Trail mix: Corren hopes to lock arms with Dems in next round

Dean Corren, the Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor, is seeking the Democratic nomination, and though he has the unsolicited endorsement of Gov. Peter Shumlin, support from the party is slower in coming.

Corren was buoyed by the warm reception he received from the Vermont Democratic Party state committee meeting on Saturday. He says that if he can get more than 250 write-in votes on the Democratic primary ballot, securing the support of the party pooh-bahs will be no problem.

“Considering they responded very positively, I have to take it that they agreed with my position on health care,” Corren said.

The Burlington resident and longtime health care reform activist said party leaders like his message on their signature issue: The development of a single payer health care system. Corren wrote the first single payer health care bill when he was a representative. He and the governor are in sync with the need for single payer, he says.

“I will do more to help the economy and the government to get control of health care costs that will result in more sustainable job creation than anything Phil Scott has done,” Corren said.

In his view, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican incumbent, has made single payer an either/or proposition.

“The difference is night and day, it’s not health care or jobs; it’s health care and jobs,” he said.

The Republicans, Corren says, “are in full self-destruct mode and are entirely out of touch with what Vermonters want.”

The recent successes of the Progressive and Democratic parties, he said, shows that when they work together it’s not “a zero sum game.” Corren says “both parties can succeed simultaneously.”

Democratic party leaders have asked Corren to come back to their September meeting for an official endorsement.

The state committee didn’t vote on whether to support Corren on Saturday because there was some confusion about the rules regarding endorsements for candidates from other parties.

Corren qualifies for $200,000 worth of public funding, divvied up between the primary and general election.

Anne Galloway

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  • Patrick Cashman

    Since Mr. Corren is using Vermonters’ money to campaign for a paid position, has he pledged to repay that money in full at some point in the future or perhaps refuse the salary for the first few years? Or has Mr. Corren provided a method by which Vermonters who don’t want their money being used to further the political goals of someone they disagree with can request an immediate refund of their portion from his campaign? It appears currently that Mr. Corren believes Vermonters should pay for him to get the job, and then continue paying him to hold the job.

    • Barry Kade

      Patrick: Would you prefer an elected official who takes office with outstanding I.O.U.s to big donors or one who owes his election to the public in general?

      • Walter Carpenter

        “outstanding I.O.U.s to big donors or one who owes his election to the public in general?”

        Good point, Barry.

        • Robert Hooper

          Or one who owes their funding and election to ONE rich woman in the city of Burlington ?

      • Michael Stahler

        That public financing sure is working well for the current Governor. I mean he never gives special interests what they want, right? Oh wait?!

        And as to the comment about “jobs and health care”, I hate to break it to folks but I know a lot of doctors who have left Vermont because of the single payer system. And there are more ready to move if needed. Not only do the doctors leave, but their taxes…err…”revenue” leave too. Right now there is not enough “revenue” to make this feasible. It is a laudable goal, but it is not economically feasible. Just read the Administration’s Plan to finance it…oh wait, that’s right, there is no plan.

    • John Greenberg

      Public campaign financing is not a loan; there is Patrick,

      Public campaign financing is not a loan; there is no reason why Mr. Corren should pay it back.

      Rather he joins the majority of Vermonters – at least insofar as the Vermont legislature and governor represent them – in believing that public financing of elections supports and sustains democracy.

      Why not ask the same question of all those candidates who do not receive public money? Will they pay back their donors? A good many of us – unfortunately not including the majority of the Supreme Court of the United States – increasingly believe that the answer to that question is YES, they will. They just will make certain that no one sees exactly how they do it. To many of us, that’s a good deal scarier than paying a few dollars to support open, transparent, and fair elections.

      As to whether Mr. Corren has “provided a method by which Vermonters who don’t want their money being used to further the political goals of someone they disagree with can request an immediate refund of their portion from his campaign,” try getting your money back for ANY government program you disagree with. Your argument is no more pertinent here than it is to every other government initiative.

      That’s why taxes are taxes, and not just voluntary contributions: we submit ourselves to the will of the majority as the price of a more civilized society, to paraphrase Justice Holmes.
      o reason why Mr. Corren should pay it back.

      • John Greenberg

        Sorry this comment got a bit messed up. Hopefully, it’s still comprehensible.

      • patrick cashman

        “…try getting your money back for ANY government program you disagree with. Your argument is no more pertinent here than it is to every other government initiative.”

