September 10th, 2009

More Dubie Material, of Dubious Origin

by Philip Baruth

You’ll remember that last week, we captured a Facebook ad, encouraging folks to sign up, in order to encourage Brian Dubie to encourage himself to run for Governor. VDB made what seemed like a very plausible assertion: that while the Facebook effort purported to be independent of Dubie, in all likelihood it had probably been commenced with his assent.

But apparently we were wrong, or so says Aaron Melville, the Republican netroots type who whipped up the FB ad campaign. He sent the following email out to those who’d signed up on the Run Dubie Run page:

Dear all:

We have reached 500 members! This is more than twice the total of Deb Markowitz and more than all of the Democrats combined. Good work everyone.

Now I want to lay some items to rest. There are some in the news media that believe that this group is secretly funded or approved by Lt. Gov. Dubie before it and the adds [sic] went live. I want to make it clear to you all that Mr. Dubie did not ask that this group be formed. This was a page that I created on my own, they [sic] ads on facebook I am funding by myself. In fact I do not believe that I have actually met Mr. Dubie in person (we did have one brief business related phone conversation and I have been at some rallys and political events where he was present). This is simply a grassroots movement to recruit a good man to run for Governor of Vermont.

So, I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend, please continue recruiting your friends to join our group.


Aaron Melville

We take Aaron Melville at his word, and congratulate him on a solid burst of early support. Fully believable that the effort has no connection with the candidate involved; wouldn’t be the first time that a netroots encouragement campaign gets folded into a later official campaign.

But that doesn’t stop the hunt for Dubie’s fingerprints on early campaign maneuvers. Latest bit of evidence to come in over the transom? This description of a polling call, received two nights ago by VDB-reader Elaine, in the Chittenden County area. Elaine writes:

Dear VDB,

I thought you’d be interested to hear that I received a call from a pollster yesterday, asking me all sorts of comparative questions about whether I supported liberals or conservatives, and whether I liked various VT politicians. The caller asked me to choose between many people, including Markowitz, Shumlin, Racine, Randy Brock, Shap Smith. No mention of Pollina or Salmon.

The name that came up most, though, was Dubie.

What annoyed me most about this call (though I guess most polls do this) is that they wanted me to make choices between unpalatable alternatives. In particular, did I want a liberal who isn’t focused on financial issues but who talks a lot about social plans, or someone who is fiscally conservative and can control the liberal legislature when they go off on social problems like abortion? I mean, what kind of choice is that?

The company that called was Central Marketing (pretty sure—left my note to self at home), and they are out of NYC. She could not tell me who hired them as this particular poll had “no sponsor,” as she put it, whereas others frequently do.



We’ll leave this description of the call to more or less stand on its own. Clearly the person/persons funding the calls is interested in finding out where Dubie stands, in the grand scheme of voter preferences, and how social issues impact that standing. But that’s not to say that it’s Dubie himself asking how Dubie’s doing.

At this point, might just as easily be Tom Salmon, Jr.

September 9th, 2009

A Really Short Break From Fundraising

by Philip Baruth

Apparently France is going through an exceedingly strange manufactured controversy over the stage-management of Sarkozy’s daily events. The trouble? Sarko, who is not tall, would prefer to appear so. Or so claim the occasional tall folk barred from the stage with the French President. And that’s all as may be. It’s nothing we haven’t dealt with ourselves, regarding Tom Cruise and his series of towering wives. But what makes this controversy worth visiting is the graphic put together by the BBC to make sense of it all. Feast your eyes, because hard news doesn’t get any better, friends.

September 4th, 2009

State Senate Campaign Update: Second Major Fundraising Push Begins, This Time To Fit Up The Wifi-Enabled Main House

by Philip Baruth

Most political campaigns, large or small, make a fetish of secrecy. So universal is the agreement on campaign secrecy that it becomes the mark of professionalism: the campaigns that tell voters the least about their own inner workings deserve the most support. Or so goes the traditional thinking. But netroots campaigns tend to work differently. Netroots campaigns move strategy and policy ideas directly from supporters to the candidate; and at the same time, information about the inner workings of the campaign flows directly back. And that includes fundraising. Yes, Lord.

In June, we started a fundraising push designed to launch this campaign. The idea was to convince 100 people to invest in the race, whatever the size of their contribution. We named this group of early adopters Barnraisers, because they were helping us construct the first, early structures of the campaign. And they were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, they way neighbors once helped newcomers and the newly married get a farm up and running.

We raised $10,000 that way, from over 100 donors, and we did it by July 15, just in time for the campaign finance reporting period. It was really a wonderful thing.

And then everybody rested, and had a Fresca.

But after we rested, we began putting those dollars to solid use: launching the first version of the campaign website, designing and printing cards and stickers and lawn signs, beefing up creating and running the first small-scale advertisements.

In short, we’ve used that early money to build a very solid foundation, and God love you if you contributed some of it. We couldn’t be more grateful.

But now it’s September, winter’s not far off, and it’s time to put a honest to God farmhouse on top of that slab. A farmhouse with two residential-scale windmills behind, a bank of sun-tracking solar panels on top, and wifi within.

