Tony Gets Religion | Inside Track | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published March 27, 2002 at 4:00 a.m.

Running out of allies who could maintain a straight face, Anthony Pollina has pulled the plug on his legal and public relations war against the Democratic Party, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, Attorney General Bill Sorrell, the Tooth Fairy, the Wicked Witch of the West and anyone else who dared question his purity.

Wise move.

As you know, Tony the Phony and his fledgling Vermont Progressive Party recently marched into federal court in a foolish and flawed attempt to claim the title of Vermont’s Biggest Victim. Mr. Pollina wanted the court to issue an injunction blocking the Vermont attorney general’s investigation of his eligibility to receive $82,500 in taxpayer money to run his campaign for lieutenant governor. Pollina claimed the Democrats were out to get him.

Judge William K. Sessions III politely laughed him out of court.

Last Wednesday we reported that even Pollina’s former employer and political ally — the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) — took exception to Pollina’s additional claim that the state’s campaign finance law is unconstitutional. Pollina argued that the law’s limit on party contributions and prohibition on campaigning before February 15 should be thrown out.

But everyone knows Anthony helped write the landmark law in his days as a VPIRG lobbyist. And everyone knows Candidate Pollina wore it on his chest like a medal of honor in the 2000 gubernatorial race.

Poor Tony’s credibility was starting to melt like butter on the skillet. And his high-pitched, over-the-top smearing of the integrity of Markowitz and Sorrell — based solely on their party affiliation — put a bad taste in many a mouth.

Let’s face it, Tony the Phony acted upon some very bad advice on this one.

Once he decided to pull the plug, Mr. Pollina did so just like a major party candidate would. As sneakily as possible. He quietly issued a press release late Friday afternoon.

The political pros know Friday afternoon is the best time to drop bad news. The Saturday newspaper attracts the lowest readership. With luck, the story can be over and forgotten by Monday.

Pollina stated in his prepared text that the Progs had taken the Democrat Party’s challenge of his eligibility as a “partisan attack.” His effort to deal with the “attack,” he said, had only led to “confusion.” And he admitted his sue-the-bastards response had “obviously not helped.”

Brilliant observation!

Pollina announced he had decided to drop his lawsuit as well as his dream of getting public financing for his run for Lite-Gov. Unfortunately, Tony continued to cling to the holier-than-thou view that got him in trouble in the first place.

“A Vermonter seeking public financing should not be subject to investigation by the Attorney General based on a complaint filed by an opposing party,” stated Tony.

The lack of logic and common sense in that statement boggles the mind.

So, Tony, you really think that only a complaint from your own Progressive Party could trip an investigation of your eligibility for public financing?


Look, regular readers know we like Anthony Pollina. He raises issues that need to be raised. He’s thoughtful and polite. And up until now, he hadn’t fallen into the abyss of personal attacks on political opponents.

In the big leagues, actions speak louder than words. Always have and always will. That’s why digging himself out of this hole will be an interesting challenge for Tony the Prog.

Pass the shovel, please!

Moe, Larry and Curly? — Unfortunately, a bit of luster has come off the anonymous “PoliticsVT. com” Web site. The unidentified operators of the new Web address for political junkies posted its “Vermont Power 50” two weeks ago. It’s purportedly a list of “the 50 most politically influential personalities” in the Green Mountain State. Politicians were excluded, and state government officials should have been, too. That would have taken care of “Moe Robinson’s” selection of Kathy Hoyt, Cindy Metcalf and Kate O’Connor as one, two and three.

Right now, many readers are likely scratching their heads and saying, who?

Two of the lovely ladies work for Gov. Howard Dean. The third, Ms. Metcalf, works for Lt. Gov. Doug Racine.

Sorry, Moe. What have you been smoking?

Rather than insult anyone by identifying the critters that had no business being on the Power 50 list (and, yes, yours truly made it), we’ve come up with our own Power 25 list. Here are the top 25 Vermonters who, without question, belong on the original Power 50 chart.

1. Susan Boardman Russ — A Burlington girl who made good. Real good. Jeezum Jim’s chief of staff. Top-shelf.

2. Jeff Weaver — Bernie Sanders’ chief of staff. Been with Sanders since 1986. Very smart dude. Currently recovering from broken leg. Get well soon, dude.

3. Sandra Dragon — Vermont’s “Dragon Lady.” Runs Associated Industries of Vermont.

4. Chris Barbieri — runs state Chamber of Commerce.

5. Jerry Morris — Morris the Cat. Statehouse hired-gun business lobbyist with heavyweight corporate clients.

6. Timothy Meehan — Another veteran Statehouse hired-gun business lobbyist. Former monk.

7. John McClaughry — Johnny Think-Tanker continues to pump out the columns in papers across the state. Rarely agree with him, but respect his dedication.

8. John Goodrow — Key behind-the-scenes aide to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy.

9. David Moats — Editorial writer extraordinaire for the Rutland Herald.

10. Tracy Schmaler — Vermont Press Bureau reporter. “Hottest scribe to hit the Statehouse in years,” said one old-timer.

11. Caroline Dwyer Ran Leahy’s 1998 campaign. Now on the Peter Shumlin team. Smart and tough.

12. Andy Wormser — WPTZ-TV news director. Cool, calm and collected.

13. Ethan Ready — Son of Chainsaw Liz. Born to run campaigns. Bright future ahead.

14. Rev. David Stertzbach — Bob Jones University-trained preacher who has Chittenden County’s GOP organization singing from his hymnal.