        But there’s the rub. You are equating Mr. Corren’s ambition with a government program. Instead Mr. Corren is a guy who has self-selected to apply for a job. He represents a certain set of professed values. And all that is fine. Where it becomes a problem is when this individual private citizen (and his particular interest group) uses the weight of the government to compel support from those who may disagree with his values and the platform of the group he represents, and who may not want Mr. Corren to get that job. In fact there are likely Vermonters who believe that Mr. Corren will work directly against their interests, yet they are required to fund his job search regardless. As a general statement I believe that compelled speech is usually a bad idea. In particular to this case, it only reinforces the idea of the Progressive Party as a group which is not only breathlessly eager to get in everyone’s wallet but now can’t even be bothered to win an election before doing so.

        All that being said I fully understand that the public financing law is just that; a law. But being legal does not necessarily equal being moral or praiseworthy. Mr. Corren and the Progressives are extremely fortunate beneficiaries of a government program which they are leveraging to gain more power, and then presumably enact other government programs they can exploit to gain more power, etc. etc. Just because grasping opportunism is often legal doesn’t mean it should be quietly ignored when it occurs. Towards that end I’m proposing a couple ways in which Mr. Corren can compensate Vermonters for subsidizing his job search. Let’s see if he decides to try and pay his debt.

        • John Greenberg


          “You are equating Mr. Corren’s ambition with a government program. ”

          No, actually I’m equating running for and holding government office with a government program. There’s a significant difference.

          He’ll “pay his debt,” should he win office, by serving loyally and dispassionately.

          • Patrick Cashman

            Not exactly a stunning endorsement of Mr. Corren’s character; pay for his campaign or, if elected, he will be passionately disloyal.

            Though it leads to the question of what if he is not elected? Should we expect a lump sum payment or some sort of installment plan?

          • John Greenberg


            You are missing my point and perverting my language.

            First, this has nothing to do with Dean Corren or any other individual for that matter. Public financing is part of the structure we have (through our elected officials) chosen for our democracy, just as elective office itself is. I made no attempt to “endorse” Mr. Corren’s “character” or to impugn it. But I suspect you know that already.

            Second, for the same reason, this has nothing to do with winners and losers. I accepted your “debt” formulation above, but I shouldn’t have. There is NO debt here. Taxpayers are paying for what they hope, at least, will be free and fairly fought elections and therefore better office holders. They’re not loaning anything to anyone.

            Legislatures spend taxpayer money all the time for projects they believe voters want.
            If enough voters disagree with the way their money is being spent, either the laws will get changed or legislators will lose their seats. There’s nothing novel about this.

          • Patrick Cashman

            I am not perverting your language. I am repeating it back to you inverted so that you can see the less positive aspects of what you are advocating instead of merely touting what you see as benefits. You have spent time pointing out what you believe the benefits of public financing are and made an awful lot of assumptions based on your own personal opinion of what you believe should be true. Assumptions such as; those who are not elected on the public’s dime are corrupted, those who are elected on the public’s dime will be incorruptible, and that in Mr. Corren’s case he will not just take the money and continue on in a self-serving manner. I don’t see any assessment or enforcement mechanism that would forcibly turn your assumptions into reality, so while you are focusing on one possible most-positive potential, I believe that since our public monies that could be used for so much other good work are at risk that it is important to address the other equally possible negative potential. And while you may object to focusing on Mr. Corren and the Progs as opposed to a program as a whole, the fact is this is very much about Mr. Corren and the Progs. Currently the system of getting other Vermonters to pay for your campaign is based on choice. In Mr. Corren and the Progs case when asked “Do you want other Vermonters to foot the bill?”, they responded with a “Hell yes.” Others did not.
            As for whether there is a debt or not, it’s either a loan, an investment, or a gift. If you are arguing it’s a gift then very well, I guess we actually agree. Because to me it bears all the hallmarks of a gift in that it is a large sum of money handed over with no intention of attempting to recoup, no promise of a return, and no future ability to make a claim that Mr. Corren and the Progs failed to deliver on some promised service since they are not required to make any such promise. Personally I don’t care for our common monies being gifted out to the select few.

          • John Greenberg


            “I am not perverting your language. I am repeating it back to you inverted….” That’s a joke, right?!

            You say that I’m assuming that “those who are not elected on the public’s dime are corrupted” and “those who are elected on the public’s dime will be incorruptible.” That’s ALMOST correct. I’m actually making the “assumption” that those who are elected under the current private funding system are MORE LIKELY to be corrupted, or to use a lesser and more suitable term, influenced, by the sources of their money and that those who receive public money are LESS likely to be subject to such corruption.

