More than two years after then-Senate president pro tem Peter Shumlin loaned his gubernatorial campaign $275,000, the now-governor finally got his money back.
According to disclosure forms filed Monday with the secretary of state's office, Shumlin dipped into his sizable campaign war chest on January 3 to fully repay himself for three loans he made to get his campaign off the ground during the summer and fall of 2010.
"It's always been the plan to pay the loan back," explains Shumlin's campaign treasurer, Kate O'Connor. "Luckily, we found ourselves in the position to do so at the beginning of this year. The campaign doesn't want to carry a debt."
Indeed, after decisively defeating former state senator Randy Brock in November to win a second two-year term, Shumlin closed out the campaign season with more than $915,000 in the bank. After raising nearly $88,000 during the past six months and repaying the 2010 loans, the governor now finds himself with nearly $707,000 cash-on-hand.
While it's not uncommon in Vermont for wealthy candidates to loan their own campaigns generous sums of money, it's rare to see a six-figure loan fully repaid. Typically, candidates who make such loans eventually forgive them — in essence, converting the loans into direct contributions — or they carry them forward indefinitely.
The optics of such a move aren't great for Shumlin, given that he is essentially cutting himself a check with money contributed by large and small donors alike. But asked whether the governor anticipates any blow-back from donors of modest means, O'Connor says Shumlin doesn't.
"I think every contribution is important to the campaign," she says. "I think the people who give to the campaign — whether it's a $15 contribution or a large contribution — is giving it because of what Peter has to say. When the loan was made, it was a loan. We did that all along knowing that it was going to be repaid. I think the governor appreciates everybody who makes a contribution to his campaign."
Shumlin's personal wealth proved to be a crucial crutch for the candidate during both the primary and general elections in 2010. He made his first $150,000 self-loan July 9 of that year, just two days after he became the first Democrat in a crowded, five-way primary to run television ads in the race. Candidate Shumlin wrote another $75,000 check on August 8 and a final $50,000 check on October 22 — just two weeks before he defeated then-lieutenant governor Brian Dubie in a general election.