Suit Threatened Over Campaign Finance Ruling

Campaign finance news from the Boston Globe, August 27, 2008 MONTPELIER, Vt.—A prominent Burlington lawyer said Tuesday he is in talks with supporters of independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina about filing suit in federal court over Vermont's campaign finance laws. 
The comments from John Franco, former Burlington city attorney and former aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders when a congressman, came as Pollina's campaign was striking a conciliatory tone and saying he would take steps to comply with the law as interpreted by Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz and Attorney General William Sorrell. "Anthony's waving the white flag on this," said Franco, who said he had donated $600 to Pollina this election cycle and might like to give more. "But this implicates the constitutional rights of his contributors as well. It's not going down very easily with me, and it's not going down very easily with some of his other contributors, either." Pollina's problem with contributions began in July after he dropped his Progressive Party affiliation and said he would run for governor as an independent. The Secretary of State's office notified him of a tighter limitation on fundraising by independent candidates and that he may have accidentally violated it. At issue is a campaign finance law provision that limits independent candidates to contributions of $1,000 per donor -- half as much as what party-affiliated candidates can raise. Franco said he had been in talks with other Pollina donors and expected to act as their lawyer when they file suit in the coming days in federal court. Meanwhile, former Democratic congressional candidate and Bennington County State's Attorney John A. Burgess said he and his wife Virginia, who are active in the group Democrats for Pollina, were contemplating filing their own suit.

He Was a Friend of Mine

It has been nostalgia week at my house. I’ve been playing my favorite old records, many from the ‘60s. The song that made me just sit down and listen was the Byrds’ beautiful eulogy for President Kennedy: “He Was A Friend of Mine.”  The song unfolds slowly. It’s not until the second verse that you even know who “he” is. Then my favorite line: “though I never met him, I knew him just the same.” That’s the way we all felt. I’m in the oldest cohort of baby boomers, and JFK was our spiritual guide. We charged through high school and college with his exhortation ringing in our ears: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I waited patiently for our turn at the helm of American government. Clinton is one of us, and he was pretty good until he just couldn’t keep his pants zipped. I sighed and thought, well, I guess that was our big chance, and we blew it. George Bush is part of our cohort, too. With him at the tiller, America has lost much of its influence in the world. (When my partner and I traveled to India in 1996, people greeted us with, “Hello. What country?” When we answered “America,” they would beam and say, “Great country!” After a month on the subcontinent, I believed that even more fervently than before.) I don’t think that exchange would be the same today. I know most Europeans are dumbfounded that America could elect our current president – twice even. So when I look at Obama, what I see is the new face of America in the world, someone who looks like a citizen of the world community. And I remember Jack Kennedy. He was a friend of mine too.

Ellen Garneau, Candidate for Legislature

Podcast of Equal Time Radio interview with Ellen Garneau, Progressive Party candidate for State Rep from Pittsford and Sudbury. Ellen speaks out on why we need a Vermont economy that works for all. She hits the Rutland area transportation cuts, outlines an energy plan that would boost Vermont's economy, and says its time to get serious about universal health care, fair taxation based on ability to pay, and making sure people don't freeze this winter. Hear podcast at:


According to a recent Pew Center study, Vermont "tops the list" of states spending more on corrections than on higher education. In 2007, we spent $1.37 for every $1 spent on public universities and community colleges. The cost of housing one female inmate at the Dale correctional facility in Waterbury was a whopping $67,000 per year, an amount that would pay in-state tuition for 6 students. What is wrong with this picture?

Years ago, I attended a conference on learning disabilities and the correctional system and was told that about 75% of the people in our prisons are learning disabled or have mental health problems. A group of graduates from the Woodside Correctional facility talked about their experiences before, during and after Woodside. These kids had turned their lives around and some of them wanted to go to college, but had no money to do so. Why is it that we always have enough money to fund corrections but our schools go begging?

I can’t remember the name of the wealthy businessman who told an inner city Kindergarten class years ago that he would pay for their college costs if they graduated with a B average or something like that. He also provided tutoring for the kids that wanted it. As I recall, a huge percentage of these kids ended up attending college and I have to bet that at least some of them might have ended up in the correctional system instead, had they not been given this opportunity. College is a bargain compared to prison, not to mention the human costs of crime for the victims, the inmates, children growing up without parents, etc. We need to straighten out our priorities.

Jim = (his) Job

In the latest monthly press release, the Commissioner of Labor said, "National economic conditions continue to make job growth a challenge in the short-term." True enough. In a recent interview, the Governor said, "The economy is going through a difficult time, but we've been here before. I've had the privilege of leading our state through another downturn, five years ago, we came out of it. We have about 12,000 more jobs in our state than we did at that point, and I know that we're going to get through the current economic downturn as well." [Free Press transcript of Jim Douglas interview; posted online August 17, 2008] Does anyone else see a problem here? At the high point before the last recession (Sept. 2001), we had 253,900 private sector jobs. After the recession, we regained the jobs lost and gained a few more. But since Nov. 2006, VT has lost 1,500 private sector jobs. As a result, we have the same number of private sector jobs we had back in Sept. 2001. Therefore, over the last seven and a half years, we have not gained ANY net new private sector jobs. So which is it Governor? You are trying to take credit for jobs created after a recession (which happens every time regardless of who is the governor) but when we lose jobs it's the result of "national economic conditions". Classic: job growth = my good; job losses = not my bad. This is where we would normally say, hey, you can't have it both ways. Unfortunately, the media can't bring itself to challenge this absurd proposition. Some reporters say voters can decide for themselves whether the Governor is being straight with them. This assumes voters know the facts. But how would they know the facts if the media doesn't tell them? Jim Douglas surely won't.

Mobile Meat Processing

Not to put down the mobile freezing unit which I think it is a good thing, but two years ago, in the Agriculture Committee we discussed this and voted to fund the mobile poultry processing unit over the mobile freezing unit. Why?  For one, there is a shortage of slaughtering options for poultry producers and the demand for local poultry is huge.  Second, there are far more poultry producers than medium or large scale berry producers.   Don't get me wrong.  I am sure that the freezing unit will bear fruit. (ha ha)  And there will be producers who use it and benefit by it.  But, at the same time, in February of 2007 the Agriculture Agency informed the committee that they thought we would have the mobile poultry unit on line for the fall turkeys.  Turns out, it was not even ordered by then. I appreciate the efforts of the Agency of Agriculture for working towards many areas of support for producers of foods that are consumed locally and for working to expand the season for which we can get them.  But considering the slaughterhouse problems and the numbers of producers, they need to keep focused on the items that would be used more fully and more quickly. I have been told the poultry processing unit has finally been ordered.  I hope that we see a story soon about the mobile processing unit coming on line, and with an operator.  But I won't count my chickens...
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