            By using the word “assumption,” you appear to suggest that there is no basis for either of these propositions. Actually, I have observed – as have many others – that public officials elected by rich folks tend to cater to them, leaving the rest of us behind. Economic inequality in our society has grown in the last 40 years, and it strains credulity to assert that political decisions have had nothing to do with that, especially when some of them have had quite a direct impact: lowering top marginal tax rates while raising payroll taxes, lowering corporate tax contributions (through deductions, exemptions and credits mostly, rather than rates), failing to adjust the minimum wage for inflation, etc. I suppose it could be a mere coincidence that all of these policies benefit wealthy donors to political campaigns, but I, for one, don’t believe that for an instant.

            In other words, you certainly don’t have to agree with me, but my “assumption” does not arise from nothing, but rather from observation of our political system as now constituted. If my observation is correct, then it follows that removing the source of the problem is likely to make it less likely to occur. In short, my 2 “assumptions” both actually stem from one empirical observation.

            Please note, before I pass to the next point, that I have avoided the word “corruption.” The Roberts court in particular has been at some pains to narrow the definition of that word to quid pro quo transactions, but there is no POLICY reason for doing so and their legal rationale is irrelevant here, since no one here is limiting privately financed candidates’ “speech.” (The Court’s concern was the 1st amendment, which is not at issue here) So rather than debate the legal meaning of the term “corruption,” then, I have chosen to frame my observation differently and avoid that issue entirely.

            The second problem with your argument here concerns the standard you’re attempting to set for legislative policies. Changing probabilities is often the best we can hope for from legislation: we criminalize murder and robbery not to make them impossible – we can’t do that — but to make them LESS likely to occur. Similarly, I did not and would not say that public funding will end all influence and corruption; my argument is that it will alleviate it to some degree. As to “any assessment or enforcement mechanism,” I’ve already suggested that public financing bypasses at least one of the causes of the problem. No further “mechanism” is needed.

            Moving right along, it’s actually not the case that Corren is alone in taking public money. His Democratic opponent planned to do so as well, but failed to meet the legal strictures required and dropped out of the race. Personally, I would be delighted if his Republican opponent were to choose to take the money as well, but he has made it clear that he will not do so. The fact that he hasn’t is no reflection on either his character or Corren’s, though it does, of course, define a POLITICAL difference between them.

            Finally, government spending is what it is; I see no reason to accept the narrowly channeled terms you provide me as a multiple choice. As I noted above, spending on improving elections is no different from spending on many other things that governments do every day. You can call them whatever you like. It’s still a free country.

          • Patrick Cashman

            So you see it as a bet then. Because that is largely what you are describing. You and those legislators who voted for public financing are betting (with other peoples’ money) that some action will result from throwing free money (other peoples’ money) at candidates. But can you describe what that action is? Not in nebulous, intangible terms but in actual measurable, common metrics? If we are going to squeeze tax money from Vermonters for the purpose of a program, a program that compels them to support candidates who may be abhorrent to them such as Mr. Corren, it seems a meager demand that some measure be in place to determine if Vermonters are getting that benefit you believe will spontaneously accrue. In the absence of such a measure, it really is just a free handout to a candidate. Not free to the Vermonter who worked for it and was then compelled to hand it over, but free to the candidate who gets a sack full of money (other peoples’ money) presumably in some shady parking lot somewhere.

            And in this case, of course the Progs are the only ones seeking out that free sack of compelled cash. Might-have-beens or alternative futures can be fun, but I thought we were talking about this reality. In this reality it is the Progs who are leveraging the money of those who don’t agree with them but were compelled by the State to support them.

          • John Greenberg


            We’ve moved into the silly part of this dialogue.

            “So you see it as a bet then.” No, actually I don’t. And nothing I said stated or implied that I do. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

            “But can you describe what that action is?” I already have, as have others here. The “action” is elections financed by public, rather than private interests.

            The “benefit you believe will spontaneously accrue” is the knowledge that campaign contributions can no longer buy influence or access as they do now.

            “Might-have-beens or alternative futures can be fun…” The Democratic candidate actually ran. He didn’t “might have” run; and he didn’t run in an “alternative future.”
            He ran. He failed to collect enough money to qualify for the public funding and then dropped out of the race. Perverting the facts may “be fun,” but it has no place in legitimate debate.

            Finally, “In this reality it is the Progs …” No Patrick. In this RACE, it is the Progressive …. But the campaign financing law is not limited to this particular race. In another race, it could well be a candidate from a different party. And we have already learned from THIS race that candidates from at least TWO parties are interested in public financing. It remains to be seen whether candidates from other parties are interested or can qualify.

          • Patrick Cashman


            You are right in that I used “seeking” when I should have written “taking” (exploiting, appropriating, or confiscating would have also worked). Beyond that, nope.

