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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Alaskan surprise

I was going to ask y'all what you thought of Barack Obama's speech last night, which you should still feel welcome to weigh in on. But now John McCain has pulled an interesting rabbit out of his hat.

He is about to name Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. The New York Times describes her as a Christian conservative who wasn't afraid to criticize her own party. She's been in office just two years.

Have the Republicans done an end-round on Democrats who so passionately wanted Hillary Clinton to be on the ticket?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Noses and boots

A couple items from Gannett News Service reporter Erin Kelly on the Vermont delegation in Denver:

- Sen. Patrick Leahy said Wednesday that his speech before the Democratic National Convention was delayed a bit Tuesday evening because he suffered a nose bleed just before he was about to take the stage.

Leahy had been scheduled to speak immediately after New York Gov. David Paterson.
Instead, the schedule was quickely re-arranged as Leahy's wife, Marcelle, a nurse, tended to him. He gave his speech without incident about 20 minutes later.

Fellow Vermonter Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee and a doctor, went backstage to find out what the holdup was.

"He asked if he could do anything, and I told him, 'No thanks, the nurse has it under control,' " Leahy said.

Leahy said Denver's altitude and dry air caused the problem.

- Since he is about 1,500 miles from Vermont, former Gov. Howard Dean figured it was safe for him to pull on a pair of black cowboy boots without subjecting himself to ridicule from his fellow Vermonters.

Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Vermont delegates to the Democratic National Convention this week that he has been looking for an excuse to wear the boots since 1992, when the governor of Oklahoma gave them to him as a gift. Dean was Vermont's governor at the time.

"Of course I couldn't wear them in Vermont," he said. "If you wear cowboy boots in Vermont, you're considered to be either an eccentric or a poser."

Who knew Dean was so sartorially conscious?

Dean said the boots seem appropriate in Denver among the cowboy hats and statues of horses.
"I haven't taken leave of my senses," he assured the Vermonters. "But when in Denver ... ."

- Erin Kelly


Face time

Gov. Jim Douglas has launched his first TV ad, according to his campaign. It's short, 30-second spot and hits the airwaves tonight, wedged right around the Democratic National Convention coverage.

Here's the transcript, with Douglas speaking:

"Vermonters are really hurting. They’re feeling the pinch as gas
prices and fuel prices and food prices rise – beyond their means. That’s
why I moved quickly to propose my economic stimulus plan to encourage the
creation of new jobs, to provide the sales tax holiday, provide easier access to
small business loans and home mortgages. I really believe that during the
next couple years I can continue to make a difference to assure hope and
opportunity and prosperity for the families of Vermont."

The things he doesn't say:

Whether any of this pain is his fault.

What, if anything tangible, his stimulus plan is doing to reverse things.

He doesn't blame the Legislature, or his Democratic opponent, in the ad. That's reserved for other opportunities.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Everybody's doing it

Here's my question for those attending the Democratic National Convention: Is there anybody there who is not blogging?

This has got to be the most personally chronicled event in history.

We, of course, have Philip Baruth blogging on the Free Press Web site. This morning he gave us the scoop on the going attire for eating pancakes, plus some pix that show our peops hob-nobbing.

Over at Green Mountain Daily, they have about 14 people blogging from the scene. With some amusement I read the part where they discover how hard this kind of thing is:
"The other day, as odum and I were planning what what we would do, I
ambitiously thought there'd be a whole lotta posting going on. Then those pesky
logistics get in the way - bus rides that should take 10 minutes take 45... the
line at the Pepsi center takes 45 minutes just to get through security. Or, when
you finally make it to the convention floor, the computer situation is not what
you wanted. "

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington blogged on her Web site, falling just short of telling us anything interesting. Here's a snippet:

"There’s lots of energy everywhere. My morning events were
mostly hosted by organizations that support women running for office or target
women voters – most of them non-partisan organizations with various specific
interests – pro-choice women, Latina women, unmarried women, as a few
examples. Maria Echaveste, the Deputy Chief of Staff for President
Clinton, began the morning by referencing the writing of Abigail Adams and the
mid-1800’s Seneca Falls conference on women’s rights where Elizabeth Cady
Stanton first proposed that women be allowed to vote. "

I appreciate any reference to Seneca Falls, hometown of my mother, but what we want to know, of course, is what kind of reception did Symington receive from these people. Did they tuck checks into her Vermont-made Obama "Flash Bag?"

