Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Rich Tarrant filed his personal financial disclosure forms with the U.S. Senate last Friday afternoon and also released copies to the press.
Are you sitting down?
The IDX CEO's report marks the first time we've ever seen a candidate check the box for "over $50,000,000."
That was the box Tarrant marked to indicate the value of just his IDX stockholdings alone! Unfortunately, there is no box on the form for "over $100,000,000" or "over $250,000,000."
Tarrant also reports up to $30,000,000 earned from real estate partnerships, and millions more from approximately 300 holdings in publicly traded assets including stocks, money market funds, etc.
Tarrant's Florida property holdings and his new Bentley, which he has registered in the Sunshine State, were not included. Campaign Manager Tim Lennon said Tarrant does not have to report personal property.
Incidentally, Richie Rich might want to contact the online Winkipedia Encyclo-pedia. That's because the Winkipedia bio of Mr. Tarrant still identifies him as a Florida resident.
"Inside Track" has also learned of a recent pro-Tarrant telephone poll that the Tarrant Campaign claims to know nothing about. It was conducted around 10 days ago.
Those called were asked, among other things, if they would "find Tarrant appealing if they knew he was a basketball star who went to school in Vermont, had borrowed money to start IDX, had created 900 jobs and had done philanthropic work?"
Another question asked if they would be "negatively influenced knowing Tarrant had resigned from the Fletcher Allen board through no fault of his own?"
Or how about this little dig at the frontrunner, Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders: "Would you think negatively about a person who has been a congressman for 12 years and had only one piece of legislation passed?"
We're also told there were about 10 questions on abortion and stem-cell research.
We wanted to talk to Candidate Tarrant about his financial disclosure, the poll and his recent appearance at an event sponsored by an ultra-right-wing, antigay group called Vermont Renewal. According to the Vermont GOP website, Tarrant was the "special guest" at the Vermont Renewal Summer BBQ at the home of David and Judy Sargent in Chittenden.
Vermont Renewal recently wrote town clerks letters informing them that it is illegal to issue civil-union licenses to out-of-state couples.
Secretary of State Deb Markowitz said she has notified town clerks to ignore the missive from Vermont Renewal because it is a misinterpretation of state law.
Wonder what our gazillionaire GOP senate candidate thinks?
Unfortunately, Mr. Tarrant did not respond this week to our request for an interview.
Dean on the Dial -- DNC Chairman Howard Dean returned to the WVMT airwaves last week, making an appearance by phone on the "Charlie &; Ernie Show."
Ernie Farrar was on vacation, so Charlie Papillo lined up a week of "guest hosts." On Thursday morning, the guest hosts were Democratic State Sens. Peter Welch and Dick Mazza. One of the guests Welch lined up was Dean. However, when Ho-Ho called in as scheduled, Papillo hogged the mike like the professional morning man he is.
You see, Dean had been ignoring Charlie's requests for an on-air interview for more than two years.
Plus, the infamous "Dean Scream" from Iowa is a regular feature on the show. In fact, Charlie told Ho-Ho he'd checked the computer -- it's been replayed more than 800 times!
For starters, Dean had to slither out of Charlie's questions about why he's declined to appear on the program over the last couple years.
"It's a huge country. Every talk show wants to get me on," replied Ho-Ho.
Papillo asked Dean to explain both the dramatic change in his personality and the change in his politics that occurred when he hit the presidential campaign trail. You know, the "rolled-up sleeves," the "angry voice," the sudden appeal to the antiwar political left?
Good question, but Dean expertly danced around it. He started rolling up his sleeves, he said, because he was "pretty passionate about what was going on in this country . . I was always pretty hard to characterize."
Asked if he would have done anything differently, Dean replied, "Oh, sure, but the biggest problems were in campaign organization." Hear that, Joe Trippi? "I didn't have any idea about how to run a front-runner campaign. We got into the big leagues faster than I anticipated. That was one of the big problems."
Charlie also jabbed Dean for the crass comments he's made this year about Republicans being a "white Christian party" and people who "haven't worked an honest day in their lives."
Dean defended the first: "It's true! It's true!" he shouted -- but claimed the latter was "taken out of context."
"The reason I haven't apologized," said Dean, "is I know what I said."
Then Charlie hit him with the Bernie Sanders question: "You're supporting him, yet you're on the record saying you never voted for Bernie Sanders?"
"Ah, we're not getting into all that stuff," responded Dean with a chuckle. "We haven't formally endorsed Bernie Sanders, but it's likely we will." Sanders "votes most of the time in a way I approve of," said the DNC chairman. "He votes principally like a Democrat."
Such stirring praise for Ol' Bernardo, eh?
Then Chairman Loose Lips proceeded to almost endorse Ol' Bernardo's opponent -- Republican Rich Tarrant.
"Whatever disagreements I may have with Congressman Sanders," said Dean, "in the end I have to choose. And I like Rich Tarrant, too. If he ends up being the candidate, I think he's a very good guy, but I have to make a choice for what's good for the country, and it's much better not to have the Republicans control everything."
With solid supporters like DNC Chairman Dean, who needs enemies?
We can see the Tarrant campaign commercial now, featuring Ho-Ho's semi-endorsement: "I like Rich Tarrant. I think he's a very good guy!" -- DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
Kick Me, Kate -- The former top aide to Gov. Howard Dean responded to our call last week, but unfortunately it was after Seven Days hit the street. As we reported, Kate O'Connor has signed on as campaign manager for Peter Shumlin of Putney. Shummy wants the House seat Bernie is giving up to run for the Senate.
Ms. O'Connor was particularly upset with comments made here about her breakup with Howard Dean following the evaporation of his 2004 presidential bid.
