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Bernie Sanders

Got Green?

Fair Game


Published June 30, 2010 at 9:26 a.m.

Fair Game is Seven Days’ weekly political column.

Hear buzzing? No, it’s not those annoying World Cup vuvuzelas. The sound — of static — is a local talk radio station gone kaput.

Fans of the popular “Corm and the Coach” morning radio show can stop holding their collective breath. The duo of Steve Cormier and Tom Brennan is not returning to the airwaves.

The pair took the show off WNMR-FM — at 107.1 — because the station owners hadn’t paid them for months. They were hoping a recent deal would restore the signal, whereupon they’d receive thousands of dollars in back pay.

Jeff Loper of Convergence Entertainment, who owns the WNMR license and several TV signals throughout New York and Vermont, wanted “Corm and the Coach” to anchor the all-talk station.

But in April, everything went silent. A number of potential buyers — two of whom were interested in putting “Corm and the Coach” back on air — came and went.

Last week Loper announced a merger with the owners of direct-mail advertising firm Champak and a resurrection of WNMR as an all-sports talk network.

Loper told “Fair Game” the Champak deal is designed to get the station back on the air, drawing advertisers, so it can pay off debts — including thousands of dollars owed to the WNMR staff.

“I keep telling them that things just didn’t work out. It’s not their fault, and it’s not my fault. It’s just the way it is,” said Loper. “I’m the guy stuck with the bill here, and I want this business to survive so all of these people get paid.”

Of the debts owned from WNMR’s previous incarnation, Loper said the bulk is owed to RadioActive, the company that sold him the radio frequency.

Loper says he would resurrect “Corm and the Coach” if the pair would take a portion of any ad money — rather than just salaries — as payment.

That’s hooey, said Cormier. “I have a contract, and my contract was pretty straightforward — I get paid for the work. There is nothing there about revenue sharing,” he said. “If this station does go back on the air, all I can say is that Tom and I won’t be on it. We just want … to get paid for what we did.”

Until now, Cormier noted, he’s refrained from hiring a lawyer to persuade Loper to pony up.

If the checks don’t start arriving soon, however, Cormier says he may change his tune.

Green Guzzlers

One of Vermont’s larger environmental groups — the Vermont League of Conservation Voters — endorsed Senator Doug Racine (D-Chittenden) on Monday. It’s the fourth major endorsement for Racine, who has also received the support of the Vermont AFL-CIO, the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association and the Vermont State Employees Association. Combined, the organizations represent about 30,000 members.

The VLCV has about 7500 people it can mobilize for Racine, but the goal is to get a larger total of 30,000 identified Vermont “green” voters to the polls on August 24 and November 2, said Todd Bailey, the group’s executive director.

VLCV plans to conduct a strong “get out the vote” effort on Racine’s behalf, including an absentee-ballot push in what Bailey believes will be a low-turnout primary.

The endorsement came less than two weeks after the group launched a new website and posted responses from candidates to a variety of questions, including one about whether climate change is real. Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie dropped that softball, then later had to confess to what could be an inconvenient truth for the conservative pol: Climate change is real.

The endorsement came as a bit of a surprise — and a blow — to Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, who has led the charge on climate-change legislation and closing down Vermont Yankee — two issues near and dear to Vermont environmentalists.

Shumlin’s been on a roll lately with endorsements from several key environmental business leaders and Treasurer Jeb Spaulding, a prominent Dem who once considered a run for gov. A VLCV endorsement would have given Shumlin the necessary momentum to start separating himself from the pack — narrowing the field to a three-way race among himself, Racine and Secretary of State Deb Markowitz.

In response to the endorsement, Shumlin’s campaign manager Alex MacLean said, “While Peter respects today’s VLCV decision, he believes that his solid record of getting tough things done … is without peer.”

Senator Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille) was disappointed, too, given her longstanding support for conservation programs.

“It is becoming clear that moderates don’t get endorsements from special-interest groups. I’m counting on the independence of Vermonters to give me the endorsement that I need: that of the voters.”

I love how Shumlin and Bartlett claim endorsements don’t mean much — that is, when they’ve failed to get one.