I got an e-mail yesterday from Tax Commissioner Tom Pelham, whose 20-year-old daughter, Rachel is a delegate from California, where she goes to college, and is blogging it. She offers some candor:

"The big opening day was somewhat of a let down, but the pundits (sitting
10 yards in front of me on the Convention Floor) disagree with me on what was
amiss in the Pepsi Center. The media wants a good show, and they didn't
really get it. I want something that can't happen with a made-for-the-media
political event; I want discussion and inspiration without the corny show.
LIke Michelle's speech last night, the Convention must speak to target
audiences, allay secret fears, reassure and energize the masses. This is
necessity. But I can't help yearning for a more genuine approach at all levels:
a Michelle who does not introduce herself as an auxiliary human being defined by
her role as daughter, mother and wife, a Convention without all the trappings of
a football game, a public dialog that is not demagoguery. Delegates are not

Candor is what we want.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Probation hot seat

Vermont Probation & Parole is on the hot seat in the wake of the arrest of convicted sex offender Michael Jacques, whom the department recommended for release from probation at a time when he is alleged to have been abusing a teenage girl.

The case ignited furor over just how loose is probation oversight.

Vermont's not the only one on that hot seat. This from a lawyer in New York State:

"The wife of slain New York State Trooper David Brinkerhoff, who was killed
in a blazing shootout in a Catskills farmhouse in April 2007, has filed a
lawsuit against St. Lawrence County, N.Y., and its probation department,
alleging that their negligence and lack of protocol allowed a serial probation
violator to break the terms of his supervised release and later initiate the gun
battle that cost Trooper Brinkerhoff his life.

"Barbara Brinkerhoff, widow of Trooper Brinkerhoff, alleges that the
man at the center of the shootout– a 23-year-old convicted thief with a history
of probation violations named Travis Trim – should not have been out of jail but
for a series of bungled actions by the St. Lawrence Probation Department.
Defendants include the director of the department as well as the officer
assigned to Mr. Trim.

"According to the complaint, Mr. Trim was first assigned a St. Lawrence
County probation officer in July 2005 after an arrest for larceny.
He repeatedly failed to maintain his supervised probation in the final months of
2006. Mrs. Brinkerhoff alleges that multiple lapses within the St.
Lawrence County Probation Department not only allowed him to remain free, but
also ensured that no New York law enforcement agencies were even aware that a
warrant had been issued for his arrest.

"According to the complaint, the warrant issued by a Canton, NY village
justice in December 2006 and sent to the Probation Department was – incredibly –
destroyed in a shredder upon receipt.

"Four months later, Mr. Trim was stopped by a New York State Trooper on
a road near Margaretville, the vehicle he was driving without a license
plate turned out to be stolen. He fired at the trooper, hitting his
protective vest, then took refuge in a nearby farmhouse. A swarm of state
police, alerted by a silent alarm that went off at the house, surrounded it the
next morning and went inside.

"Searching room to room, they found handguns and shotguns Mr. Trim had
brought with him. A furious gun battle ensued, during which one state trooper,
Richard Mattson, suffered a debilitating hand wound that forced him to take
disability retirement. Trooper Brinkerhoff then shot and killed Mr. Trim. In
almost the next instant, he was mistakenly shot from behind by a fellow trooper
and died."

- Terri Hallenbeck



Another Pollina write-in

So more than a week ago, the Progressive State Committee voted to promote a slate of write-in candidates in the September primary election and who tops the list? Anthony Pollina.

