Notes from the trail: Brocks new ads; Super PAC leaders misstep
Vermont Press Bureau | September 24,2012
The ad opens with a grainy clip of Gov. Peter Shumlin standing at a podium, singing “Here Comes the Sun” to a crowd of cheering supporters.
He’s no George Harrison, but Shumlin is game.
“Here comes the sun, little darlin’... Here comes the sun, I say, it’s alright.”
But the ominous music in the background, combined with bold-faced lettering reading “45th in business friendliness,” and “4th-worst state in which to retire” suggest it’s anything but.
So begins the latest television ad campaign from Randy Brock, who is staking a late-race surge in part on his first ad buy since May. His campaign, which had less than $250,000 on hand as of Sept. 17, will drop about $70,000 on the 10-day run.
The first half of the ad constitutes the most aggressive move yet in what has to date been a relatively staid campaign.
“It’s alright?” asks a caption below what some will find to be an unflattering shot of Shumlin. “Who’s he fooling?”
The second half of the ad brightens as Republican candidate Randy Brock enters the picture.
“Kids graduate and they leave Vermont, and they leave Vermont because they perceive that the opportunities they want are not necessarily here,” Brock says.
The ads began running on network television Saturday. Shumlin campaign manager Alex MacLean declined to say earlier this week when the Democratic incumbent might hit the airwaves.
Shumlin has spent the first few weeks of his campaign touting the 7,500 jobs that have been created since he was sworn into office, and the fact that Vermont has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
The head of Vermont’s new Republican super PAC stepped in it big-time last week when he lied to Seven Days reporter Paul Heintz about the last time he’d met with GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.
Brock last Wednesday held court with reporters outside the Central Vermont Medical Center to expand on the health care proposal he first unveiled earlier this month. When the topic of the GOP super PAC “Vermonters First” came up, Heintz asked Brock about whether he’d met recently with the group’s treasurer, Tayt Brooks.
Why would Heintz care?
The same federal laws that permit super PACs to spend unlimited sums of money to influence the outcomes of elections also forbid them from coordinating their activities in any way with the candidates whose political prospects they’re trying to propel.
Brock was candid, saying he’d had Brooks over to dinner the night before. Brooks formerly served as executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, and Brock said the two are friends who get together on occasion.
But he was adamant the two did not discuss politics.
“The point is, we didn’t talk about campaign stuff,” Brock said. “He’s not involved in my campaign.”
Immediately after the press conference, Heintz put in a call to Brooks to get his answer to the same question: When was the last time you met with Randy Brock?
According to Heintz, who details the exchange on his blog, Off Message, Brooks “at first claimed he hadn’t seen the gubernatorial candidate in months.”
“Asked when he last saw Brock, Brooks said, ‘I really honestly don’t know.’ Asked again, he said, ‘I have to think about it.’ Asked a third time, he said, ‘The last time I saw Randy Brock was probably a few months ago,’” Heintz reports.
Told that Brock had minutes ago told the media of their dinner together the night before, Brooks began singing a different tune.
“I did meet with Randy last night,” he told Heintz. “I happened to catch up with Randy last night.”
Neither Brooks nor Brock would talk about what they discussed at Brock’s Franklin County home.
“It was a private conversation,” Brooks told Heintz. “It was not related as far as anything with Vermonters First.”
The dinner conversation between Brock and Brooks may have been within the law. But Brooks’ misstep certainly won’t inspire public confidence in the super PAC’s independence from the candidates on whose behalf it’s working.
While Vermonters First hasn’t yet run ads specifically championing Randy Brock, a newly released ad critical of the single-payer health plan asks voters to “elect balance” in November.
The Vermont Democratic Party was quick to seize on the controversy.
“Clearly Vermonters can’t believe what Tayt Brooks says and it’s no surprise that his organization’s ads are misleading, counter-factual, and negative,” VDP Chairman Jake Perkinson said in a release.
“We take any potential collaboration between Randy Brock’s campaign and the Super PAC Vermonters First very seriously,” he said. “Tayt Brooks repeated refusal to discuss the meeting between himself and Randy Brock only casts further question on the potential collusion. Voters expect and deserve candidates that will not only comply with Vermont law, but also provide an honest and factual conversation.”