The irony is that VLCV’s candidate of choice sells Jeeps and other sport utility vehicles to Vermonters; he also open to discussing whether all-terrain-vehicle riders should be allowed to create connector trails on state lands.

Racine told “Fair Game” he sees no irony there.

“Every chance I have, I urge my own industry to improve fuel efficiency,” he said. “We have to do more to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Money on the Move

This week marks the end of the fundraising quarter for federal candidates. The campaign chest of one of those candidates — incumbent U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — is pushing $5 million. Leahy’s rivals, the GOP’s Len Britton and Democrat Dan Freilich, are each struggling to get to six figures.

A recent Rasmussen poll finds Leahy 30 points ahead of Britton. So why does Leahy need to raise so much cash? Perhaps he’s trying to set some kind of Vermont record?

In 2006, businessman and GOP senatorial candidate Rich Tarrant spent $7 million — of mostly his own money — in a losing bid against then U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to fill the seat vacated by U.S. Senator James Jeffords (I-VT). Sanders raised, and spent, $6.5 million, making it the most expensive senate race in Vermont history.

How’s Leahy raking in all that dough when every Democrat running for statewide office has his or her hand out?

A recent Washington Post report claims around 86 percent of Leahy’s campaign donations derive from out of staters. That’s tops, percentage-wise, among Senate Dems. The Post totaled Leahy’s out-of-state haul at $1.6 million.

Leahy’s campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer said the Post figures are about right, but quickly added, “Thousands of Vermonters contribute to Senator Leahy’s campaign, exponentially more than all six of his opponents combined.”

True dat.

Despite the heavy reliance on out-of-state money, Leahy has raised at least $300,000 from Vermonters since January 1, 2009. The average contribution is less than $100. For out-of-state supporters, it’s less than $50, said Dwyer.

As of March 31, Britton had raised $43,517 and was more than $70,000 in debt, while Freilich raised $45,993 during the same period with no reported debt. Of the two, Freilich raised a substantial sum from out of state, while Britton has raised most of his money from in state. In fact, campaign advisor Bradford Boyles says Britton has taken in at least 80 percent of his money from in-state donors and is not taking any PAC money.

Holy inverse proportions, Batman!

“Vermonters know politicians don’t need millions of dollars of special-interest PAC money to run for reelection in the state of Vermont,” said Boyles.

It seems folks outside of Vermont like Leahy, too.

Dwyer’s explanation: “Senator Leahy enjoys a national base of support based on his tremendous record of accomplishment, especially his willingness to stand up to the Bush administration while defending the Constitution and our civil liberties.”

Survey Says

Last week Rasmussen Reports released the results of its second poll on the Vermont governor and U.S. Senate races.

Little has changed since the first poll results came out in March.

The polls show U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy vanquishing his Republican challenger, Len Britton. Rasmussen didn’t ask about his Democratic primary challenger, Daniel Freilich.

In the governor’s race, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is still leading all Democratic comers in head-to-head matchups. Only Secretary of State Deb Markowitz is holding Dubie below 50 percent. The second-closest challenger is Racine, followed by Shumlin. Both Google exec Matt Dunne and Senator Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille) lag far behind.

Despite their preference for the conservative Dubie, Vermonters remain liberal on other hot-button national issues, such as the Arizona-style immigration law and repealing the federal health care law. Another fun fact: Vermont has fewer Tea Party members than any other state in union.

That’s the Ticket

An environmental dis from VLCV wasn’t the only bad news for Shumlin this week. On Monday, WCAX-TV aired a story on the 6 p.m. news — complete with roadside video — of a traffic stop involving the speeding senator. Shumlin was on the way from Brattleboro to Burlington on Interstate 91 when a trooper pulled him over for going 81 miles per hour.

The speeding violation wasn’t the main point of the story, though. When asked to show his driver’s license, Shumlin first whipped out his senate identification, then jokingly said he hoped the trooper would be “driving him” next year when he was governor.

The sweet talk didn’t help. Shumlin got two points on his license and a $152 speeding ticket.

Next time, try doughnuts, senator.