            You still have not tangibly defined the action or measurable result you would expect to see from throwing other peoples’ money at candidates. Instead of a result, you described the actual act of heaving boatloads of Vermonters’ wages at Mr. Corren, not some measurable outcome that can be assessed for effectiveness. Because there isn’t one. There are platitudes and hopes, but no way to prevent or respond to Mr. Corren simply tipping his hat, saying “thanks for the cash”, and carrying on however he chooses to. So yes John, it’s a bet. With other peoples’ money.

            So in the end in the LtGov race there will be one candidate who not only wants you to give him a job and pay his salary, but also to pay for his postage to mail the application, give him a ride to the interview, buy him lunch and drop him off back at his house with a little spending cash in his pocket. I wasn’t aware it was Vermont’s job to woo Mr. Corren. Could we just send him flowers instead?

          • Michael Stahler

            Well….I think there is a concern about whether an elected official should come in and run through their own agenda “because it’s right” or should listen to the concerns of the constituency and vote the way their constituency wants them to. There’s something to be said about that distinction. He is clearly a pro-single payer system for Vermont, but are the majority of Vermonters for it? Is it what is best for Vermont, especially considering the demographics?

            And he seems to be yet another Lt. Gov. candidate that does not understand the very limited role of that position. They are not even paid full time if I recall correctly. They only technically run the Senate. I think that Vermonters, at least during the last few elections that I know of, voted against the idea of a Lt. Governor with more power, per se, by re-electing the incumbent.

    • Karl Riemer

      “Vermonters should pay for him to get the job, and then continue paying him to hold the job.”

      Yes, that’s right. If we all pay him to run, he works for all of us. If corporations or a few rich people pay for politicians to get elected, we’re still on the hook for their salary but they work for the people who got them that salary. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. In a political system truly intended to serve the public, public financing would be the *only* legal financing. (There will always be ways around barriers to buying politicians, but right now there’s no pretense of trying.)

      • patrick cashman

        Nope. Compelling speech, especially by the State, is a bad idea. This is also not a difficult concept to grasp. If an employer mandated that all employees provide financial support to a candidate (conveniently extracted from every employee’s check) we would all rightfully be up in arms. It doesn’t become any more acceptable when the State does it.

        On a side note, regardless of how a candidate gets into office or which party they come from, he/she works for all us. Accepting otherwise is just surrender.

        • Doug Hoffer

          It is you who has not grasped the concept. It was a duly elected legislature that passed a law. That is in no way comparable to an edict by a private sector employer.

          • patrick cashman

            Compelled speech Doug. Never good, especially when the State is the one doing the compelling. And even when your own party is the one feasting at the public trough.

          • Jim Christiansen

            A duly elected legislative body sent us to war in Iraq too.

            Legislative bodies can’t create settled science.

        • Walter Carpenter

          “Compelling speech, especially by the State, is a bad idea. ”

          But when corporations do the same thing it is a good idea?

          • patrick cashman

            Try reading it again Walter.

        • John Greenberg


          No one is compelling “speech” here. This is not a question of “speech” at all. The Supreme Court notwithstanding, money is not speech.

          That said, governments compel speech all the time: when you sign any government form, you’ve just sworn under pains of perjury that your “speech” is true. Fail to sign or fill out the form, and you fail to receive whatever it is that the form does. Want to drive? Fill out an application and sign it, or relinquish your desire.

          In some cases, e.g. income tax forms, failure to fill out the form AND sign it is criminal behavior if your income is sufficient to be taxed.

          • Patrick Cashman

            Really? Above you are lauding one facet of our democracy because it suits your opinion (submitting to the will of the majority, law enacted by the elected legislature, etc) yet now you are deriding another facet of our government because it doesn’t suit your opinion (“The Supreme Court notwithstanding”). If you put the two together you are essentially advocating straight majority rule with zero protection of the rights of an individual. It suits your purposes in this case, but you might want to consider what other individual rights you are willing to hazard to the whims of the majority before picking this particular course.

          • John Greenberg


            ” now you are deriding another facet of our government because it doesn’t suit your opinion….” I’m not deriding a “facet of our government” at all; I’m OPPOSING a series of Supreme Court OPINIONS about political campaigns. In most, if not all, of these cases, 4 of the 9 justices agreed with me.

            I accept that Supreme Court decisions are the law of the land until they are overturned. That’s the only “facet of our government” in question here.

            Notwithstanding that recognition, however, I believe that from time to time, Supreme Court decisions have been wrong (as have Congressional and Presidential decisions), so, to use your term, I “deride,” e.g., Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson. Don’t you?

            On your final point, nothing I’ve said (or believe) allows you to reach the inference that I am “essentially advocating straight majority rule with zero protection of the rights of an individual.” That’s utter nonsense.

