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Douglas Changes Course on Free Ride Charges


Published October 31, 2008 at 10:37 a.m.

Gov. Jim Douglas started his day Thursday on the Charlie & Ernie Show in Colchester and ended it in Bennington, but the topic of conversation was the same: the "free ride" claims leveled against him by Democrat Gaye Symington.

On C&E, Douglas parroted his campaign manager's claim that Symington's allegations are a desperate attempt to tear him down by a candidate who is trailing in the polls. He added that every governor has a 24-hour security detail — a detail Vermonters are expected to pay for no matter where he treks.

Then later on in the day, meeting with reporters during a part campaign/part official business swing through Bennington, he told Neal Goswani from the Banner that he reimburses the state for phone calls, photocopies, etc. out of his own pocket.

Really? That was news to us: it doesn't show up on his campaign finance records as an in-kind contribution (if he paid for it himself) or as a direct payment from the campaign to the state of Vermont.

Here's what Douglas told the Banner:

"I'm doing what I understand to be the appropriate thing, which is if there is a telephone call made out of the governor's office that's political, I reimburse for it as I've done, or a photocopy made or something like that," he said.

"I've paid it out of my pocket," he added, which is why it's not showing up on campaign finance reports.

Hmm. That's not what Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey told "Fair Game" two weeks ago when we asked if the campaign reimbursed expenses to the state. No, was her answer then.

The campaign's response seems to be evolving, and I've asked Casey to clarify why the governor didn't make these points sooner.

Here is the the video the Banner shot of the press conference.

The early part of the video shows some protesters asking Douglas to refund the state for the money he's cost them while campaigning. You'll see more of those Democrats around the state today at honk 'n waves around Vermont.