We figure that by the campaign’s official kick-off (September 29, 6-9, Nectars) we’ll have raised about 25% of the funds we need to win this Senate race. Chittenden County is a huge area to cover; the tiny advertising campaign now in place will need to grow exponentially; the lawnsign budget alone will be staggering. A single snail-mailing can run $10,000.

That means that 75% of the work of raising money remains undone. And that’s a lot of work.

If you’re a regular reader, you know the range of issues at stake. Over the last month, two in particular have gotten a lot of ink here at VDB: universal digital access statewide, and holding Entergy’s feet to the fire on the cleanup of Vermont Yankee.

But for me those are each part of a larger discussion: what’s the best way for Vermont to reposition itself in the global economy? If we get the answer wrong, we head in the direction of the Shakers, a community that didn’t think clearly about the future and is now known almost exclusively for the style of their furniture.

I believe that replacing Yankee’s power with renewables like wind will help nudge the state toward a lead role in developing the technologies involved, technologies we can continue to export and leverage.

I believe that providing universal healthcare through a single-payer pilot program here in Vermont will make the state significantly more attractive to small home-grown businesses, as well as out-of-state concerns.

And I believe that universal broadband access is the essential infrastructure for all of the above. Without it, we’re bringing a spoon to a global digital knife-fight. And a tarnished, twentieth-century spoon at that.

Reaching our campaign budget means we can continue to push for these things at every opportunity. We can advertise around these issues, and keep them front and center in the scrum of the race. And not incidentally, we can demonstrate that there is an active, potent netroots community in Vermont, one with an articulated wish-list and the far-flung resources to help make it so.

So consider our second major fundraising push launched. If you’ve been considering contributing to this campaign at some point, we could really use you on board now. Act Blue makes it the work of three minutes. Click this link, decide what you can contribute, and within a matter of hours you should have my email in your inbox, thanking you pretty profusely. But thanks in advance, anyway.

Most people only get active and excited about one or two races per cycle. If you choose to make this one of your races to watch, I promise you this: we’ll make it a race worth keeping your eye on.

Maybe even both eyes.

September 3rd, 2009

Free Press Joins Push For Universal Access

by Philip Baruth

A very solid editorial from the Free Press today, on the state’s lack of digital access and corresponding lack of high-tech competitiveness. Among other trouble signs, the editorial board points to “a Reuters news report that the biggest U.S. Internet service providers want regulators to define ‘broadband’ at speeds significantly slower than those in many other countries.” Translation? They are trying to hoodwink you, as Obama famously put it in South Carolina.

Like commercial farms pressuring regulators to water down the meaning of the word “organic,” these service providers would like credit from the public and cash from the individual for providing “broadband,” when they have no intention of, you know, actually providing broadband.

Which is why we need to take such basic infrastructure decisions (that is, whether to wire up the entire state rather than the most marketable portion of it) out of corporate hands, in the event that those hands are found to be giving us The Finger. Not to put too fine a point on it.

This road, public/private partnership, is one that Jim Douglas always avoided like the plague. He refused to buy the dams on the Connecticut River, and he trusted Verizon to provide universal digital access. And when Verizon cut and ran, he threw his support behind Fairpoint, although the smaller company was clearly under-capitalized.

But we won’t have Uncle Jim next time out of the box.

Which is why the last sentence of the Freep’s editorial is worth repeating, and then repeating again: “A test of the next governor should be whether she or he has the stamina and political skill to modernize telecommunications across the board in Vermont.”


September 1st, 2009

Dubie Running Low-Level Ad Campaign

by Philip Baruth

You’ll remember a few days back we addressed the Frank Sinatra question: what will Dubie do? And it was a tough call. On the one hand, Brian Dubie is a famously slack campaigner, with no demonstrated taste for legislative wrangling. On the other, Lite Governors all share the dream of being one day less Lite. Our bet was that Dubie does, and as of yesterday we picked up a few shreds of proof.

Exhibit A: the Facebook ad.

Let’s face it: this sort of pop-up advertising can be a little freaky, when you’ve just settled in for a two-hour time-suck on your own Facebook page, and suddenly there’s Dubie, a bit modular in his blue suit, looking awkwardly over the words as you type. A close-up for the fine details:

Now, sure, this ad purports to be the work of a group trying gamely to encourage Dubie to run. But Facebook ads, like all others, cost money, and there are various potential risks and hoops if you’re starting a page for someone other than yourself.

Which is to say that this page was almost certainly started with Dubie’s assent, as a placeholder until the semi-official announcement is leaked to the press. And should Dubie decide, for whatever reason, to jelly-leg at the last possible moment, this ad can vanish without a trace, without attribution, and without embarrassment.

Never underestimate Brian Dubie. Like George W. Bush, he thrives in a low-expectation environment. It may seem that he’s lagging two powerful, increasingly well-funded Democratic candidates, but VDB-reader Doug wrote in with a very plausible scenario: Douglas steps down with six months to run in his term, to accept a Federal appointment from the Obama administration, leaving a Governor Dubie to manage the budget end-game in solid, tough-guy fashion.

Who’s behind then? You and VDB, friends.

Let’s keep an eye on this one, and agree on one thing: nobody counts their chickens until November 2010, and we’ve plucked every single last free-range bird.

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