"The fact of the matter is," wrote Ms. O'Connor via email, "that after 14 years of working in the governor's office, setting up and working on a PAC [remember the Fund for a Healthy America?] and a presidential campaign, I needed a break.
"What people forget," wrote Kate, "is that I started the whole presidential stuff back in 2001, two years before anybody else came on board! I spent the last year and a half of the campaign traveling around the country, only visiting Vermont one day a week. So I was fried when the whole thing was over."
As for her current relationship with her former longtime boss, O'Connor wrote, "I am very supportive of anything Howard does. In fact, I was at the DNC meeting in February when he was elected chair. I was there per a personal invitation from Howard, and I sat with Judy.
"Can we move on," asked Kate, "and talk about Peter Shumlin?"
Shellshocked -- We've had the dream since landing in Burlap back in 1979 -- about one day hopping on a passenger train at Union Station and hopping off at Penn Station in the Big Apple.
At the July meeting of the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization, Chairman Bob Penniman of Jericho dropped a bombshell.
Penniman said he had always been told by VTrans, the state transportation agency, that the owner of the 7.8-mile Winooski Line, which runs from the lakefront station to Essex Junction, wasn't interested in upgrading the line to meet Amtrak standards. The rail bed is owned by Canadian National and leased to New England Central Railroad, which is owned by Rail America, a national rail giant.
Frustrated, Penniman recently set up his own meeting with the local point person for NECR.
What he heard, said Penniman, left him "shell-shocked." That's because, he said, NECR vice-president Charlie Moore told him the railroad is eager to upgrade the line and is even willing to put up its own money to get the matching funds! Canadian National was not the problem, he was told. The problem was that VTrans wasn't interested.
"I was absolutely floored," said Penniman. He said it was "unconscionable" that VTrans was still putting out information that the line upgrade simply wasn't doable.
Penniman said NECR's Moore had cited "chapter and verse" about how Rail America regularly provides the 20 percent match to get 80 percent federal funding for track improvements.
"Shame on VTrans," Moore told "Inside Track" this week. He said that with an upgraded track, the current St. Albans-to-New York Amtrak train, "The Vermonter," could be backed into Burlington and out again without delaying the arrival time at Penn Station. The total cost, said Moore, would be $1.3 million.
According to the current Amtrak schedule, "The Vermonter" departs Essex Junction daily at 9 a.m. and arrives at Penn Station at 6:25 p.m.
Charlie Miller, the rail operations manager at VTrans, told "Inside Track" he first heard something about NECR's proposal in an email a few months ago. He said he has "not gotten that kind of commitment" directly from NECR as yet.
Informed of NECR's proposal, Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle said he'd certainly support it. But the mayor noted that the Amtrak train from Essex Junction to New York City is a "very slow" train ride -- almost 10 hours' travel time.
In recent years, said Clavelle, the goal has been to upgrade the track from Rutland to Charlotte. He's hoping the recently adopted federal transportation bill will provide the funds -- about $10 million -- to do it. That route would get Burlington riders to Manhattan in six hours.
In the meantime, wouldn't an upgraded Winooski Line that won Amtrak service to Burlington's Union Station be an improvement over no downtown passenger train service at all?
Bureau Chief Not Fired! -- Despite his passionate prediction, Vermont Press Bureau chief Darren Allen did not get fired last week. Mr. Allen, who heads the state capital bureau of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, claimed our mention in this column of a certain item he had posted and later removed from his online blog would likely prompt his dismissal.
Allen's Vermont politics blog, called "Hall Monitor," appears on the websites of both newspapers. A July 12 item he posted included a romantic touch, as the chief of the Vermont Press Bureau professed his love for a certain Statehouse lobbyist.
Allen said the "all my love to P.T." sentence had been removed at the request of his editor, John Dolan. Mr. Dolan is the managing editor of the Rutland Herald. Dolan's counterpart at the Times Argus, Maria Archangelo, is Allen's estranged wife and the mother of his two children.
The lobbyist Allen identified as "P.T." heads up AARP's lobbying under the golden dome. Their romance has not been a secret. Their cafeteria lunches are truly tender to see. But some observers, who declined to be named, have found the close attachment between the Statehouse bureau chief and the Statehouse lobbyist a bit dodgy. No one can remember a previous journalist-lobbyist Statehouse romance.
After two phone calls to yours truly last week in which he "passionately" urged us not to write about his censored "all my love" post, Mr. Allen went into damage-control mode. He quickly posted a fresh "Hall Monitor" item before Seven Days hit the streets. It's titled "Of certain lobbyists . . . and full disclosure."
In it, Allen suggested "careful readers" of "Hall Monitor" were already aware he was "romantically involved" with the AARP lobbyist. Then he published her full name. Darren wrote their Statehouse love affair is "neither news nor much of a secret."
Citing the marriage of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell, Allen claimed such conflicts are common.
As for handling it, the chief of the Vermont Press Bureau wrote "that on issues in which AARP has a significant lobbying presence, I cannot report on it. It's that simple, and it's pretty standard procedure at most reputable newspapers."
Does that mean Mr. Allen can no longer cover health-care reform, the top issue at the Statehouse?
The other damage-control shoe fell on Sunday. In his weekly newspaper column, the political columnist for the Herald and Times Argus wrote about the joys of biking the Stowe Rec Path for the very first time with his two young children. In "Kids Can Still Be Kids," he waxed tenderly about how fortunate they are to live in Vermont and not in the Baltimore-Washington corridor they left behind.
"I feel lucky to be in Vermont, all the more so because my two children get to grow up here instead of the suburban wasteland in which they were born," he wrote.
There's a TV sitcom here somewhere, folks.
How about this? "The Falsettos": The story of two career journalists who abandon the fast lane for the bike lanes, family values and friendly lobbyists in the new world of Vermont journalism!