Yes, the guy who in July decided he would fore go running for governor as a Progressive Party candidate so he could appeal across party lines without the burden of a party label now will end up with his name hand-written onto Progressive Party ballots for that same political position.

And then, assuming he wins the write-in election, he said Monday he would decline the Progressive nomination.

Why write in a guy's name when he's going to turn down the nomination? Because the Progressive Party wants to block random candidates from borrowing their political banner. The goal is to "protect the ballot."

Without the write-in campaign, the only Progressive Party candidate on the November ballot would be Thomas Hermann, who is running for Congress.

"It is important to all Progressives that we are represented by candidates who are committed to advancing the issues that matter most to Vermonters," said Morgan Daybell, the party's executive director.

Anthony Pollina won't be the party's only write-in candidate. The state committee has approved a full slate of statewide candidates that it will promote -- all with long histories of activism in the party.
  • Richard Kemp for lieutenant governor
  • Marjorie Power for secretary of state
  • Charlotte Dennett for attorney general
  • Don Schramm for treasurer
  • Martha Abbott for auditor of accounts

It's not clear how much any of these candidates will campaign -- but besides keeping non-Progressives off the ballot, the goal is to collect at least 5 percent of the votes on Election Day. If none of the Progressives win at least 5 percent of the votes in the statewide races, the party's major party status is in jeopardy.

OK, filling in all those blank spaces on the ballot makes sense, I guess. But Pollina's on-again, off-again status as a Progressive candidate for governor has got to confuse voters and leave them muttering, "Make up your mind."

-- Nancy Remsen


Denver doings

Looks like those of you who gets your kicks out of riling each other up must have returned from your holiday in the south of France. May I suggest another trip, somewhere without Internet access?

So, it turns out the Obama people were not bluffing about Biden. The convention kicks off today, and as it does, blogosphere meets print media meets blogosphere. Or something like that.

Vermont Daily Briefing blogger Philip Baruth is a delegate to the convention and will be sharing insight from his inside perch through the Free Press. You can find it HERE.

Here's what I'm hoping he will tell us: What actually goes on at the convention. I mean beyond the speeches that we'll hear on prime-time TV. I want to know what it's really like. All party? Some substance? Pep rally or strategy session?

When Vermont's delegation is rubbing shoulders with So-and-so is it about shoulder rubbing or are there actual connections being made that will lead to something actual happening on the streets and in the voting booth?

It's a lot to ask, Philip, but you're on the inside and we need to know.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Game on

Howard Frank Mosher might want to use this as the setting for the sequel to "Waiting for Teddy Williams."

Sunday in the Northeast Kingdom, some people who get together for a little softball and politics.

Independent candidate Sam Young issued the challenge for "Bring It to the Ballfield." He got a moderate-at-best response.

According to Young, he will be joined by fellow independents Anthony Pollina, and Tony O'Connor for games and gab. The campaign staff for Gov. Jim Douglas will be sending supporters to play ball. Representatives from the Democratic Party will attend, Young said, but he goes on to say those include Reps. John Rogers and John Morley. Morley is decidedly not a Democrat, however.

Cris Ericson and Peter Diamondstone declined invitations, Young said.

Give particular credit to O'Connor for being game for the game. He is a triple amputee who lost an arm and both legs in an accident many years ago, although that hasn't stopped him from golfing. He also recently lost his campaign Web site to hackers.

The show begins at 2 p.m. at at the Entropy Acres field of Dennis and Peggy Gibson, owners of NEK Balsam in West Glover.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Biden or bluff?

Is Biden the one, or is the buzz a bluff?

That is the question. The buzz that Barack Obama's people seem to be enjoying spreading is that Sen. Joe Biden could be the VP candidate.

Are you liking that choice? Biden has the foreign policy background Obama lacks. But does he bring too much a sense of Washington-insider with him? What's the Delaware address offer?

Here is my Biden up-close knowledge, which I will grant you is both outdated and minuscule.

