witness? This is farcical, sort of like “I’ve never been a doctor, but I’ve played one on TV.”

  • Mike Curtis

    “I’m not a member in Vermont because when I came here it required an apprenticeship and I was busy”

    Me too. That’s why I’m not a member of the Vermont Bar. I was too busy to do the work.

    But you’ve gotta do the work. Bill did. TJ did. McMullen didn’t. The man is not qualified. But be prepared for his corporate buddies from out of state to bombard us with money to try to buy this election.

  • Frank Davis

    Mr. McMullen is: desperate to hold public office; desperate to hold any public office; believes that since Vermont is a small state he can buy an office here; trying to win an office with no other Republican candidates, in order to avoid an embarassing promary defeat again; rich, but not rich enough to run in bigger states where he is a member of the bar; keeps trying to back in/buy in to public office; too contemptuous of Vermont’s electorate to gain a following or a victory. He was depicted as “carpetbagger” once. Now that he has lived in the state a bit, he thinks Vermonters have forgotten. Vermonters accept well meaning ‘flatlanders, (Sanders, Dean, etc.) but he defines the term carpetbagger.

  • Shayne Spence

    Mr. McMullen is actually one of the more qualified for this position, as he knows the ins and outs of courtrooms, and has been involved in both legal and business matters for his entire professional life. As for the VT bar issue, is this really even an issue? He is a member of the bar in two adjoining states, and a member of the federal bar, as he mentioned. He clearly has experience in law, enough to be a professor at Harvard’s Law School. He is not currently a practicing lawyer, however, and as such, it makes no sense to join the bar. If you keep trying to make everything into an issue, then of course it will seem like an issue. But at least be open-minded enough to see a good candidate when he appears.

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