          • Patrick Cashman

            Great. So I am not deriding the legislative branch as an idea, merely opposing a ridiculously abusive and amateurish law until it is overturned. Yet complying with that law until that time. For me this means Vermonters’ money is taken out of their wallets and instead of going to their kids or daily needs, is handed over to bastions of kookery such as the Prog party. In your case, until such time as those decisions are over-turned, money in politics is a type of speech. So you are accepting State compelled speech. Either own it or walk away from it but quit dancing around the end results of your stated positions.

          • John Greenberg

            1) “So I am not deriding the legislative branch as an idea, merely opposing a ridiculously abusive and amateurish law until it is overturned.” Exactly. So far, at least, I haven’t seen any evidence that you reject the Legislature’s legal entitlement to pass laws that you disagree with.

            2) “So you are accepting State compelled speech.” That’s a bit more problematic. First, as I’ve already stated, I do NOT agree with the Court’s line of decisions suggesting that campaign contributions are a form of speech, so at most, I would be accepting what the COURT calls compelled speech (in my opinion, erroneously), not what I call compelled speech.

            But, second, the Court has not ruled against public financing (as far as I’m aware). It HAS ruled against limitations on private contributions as being an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. There’s a significant difference. So, unless and until the Court actually rules that public financing is tantamount to “compelled speech,” your suggestion remains an inference, NOT a legal ruling.

            All of which means that I am accepting what YOU call “compelled speech,” and what the Court MIGHT call “compelled speech,” but what I do NOT call “compelled speech.”

          • Patrick Cashman


            I’ve stated explicitly several times that I understand public financing of elections in Vermont for certain races is a law, passed by the legislature, and if I had any choice in the matter that while I believe the legislature was wrong I would still comply until such time as it is no longer a law. No need for “evidence”, merely literacy. But the fun bit for me is that you have opined several times that since public financing of various strivers’ campaigns is a law passed by the elected legislature it must therefore be OK, yet base the absolution you manufacture for yourself on your personal assessment that the Supreme Court was wrong and therefore their opinion is moot. Three branches of government John. You don’t get to just pick the one that agrees most with you and ignore the other two.

          • John Greenberg

            “you have opined several times that since public financing of various strivers’ campaigns is a law passed by the elected legislature it must therefore be OK…”

            I never said anything of the kind. I gave you the reasons that I think the law is OK. You don’t like them. My reasons had nothing to do with having been passed by the legislature. Had it not passed, it wouldn’t be a law, now would it.

  • Ann Raynolds

    Dean Corren not only supports the key single payer issue of the Democratic Party, he is also highly versed in environmental and other issues. He will be a great addition to the Shumlin team which includes Treasurer Beth Pearce, Auditor Doug Hoffer, Attorney General Bill Sorrell and Secretary of State Jim condos.
    Pearce, Hoffer and Sorrell gave spirited accounts of what they are doing in their various unsung work. This alone was worth the trip to Montpelier to hear them speak. Shumlin, as usual, was articulate and forward-looking in his remarks.
    And, as ever, our lone congressman Peter Welch described his efforts to remain upbeat in the toxic atmosphere of our present U.S. House of Representatives.
    It was a stellar performance by Vermont’s democratic party led by Dottie Deans and fully justified the Democrats overwhelming lead in our State’s governance.

    • Jim christiansen

      Don’t forget Mark Larson. He’s doing a bang up job with VHC!

  • George Cross

    Pearce, Hoffer, Sorrell and Condos are not a part of the Shumlin team. They are independently elected to Constitutional offices in the same way the Governor is elected. There are unquestionable a number of issues they may agree about, but the people elected them to serve the people and not the Governor. They all do a great job doing just that.

  • Jamie Carter

    “I will do more to help the economy and the government to get control of health care costs that will result in more sustainable job creation than anything Phil Scott has done,” Corren said.”

    Like What? Without any specifics you are merely blowing hot air like every other candidate. Seems like the whole platform is “I support single payer. Other then that I got nothing else.”

  • Peter Everett

    I think I’m going to barf!!!!

  • Michael Stahler

    And, regardless of what you think of the candidate, you must admit that $200,000 is a lot of money for a candidate. Considering that the State consistently has budget issues and the tax burden, maybe this amount should be assessed. There are a lot of Vermonters who don’t even earn 1/10 of that a year, let alone grasp how much money that is. It is a noble idea, but I’m having a hard time seeing this when some of the folks who complain about “money in politics” have coffers of money from their own interest groups coming in to them. Just because you agree with a group’s point of view does not eliminate the term “special interest” or “political action committee.” And it does not eliminate the concern about money in politics.

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