When I was a junior in college, spending a semester in Washington, my class met with Sen. Joe Biden, who even 25 years ago seemed like a senior senator.

He was my introduction to how polished politicians answer questions. I posed one about some hot foreign policy matter of the time and he was off and running. What I remember is that he was smart, smooth and didn't shut up for a very long time. My class managed to get in just two questions in probably an hour-long session.

OK, so he's a typical politician.

Should Obama pick him?

- Terri Hallenbeck


Money wars

Come Monday, we will know more about the financial situation of our gubernatorial candidates. Of particular interest will be whether independent Anthony Pollina's bank account total is driving his fight not to return contributions that the Secretary of State's Office says go over the per-person limit.

By then, we might know whether the Attorney General's Office will pursue enforcement action against Pollina.

The Attorney General's Office has been sent two letters of complaint about the Pollina money situation. For your perusal:

August 20, 2008

Dear Mr. McShane,

Please consider this letter an official citizens’ complaint
regardingthe political fundraising of Anthony Pollina, a publicly
declared“independent” candidate for governor of Vermont.

As you know, the Secretary of State’s office has requested
that the Pollina campaign return all contributions of more than $1,000 inorder
to comply with what in considers to be the current law.

To date, the Pollina campaign is refusing to return the
money.As concerned citizens of the State of Vermont, we offer this citizens’
complaint regarding the fundraising actions of the Pollina campaign and its
apparent disregard for the law as interpreted by the Secretary of State’s

We look forward to hearing from you.


Michael Colby


And here's number two:

August 20, 2008

Mr. Michael McShane, Esq.
Assistant Attorney
109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-1001

RE: Complaint Against Anthony Pollina and "Pollina for

Dear Attorney McShane:

I am writing to lodge a complaint and request that your
office take action in investigating and prosecuting, as appropriate, violations
of Vermont’s campaign finance law by Mr. Anthony Pollina and/or his campaign
entity, "Pollina for Governor."

Specifically, as you are aware and has been widely
reported in the press, Mr. Pollina has accepted individual contributions in
excess of the limits the Vermont Attorney General and Secretary of State have
determined are legally permissible. The first public response of Mr. Pollina was
that he did not understand the law and did not intentionally violate those

However, it is now reported in the media that rather than
return the "overage" funds, Mr. Pollina, through his campaign entity, is now
attempting to either go around or ignore Vermont’s campaign finance laws. The
Rutland Herald reported on August 19 and 20, 2008, as follows:

"We're not giving any money back," Meg Brook, Pollina's
campaign manager, said Tuesday. Brook argued that the donations don't violate
the law.

In addition, it was reported on WCAX that Mr. Pollina and
his campaign entity are encouraging the donors who made what are now illegal
contributions to simply funnel money to him in less obvious ways. As reported by
the Vermont Press Bureau:

Brook said campaign staff met to discuss the issue Monday,
and options on the table include having supporters loan the campaign money or
form their own political action committees in their communities to support his
run for governor.

Thus, even if the impression fostered by Mr. Pollina -
that he did not intentionally violate the contribution limits every other
candidate must comply with - is true, it appears that his and his campaign’s
current actions in attempting to keep those contributions despite knowing their
now illegal nature is an intentional and serious violation of Vermont law.
Specifically, Title 17, Section 2805(e) provides:

(e) A candidate, political party, or political committee
shall not knowingly accept a contribution which is not directly from the
contributor, but was transferred to the contributor by another person for the
purpose of transferring the same to the candidate, or otherwise circumventing
the provisions of this chapter. It shall be a violation of this chapter for a
person to make a contribution with the explicit or implicit understanding that
the contribution will be transferred in violation of this

