Former Bear Stearns Execs Bankroll Lisman Super PAC | Off Message

Former Bear Stearns Execs Bankroll Lisman Super PAC


Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, left, and Bruce Lisman Wednesday at a Vermont Public Radio debate in Colchester - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, left, and Bruce Lisman Wednesday at a Vermont Public Radio debate in Colchester
Updated at 5:32 p.m.

Retired investment banker Bruce Lisman is getting a little help from his friends in his race for governor of Vermont.

A conservative super PAC called American Future Fund bought $27,000 worth of television and radio ads on his behalf Wednesday, according to a document filed Thursday with the Secretary of State’s Office. The ads target Lisman’s Republican primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

According to the disclosure, two of Lisman’s former colleagues at the shuttered Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns are behind the commercials. Robert Steinberg of Greenwich, Conn., contributed $25,000, while Warren Spector of New York City put up $5,000.

Steinberg, who spent 40 years at Bear Stearns, was in charge of risk management at the bank before it collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis. He served with Lisman, a co-head of the global equities division, on Bear’s management committee. They now serve together on the board of the nonprofit American Forests.

Steinberg and his wife, Suzanne, had previously donated the maximum allowable $8,000 directly to Lisman’s campaign. They live in a $54 million home that used to belong to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Spector was co-president of Bear Stearns and was in line to become its chief executive officer before his August 2007 ouster, according to the New York Times. He was blamed for the collapse of two hedge funds in June 2007, a situation that contributed to the bank’s ultimate demise. Spector now serves as co-chairman of Balbec Capital and as chairman of Tashtego Films.

Neither immediately responded to requests for comment Thursday.

The pair bought the ads through the American Future Fund, which has supported a variety of conservative politicians since it was founded in 2007. The organization has ties to Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch. Its website says it was “formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint.”

Lisman, who has spent more than $1.8 million on his campaign, said through a spokeswoman Thursday that he did not know the ads were coming.

“Your message was the first we heard of it,” campaign manager Shawn Shouldice said in an emailed statement. “We don’t know anything about it.”

Like many of Lisman’s ads, a radio commercial produced by the American Future Fund strikes a harshly negative tone against Scott, referring to the lieutenant governor as a “career politician.” It accuses Scott of supporting Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and his single-payer health care plan — and “lining his pockets on the taxpayer’s dime.”

“Phil, there was a time when Vermonters were for you — before you let us down just one too many times,” the ad’s narrator says.

Scott campaign coordinator Brittney Wilson called the ads “another blatant attack” by Lisman’s supporters.

“They are trying to tear Phil down to make Bruce look better,” she said. “I think Vermonters know better. They know Phil Scott and they know he’s the candidate who will focus on the economy, make Vermont more affordable and oppose higher taxes and fees.”

Wilson also accused the American Future Fund of violating campaign finance law. Such groups are required to list the names of those contributing more than 25 percent of the cost of a commercial in the ad itself.

“It looks like the law would apply in this situation,” said Will Senning, director of elections in the Secretary of State’s Office.

A spokesman for the super PAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Lisman is the third candidate to benefit from outside spending this week ahead of the August 9 primary. On Wednesday, a super PAC affiliated with EMILY’s List bought $120,000 worth of advertising in support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter. Earlier Thursday, Silicon Valley billionaire Reid Hoffman spent $220,000 supporting Democrat Matt Dunne