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Dear Vermont Lobbyist: Burn Eyeballs After Reading


Published May 12, 2011 at 6:37 p.m.

In response to claims that it illegally solicited money from registered lobbyists during a legislative session, the allegedly non-existent reelection campaign of Gov. Peter Shumlin has added a lengthy disclaimer to its campaign emails.

The disclaimer — which appeared at the bottom of an email issued today to supporters — suggests that registered lobbyists, or a registered lobbyist's employer, should NOT read the email they in all likelihood just read.

Talk about burn after reading.

I wonder if memory erasure will be covered as a standard health care benefit under Green Mountain Care?

Here's the full text of the disclaimer (which appears beneath Shumlin's signature):

"This e-mail is not intended for any registered lobbyist or registered lobbyist employer with the State of Vermont. If you are a registered lobbyist or registered lobbyist employer with the State of Vermont, do not read this e-mail. Instead please notify the sender that it was improperly delivered and return the original transmission to The Campaign to Re-Elect Peter Shumlin For Governor is prohibited from soliciting registered lobbyists or registered lobbyist employers for political campaign contributions until the final adjournment of the legislature. The Campaign to Re-Elect Peter Shumlin For Governor will not accept political contributions from any registered lobbyist or registered lobbyist employer in response to this e-mail."

Today's email — titled "Getting Tough Things Done" — extols Shumlin's legislative successes. He asks people to write letters to the editor, tweet or post on Facebook thanking lawmakers and his administration for their work. It also has a nice big red "DONATE" button at the bottom — just above the disclaimer.

The disclaimer appears to be an attempt to help the campaign comply with state law, which forbids lawmakers and the governor from soliciting money from lobbyists, or their employers, during the legislative biennium. Two fundraising emails issued by Shumlin's campaign earlier this year raised eyebrows as they were received by lobbyists.

In response to the earlier emails, Pat McDonald, executive director of the Vermont GOP, filed a complaint with Attorney General Bill Sorrell, asking the state's top cop to investigate whether Shumlin violated the law by sending solicitous emails to lobbyists. Like Shumlin, Sorrell is a Democrat.

Within days of McDonald's complaint, the Vermont Democrats filed a similar complaint about Shumlin's predecessor Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who sent a similar solicitation via snail mail in 2009 during the legislative session.

Mike McShane, a deputy attorney general, told Seven Days the AG's office received the complaints*, but wouldn't say how long the office would take to investigate the complaints or whether the office would combine the two complaints into one investigation of state campaign finance law.

For her part, McDonald tells Seven Days she's happy the governor's campaign staff put the disclaimer in the email. She only hopes they opt for better placement on future solicitations.

"Glad to see that the governor, and I am sure others, are paying attention," said McDonald. "Only suggestion on the fundraising email would be to put the 'do not read' comment at the top. Otherwise very pleased to see the note."

Jesse Bragg, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, said the email dislcaimer is in addition to the campaign's effort to scrub the emails of known registered lobbyists and registered lobbyist employers from the campaign's solicitation list.

That is, if there is a reelection campaign.

Shumlin has been coy about whether he's really running for reelection, despite the fact that this is the third fundraising email this year his "campaign" has sent to potential donors. In addition, he held a fundraiser in Rhode Island with same-sex marriage activists, and a major in-state fundraising party will be held next week by major Democratic donor Crea Lintalhac.

I never knew Shumlin was such a fan of Belgian artist René Magritte, famous for painting of a pipe under which was written, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." Of course it wasn't a pipe, but just the image of a pipe. In Shumlin's case there are all the telltale signs that it really is a reelection campaign, save the official announcement that he is, in fact, a candidate.

* This post was updated to clarify a sentence regarding Deputy AG Mike McShane's comments.