That he changed party affiliation before filing for office
should not be a factor. What matters is the party affiliation he files under,
when he files. This current attempt to keep "overage" funds by forming PACs or
funneling money to other people is directly contrary to the letter and spirit of
this statute and warrants the investigation and prosecution of violations by
your office. It appears under the language of section 2805(e) that such an
investigation would encompass not only Mr. Pollina and his election operatives,
but those acting in concert with their schemes as sources of illegal campaign
contributions. Hopefully innocent people who have been misled will not be
prosecuted, but I understand that decision is fully within the purview of your

As Chair of the Local Government Committee which passed
Act 64 in 1997, with Mr. Pollina’s help, I’m astounded and disappointed by his
recent behavior, as well as his misunderstanding of the law. I know there are
legal ways to raise money. I believe he has the capacity to use them. I would
expect your office would examine these issues as well or direct any pertinent
information to the appropriate state or federal authorities for further
consideration if you feel it is warranted.

Thank you for your consideration of this

Lynn Bohi
Former State
Town of Hartford

--Terri Hallenbeck and Nancy Remsen



Moving pictures

This week, as you have surely noticed, we ran a series of profiles on the gubernatorial candidates. Along with the words that ran in the paper, we stepped into the world of moving pictures and have posted on our Web site a series of video interviews with the candidates.

Nancy Remsen and I stayed out of view of the camera and posed the questions. Mark Gould, the Free Press video guy, rolled the camera, edited the footage and made it appear on the Web.

It's a new arena for me, but I like the results. If you watch/listen to all three of the candidates, you will come away with a better understanding of their differences.

For starters, we posed questions on energy, jobs, sex offenders and health care. We asked a few other questions that we haven't posted but might farther along in the campaign.

Check out the whole multi-media package, if you haven't already, HERE.

- Terri Hallenbeck


It's mine

It's taken a few weeks, but the Pollina campaign has decided to keep the money it received from contributors who donated more than $1,000 -- which totals about $28,000.

The campaign says it can keep the money because by its interpretation of the law that may or may not be governing campaign spending these days, they accepted most of the extra money when Anthony Pollina was still a Progressive Party candidate for governor and would have theoretically had a primary election. When he decided to become an independent, he no longer had a primary and according to the interpretation of law by state officials could not longer accept donations up to $2,000 per individual. His limit became $1,000.

Pollina and staff argue, "The law says nothing about what happens if you change party affiliation."

In a statement issued last night (sorry we are so slow to post but we've had some other things on our minds here at the Free Press in recent days), the Pollina campaign wrote, "The interpretation of the law now being suggested discriminates against independent and minor party candidates. Vermont law traditionally called for contribution limits to be per election cycle (a two-year period."

The campaign points to a guide that says "A candidate may accept $2,000 so long as it is with the intent of applying $1,000 for use in paying expenses related to the primary and $1,000 for the General Election." Pollina accepted most of the money when he expected to be in the Progressive Party Primary.

Most, but not all. According to his campaign finance report of July 31, he received six contributions that brought the contributors totals to more than $1,000 after he said he would run as an independent. Martha Abbott made two $1,000 contributions on July 27.

Elections Director Kathy DeWolfe, said there is no question but that the law requires Pollina to return the extra money. "He chose not to run in the primary so he can't keep it."

So the question here is who is going to challenge Pollina about this money? If no one does, why?

-- Nancy Remsen



A rank worth filing?

Austin Cassidy's Independent Political Report (read from the name: supports independent candidates) ranks Anthony Pollina second among independent candidates vying for federal or statewide offices in the nation.

You can see the rankings HERE.

It doesn't specifically indicate whether that's second most viable or second funniest but the presumption seems to be the former.

The ranking puts him one ahead of Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist who is running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And four ahead of Jack Kevorkian, who is running for Congress in Michigan.

Does it mean anything when it comes down to it?

- Terri Hallenbeck



On the waterfront

I'm a nerd who covers politics. My husband is a hip dude who covers music. Tonight on the Burlington Waterfront the nerds got together with the hipsters.

The occasion was a free show called DemRockracy, headlining Mike Gordon (formerly of Phish) and Bernie Sanders (currently of the U.S. Senate).

