Margolis: Shumlin’s cash position gives him the edge over Brock; Donovan outstrips Sorrell’s fundraising effort

Governor Peter Shumlin praised Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan's rapid intervention program at a press conference Tuesday. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs
Governor Peter Shumlin praised Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan's rapid intervention program at a press conference Tuesday. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Whether it “makes the world go ‘round,” as lyricist Fred Ebb proclaimed for the musical “Cabaret,” money is surely what the late California elected official Jesse Unruh called it: “the mother’s milk of politics.”

Making Gov. Peter Shumlin – politically speaking – the best-nourished baby in the state of Vermont.

The first-term Democratic governor reported his campaign contributions as required Monday, revealing that his re-election campaign has raised $676,000 in the last 12 months.

Add in the $187,000 the campaign had a year ago, subtract the $51,000 it has spent, and the Shumlin forces have $625,000 in the bank.

That’s not enough, of course. Two years ago, Shumlin spent some $1.4 million to get elected, and he’ll no doubt spend more than that this year. But it’s more than twice the $244,000 left in the coffers of his Republican opponent, Sen. Randy Brock of St. Albans.

At first glance, Brock’s numbers looked impressive. He reported a total of $527,000 in contributions, indicating widespread support despite the general impression – supported by at least one reputable poll – that he is far behind Shumlin.

The second glance revealed that Brock’s support is less widespread. More than half his total came from one supporter: himself. Brock loaned his campaign $300,000.

Lending money to your own campaign is neither improper nor unusual. Shumlin did it in 2010, though his loans were never as large a percentage of his total campaign treasury as Brock’s. And considering that Brock didn’t really start running until a few months ago, raising $527,000 isn’t a paltry showing. But neither is it all that remarkable. After a tough last week, with a guest fund-raising appearance from Maine Gov. Paul LePage who compared the Internal Revenue Service with the Gestapo, Brock could have used a day or two of upbeat publicity. He didn’t get it.

No, the campaign for governor is not over. A candidate doesn’t need more money than his opponent. He just needs enough to run his own campaign and get his message out to the voters. Brock may yet collect enough to do that. But his uphill climb just got a bit steeper.

If the financial disclosures did not suggest an especially competitive race for governor between the parties, they did point toward a competitive race for Attorney General within the Democratic Party. The insurgent candidate, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, raised $129,710, more than the $92,000 raised by long-time incumbent Bill Sorrell.

Donovan has more cash on hand, too, more than $88,7000 compared with about $56,000 for Sorrell.

This doesn’t make Donovan the front-runner. He isn’t as well known as Sorrell, so he needs more money just to get more Vermont Democrats to know who he is. And he doesn’t have until November to do it. The primary is Aug. 28.

But the report was enough of a boost to lend some credence to Donovan’s claim that the results indicates “the extent to which Vermonters are ready for more out of the Office of Attorney General.”

But Sorrell pointed out that he had “raised more money during this reporting period than all my previous campaigns combined,” and said he was confident he would win.

Money is less important in the race for attorney general – in fact, it’s much less important in all the other statewide campaigns – than it is in the contest for governor. That’s because few if any of the other candidates will buy television time; they won’t raise enough money to make a TV ‘buy’ big enough to do them any good. It’s not even certain that a big buy would do them good. With the airways filled this fall with advertisements for president, senator, congress, and governor, how many voters would pay attention to a commercial for state auditor or treasurer?

The Democratic primary for Attorney General will probably come down to which candidate can do a better job of getting his supporters to the polls. They’ll both have enough money to do that. And either will be well-positioned to win the general election against Republican Jack McMullen, who reported zero contributions.

This first campaign finance reporting deadline (there will be one a month for the rest of the year) also brought encouraging news to:

–State Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, the Republican candidate for auditor, who for now has a big financial advantage over his Democratic opponent, Doug Hoffer. Hoffer raised $10,240 and has spent $3,650. Illuzzi reported raising $31,641, but more than half of that — $17,621 – was leftover money from his senate campaign fund. He also, in the Brockian manner, loaned himself $25,000 (which for some reason he seems not to have included in his total of contributions). So he didn’t actually raise that much money. But he has a lot for an auditor’s race. Tom Salmon spent just $58,000 to win re-election in 2010. Illuzzi may need more money, though, just to overcome the disadvantage of being a Republican in what looms as a Democratic year in Vermont.

–State Treasurer Beth Pearce. The Democrat who was appointed to replace Jeb Spaulding when he became Secretary of Administration, and who has never run for office, reported raising $83,945, way ahead of the $15, 970 raised by her Republican opponent, Wendy Wilton of Rutland. Pearce has also spent more, about $33,507 compared to Wilton’s $4,992. But that still leaves her with some $50,000 more to spend than Wilton.

–Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. Not that the $31,408 the Republican incumbent reported raising was that impressive. But his Democratic opponent, political newcomer, Cassandra Gekas, apparently managed to raise only $7,785. Not an auspicious beginning.

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Jon Margolis

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  • Bruce Post

    Abba said it best:

    “I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
    Ain’t it sad
    And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
    That’s too bad
    In my dreams I have a plan
    If I got me a wealthy man
    I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball…

    Money, money, money
    Must be funny
    In the rich man’s world
    Money, money, money
    Always sunny
    In the rich man’s world
    All the things I could do
    If I had a little money
    It’s a rich man’s world.”

  • timothy price

    Only in Vermont is there any reason to hope that corrupting money will not overwhelm the election process. It is possible that the people here are wise to the politicians, and will listen to the candidates, will read about them, will vote for those most committed to the interests of the people, not the 1%.

    And after the election, they must aggressively seek to verify the voting process to see that those who counted the votes, reported the results accurately. We saw, in the 2006 election, large “errors” in reporting the election with the Auditor’s race. The Democratic candidate had lost by a narrow margin, and requested a recount, as allowed by law. Randy Brock spoke our against having a statewide recount, arguing that it was a waste of money.

    The took place anyway, and the recount found the 15 towns had reported the election incorrectly, favoring the Republican candidate. The recount reversed the election, and the Democrat was then the victor, and took the Auditor’s race.

    The Vermont Supreme Court rulled in May of 2011 that the people have the right to see that the officials have reported their vote accurately. Be sure that they do. Money can buy votes.

    We need to assure transparency, and resist the flood of money and the perversion of democracy within our state.

  • Christian Noll

    I agree with my friend Timothy. It is sad that “Money can buy votes.”

    It not only “can,” but IT DOES.

    Individuals or groups of individuals who try to fraudulently sway elections in Vermont should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    We’ve seen whole election processes in Vermont being compromised. Its interesting to see the public just swallow it. With all the advertising dollars at risk, its no wonder the media jumps on board.

    Bravo Tim for taking that to the Supreme Court, and WINNING Pro Se!