Republican Governors Association Puts Big Money Behind Phil Scott | Off Message

Republican Governors Association Puts Big Money Behind Phil Scott


Lt. Gov. Phil Scott last month at Barre's Thunder Road SpeedBowl - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Lt. Gov. Phil Scott last month at Barre's Thunder Road SpeedBowl
In the three weeks since Lt. Gov. Phil Scott won the GOP gubernatorial nomination, a super PAC funded by the Republican Governors Association has spent more than $425,000 on his behalf, according to a new filing with the Secretary of State's Office. 

The group, called A Stronger Vermont, has received $600,000 in funding from the RGA, a Washington, D.C., party organization that supports GOP gubernatorial candidates, and has spent $523,000 since it was established last March. It began running pro-Scott television advertisements the day after Vermont's August 9 primary election and has since spent nearly $157,000 on TV.

The RGA's counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, has yet to make a major play in the Green Mountain State. Its super PAC, called Our Vermont, has received $100,000 in startup funding from the DGA and has spent just more than $11,000 of it. According to its latest filing, Our Vermont has hired a firm co-owned by Democratic operative Bill Lofy, a former chief of staff to Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Charlotte entrepreneur Dan Chang.

"I'm helping to provide advice and perspective on the strategic decisions that the organization is making as it relates to the governor's race here in Vermont," says Lofy, who worked for the DGA in 2013 and 2014 when Shumlin was its chair. 

The latest round of campaign finance filings, which were due Thursday, cover a 16-day, post-primary period from August 13 through August 29. In that time, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter out-raised Scott by nearly 2-to-1. She collected close to $102,000, bringing her campaign total to $1.16 million. He picked up more than $55,000, bringing his to nearly $949,000. 

Because Scott spent less on his primary race and had more in his campaign account from previous races, he still has a slight cash-on-hand advantage. His campaign says he has $114,000 in the bank, while Minter's says she has $85,000. 

In the race for lieutenant governor, Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden) has raised more than twice as much as Republican former state auditor and senator Randy Brock — $210,000 to $103,000. But because Zuckerman faced fierce competition for the Democratic nomination and Brock ran unopposed for the GOP nod, the former has spent $168,000, while the latter has doled out just $72,000. 

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, is maintaining his massive fundraising advantage over Republican opponent Deb Bucknam, a St. Johnsbury lawyer. He has raised $352,000 to date and spent $113,000. She has raised $52,000 and spent $32,000. 

Those who lost in the August primaries but had outstanding bills to pay also filed reports Thursday.

Retired Wall Street banker Bruce Lisman pumped another $120,000 of his own money into his campaign account after losing the Republican nomination to Scott, according to his latest report. Much of that went to the small army of staffers and consultants who worked for his campaign. In total, he has spent nearly $2.29 million — $1.98 million of which came from his own pocket.

Former ambassador and senator Peter Galbraith, who lost the Democratic nomination to Minter, managed to refund himself $16,000 of the money he loaned his campaign. 

The new filings show some distinct differences in the way the gubernatorial nominees have raised money. Minter has drawn from a far larger pool of donors. Throughout the race, 4,140 people have contributed to her campaign, while 2,523 have donated to Scott's. She's also attracted more donations of $100 or less: 2,950 to Scott's 1,839. Minter does not accept money directly from corporations, but Scott does.

In the most recent period, Minter's donors included Burton Snowboards founders Jake and Donna Carpenter ($5,400); the Vermont-National Education Association ($4,000); FreshTracks Capital cofounder Charles Kireker ($3,500); former governor Howard Dean ($2,000); Norwich Democratic Rep. Tim Briglin ($2,000); Gardener's Supply founder Will Raap ($1,000); Vermont Democratic Party chair Dottie Deans ($500); and Conservation Law Foundation attorney Sandy Levine ($500). Shumlin's gubernatorial campaign also donated $4,000 to Minter's campaign.

Scott's recent donors included Florida Gov. Rick Scott ($4,000); Arkansas poultry magnate Ron Cameron ($4,000); Maryland-based Correct Rx Pharmacy Services CEO Ellen Yankellow ($3,000); Montpelier lobbying firm KSE Partners ($2,000); New York attorney Philip Ruegger ($2,000); Little Fuel Company ($2,000); GW Plastics ($2,000); AstraZeneca ($1,500); and Downs Rachlin Martin lobbyist Joe Choquette ($200).

Candidates will file their next campaign finance reports on October 1.