Because technology allows it, I offer you a very fuzzy photo taken on my cell phone, just to prove that cell phones should be cell phones and cameras should be cameras. Because you surely can't tell, that's Sanders, Gordon and Rep. Peter Welch somewhere in the blur.

Most of the people were there for the music, and thankfully, most of the stage time was devoted to music. But this is a political blog, so we're going to talk about that part here. You want talk about music, go visit the hip dude's BLOG.

During a break from the music, Gordon introduced Sanders, who declared this coming election the most important in the history of the U.S. (So much for Benjamin Harrison's election).

Sanders is all hepped on Barack Obama these days and in his rousing way he encouraged the crowd to be too. He also talked about people you should vote for if you happen to be from Maine or a few other places, but when it came to talk about Vermont elections, all he did was tell people to register to vote. He did not mention that there is a race for governor going on, or that one of his former aides (Anthony Pollina) is running in it.

Earlier this week I asked Sanders' staff if I could talk to him about Pollina and he declined. Pollina, who was along with Democrat Gaye Symington was working the crowd at DemRockracy (Republican Jim Douglas nowhere to be seen), said he hasn't specifically asked Sanders to endorse him. He seems to know that when Sanders doesn't feel like playing, he doesn't play.

Sanders did feel like playing with Welch, whom he welcomed on the stage. As Welch started speaking - I'm not making this up - a guy next to me in the crowd winced in pain at his lack of smoothness. Welch did then gain his stride and the guy was able to keep his wincing in check.

Really, the music was the highlight.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Two years later

The Vermont Democratic Party headquarters is a bustling place, filled with volunteers working at tables, phones ringing. There's a lot on the line to make sure voters see things their way this fall when it comes to voting for presidential, gubernatorial, legislative candidates.

In the far corner one of the window offices is reserved for a candidate who has none of those worries. Peter Welch won't admit to dancing in the streets over not having a Republican opponent, but he is a much more relaxed man than he was two years ago. That much he will admit.

Welch, you will recall, scrapped his way to Congress in a tough race with Martha Rainville two years ago. Polls showed that he was trailing at one point, he now concedes. He ended up winning by a more comfortable margin than one might have guessed going in, but when he went to parades or shilled for votes on the streets two years ago, lots of people didn't know who he was and weren't all that interested in what he was trying to sell them, he said.

What a difference a title makes. It happened pretty much overnight. Once he'd won the election, people were a lot more willing to shake his hand. Now that he's been in office for almost two years, people are no longer ducking for cover when they see him coming.
Odd, isn't it? Apparently, we don't hate politicians. We hate people who are trying to become politicians.
Or is it that the balance has shifted and it's no longer Welch pandering for votes, but voters pandering for the congressman's attention?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Take them out for a ballgame

Independent and third-party candidates always have a tough time getting major-party candidates to let them join in their reindeer games. Just ask Peter Diamondstone, who's due in court Sept. 11 on charges related to his efforts to play in the debate game in Waitsfield last month.

Here's a creative approach from independent gubernatorial candidate Sam Young:

"Sam Young, an independent gubernatorial candidate from West Glover, has
issued a challenge to all of his opponents to play ball. In the spirit of
non-partisan politics, Young has invited all of the gubernatorial candidates,
their staffs, and supporters to join the Northeast Kingdom for a game of
mixed-teams softball. The game is scheduled for Sunday, August 24th at 2 p.m. in
West Glover. The game will be played at the home-field of Dennis and Peggy
Gibson, owners of NEK Balsam.

"Following the softball game, the candidates will take part in a
Question and Answer session at Parker Pie of West Glover, beginning at 6 p.m.
This part of the event will be moderated by Bethany Dunbar of the Barton
Chronicle. Questions will be collected from Vermont voters via e-mail to the
Chronicle and earlier in the day at the softball game."

It almost sounds too quaint for the other candidates to turn down.