15. Paul Bruhn — Preservation Trust of Vermont. The boy wonder who ran Leahy’s first U.S. Senate campaign. Behind-the-scenes player.

16. Bob Rogan — CVPS vice-president and former Dean political operative. On the White House team?

17. Allison Crowley Demag — Savvy Statehouse hired-gun lobbyist. Daughter of former State Sen. Tom Crowley.

18. Chris Pearson — Progressive Party chief cook and bottle washer. Dedicated. Hard-working.

19. Brian Cosgrove — Former top GOP strategist now at Vermont Yankee. A results-oriented Irishman.

20. Marty Rousse Marvelous Marty. Democrat field organizer. Top-shelf.

21. Sam HemingwayBurlington Free Press news columnist. Biggest circulation in the state.

22. Kenneth Angell — The bishop runs the Catholic diocese. Lost an all-out holy war in 2000 over equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. Star sinking as Catholic Church sex scandal echoes coast-to-coast.

23. Phil Fiermonte — Former Sanders staffer. Union organizer. Burlington city councilor. Loves the game.

24. Karen Meyer — Formerly ran the state Medical Society. Longtime Statehouse regular. Currently “executive assistant” to the president of UVM.

25. Jack McMullen — The millionaire Massachusetts carpetbagger defeated by Fred Tuttle in the 1998 GOP U.S. Senate primary. Jack’s stuck around. Republican candidates appreciate his generous campaign contributions.

DeanWatch 2004 — One of the world’s finest political columnists passed away last week. In Canada, Dalton Camp is a household word. Here, he’s Dalton Who? He was 81.

Yours truly only discovered Camp a couple years ago. After all, culturally, the Canadian border might as well be the Great Wall of China. Dalton’s latest Toronto Star columns focusing on how the United States handled the post 9/11 era were positively brilliant. Punch his name into your search engine and we guarantee an enlightening journey.

In a recent CBC interview, Dalton was asked what voters want more than anything right now.

“Newness,” he replied. The “big push,” said Camp, is “for God’s sakes, give us a fresh face.”

We’d submit the Canadian sage’s advice applies south of the border as well. That “newness” and a “fresh face,” are key ingredients presidential hopeful Howard Dean brings to the Democratic Party’s primary table.

So far, it appears to be working. This is from a recent CBS White House roundup:

“Then there’s Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vermont, a guy that no one knows much about or hears much about. But given his recent travel schedule and his upcoming heavy agenda, it seems he’s really trying to get people to take note. Over the next six weeks, Dean has scheduled 10 events outside of Vermont — which he’s still running, by the way.”

And Monday, Hotline, the Web site that tracks all things political, called Vermont’s governor the “least shy about what he’s up to.”

No, he’s certainly not shy. Take Ho-Ho’s brazen charge in Schenectady the other day that President George W. Bush is practicing “voodoo economics.”


Sayonara Time — On a sad and personal note, time has come for yours truly to say good-bye to the statewide audience of “Vermont This Week” on Vermont Public Television (VPT). In every corner of the state that we’ve visited over the years, regular viewers of the weekly reporter’s roundtable step forward to say hello. It’s always a warm feeling, like meeting family members.

But times change.

Last Wednesday host Chris Graff called to book us for this coming Friday’s program. The following day, VPT’s executive producer, Joe Merone, called to, as he put it, “uninvite” us. We quickly learned it wasn’t just for this Friday, but for all future Fridays. The decision, said Joe, came from the top: VPT President and CEO John King and Station Manager Dan Harvey.

Every political columnist worth his salt has enemies. It’s the nature of the job. But since Walter Freed, our favorite Dorset millionaire, became Speaker of the House, we’ve had an enemy in a new perch.

For some time we’ve been aware of the Speaker’s hostility. He refuses to take our questions or even make eye contact. A few weeks back, we were tipped off to a new play in Wally’s playbook, one taken from that of his political role model — former President Richard Nixon. It’s filed under blackmail and press censorship.

You see, in addition to seeking an appropriation in the budget bill, VPT is also begging for funding in the capital bill. They had been penciled in at $300,000 before the Town Meeting Day break. That Friday marked our last appearance on the program. The following week, the $300,000 earmarked for public television suddenly shrank to $100,000.

A Statehouse source alerted us at the time that Mr. Freed was “out to get” us. According to the source, House Institutions Committee Chairman Bob Wood (R-Brandon), a Freed appointee, had told him the $200,000 cut was intended to be “a shot across the bow” of VPT. The message being sent, Wood told him, was “get rid of Freyne” as a “Vermont This Week” panelist.

Inquiring as to who was behind it, our source reported he was told point-blank by the committee chairman, “the House leadership.”

Apparently, three weeks later, the message has been received loud and clear at VPT headquarters and acted upon. C’est la vie!

Yours truly first worked at VPT as a janitor during the 1980 Vermont ETV auction. In 1983, way before our first white hair arrived, the late, great Jack Barry broke us in as a regular panelist on the program he started — “Vermont This Week.” Back then, this column was carried in the now-defunct Vanguard Press, and a mayor by the name of Bernie Sanders was our favorite target.

Following Jack’s passing, Chris Graff became the host and producer. Christopher has always been a perfect gentleman and a class act.

But all good things come to an end.

It’s been a great run. Enjoyed every minute. Very nice people to work with at VPT. We’ve always tried to tell it like it is, regardless of whose toes were getting step-ped on: Democrat, Republican, Progressive or Independent. We consider it a duty.