Young says Anthony Pollina and Tony O'Connor have RSVP'd in the affirmative. Gaye Symington will be in Denver with the Dems and Jim Douglas' people have not returned several phone calls.

*************Uodated update*******

Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey says she was in touch relatively immediately with Young's people about the idea. While they're not sure yet if Douglas is available for a few pop flies, the staff wants in, Casey said.

Young acknowledges that he spoke too soon about the Douglas campaign lack of contact.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Calendar's open

If you were to go to Jim Douglas' calendar on his campaign Web site, you would think this is one quiet campaigner. I'd send you there with a link, but there's really no point. There's nothing on it. Not this month, next month or the one after. All the way up to Nov. 4, it's all clear.

His official gubernatorial calendar has a few things on it. Some would argue that everything he does as governor is directed toward his re-election. But it doesn't include any official out-and-about campaigning.

We are led to believe there's not one single fund-raiser. No house parties. Nothing. There is nothing saying he has to tell us, but what was the point of making a calendar on the Web site?


Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey said the calendar should look more full in the near future after the campaign updates the whole Web site, but it won't include events such as fund-raisers that aren't open to the public.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Border wars

Over in New York State, Rensselaer County legislators have decided Vermont needs tougher sex offender laws.

You can read about it HERE and HERE.

The gist is a couple of county legislators started on this topic in response to the Brooke Bennett case, then were fueled by a Vermont man being arrested there for allegedly impersonating a police officer as he tried to abduct two young girls.

Imagine how well this went over with Dick Sears, the senator from Bennington who oversees the Senate Judiciary Committee. He mentioned that he has a few items he'd like to see New York lawmakers tackle of their own. If you have been to Rensselaer County, home of Troy, you have to concede that he has a point.

Moving beyond that, however, perhaps a neighboring state has a right to pay attention to our laws and how they affect them. If we were to drop our drinking age to 18, the Empire State might have some issues with that, for instance.

What we don't know is exactly how things would be different under New York laws/procedures in a case like Michael Jacques, or even whether this latest case is the work of a convicted sex offender. Those seem to be key questions the legislators should consider before telling people in another state how things should be done.

Otherwise, we'd be tempted to explore how many criminals just Rensselaer County has exported to Vermont vs. how many Vermont has exported to Rensselaer County.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Bernie's burgers

If you're hungry tomorrow, Sen. Bernie Sanders will host two barbecues to muster support for presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The first is at noon at Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington.

The second at 5 p.m. in the Middlebury Green.

The Republican National Committee obviously has feelers out for every last thing going on around the country because the organization weighed in on Sanders' BBQs today, mistakenly placing the events at Sanders' Burlington home:

"Barbeques at the house of a self-described socialist will not convince
voters in Vermont that Barack Obama's plans to ignore our country's vast
resources by continuing to rely on foreign countries is a good way to solve our
energy crisis or that raising taxes on individuals making $42,000 a year will
fix our economy. America deserves a leader who will deliver solutions to
the challenges confronting our nation. John McCain always has put
partisanship aside to serve the best interest of the country, something Barack
Obama, ranked 'most liberal' in the Senate, has demonstrated an unwillingness
and inability to do."

--Blair Latoff, RNC Spokeswoman

Perhaps Gov. Jim Douglas can put on a competing barbecue at his hometown Middlebury green for John McCain and we can see who serves more burgers.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Bernie no Bush buddy

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against the Bush administration more often than any other U.S. senator, according to a new scorecard by Congressional Quarterly.

Sanders, an independent, voted with the White House only 23 percent of the time during Bush's seven-and-a-half years in office, according to the non-partisan publication.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., voted with the administration about 48 percent of the time while Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, voted with Bush 40 percent of the time.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain voted with the White House 90 percent of the time.

The tally included Sanders' House votes as well as his Senate votes. He served in the House during the bulk of Bush's term. He was sworn in as a senator in January 2007.

Senators usually end up voting with the president more in the CQ tallies because only the Senate confirms presidential nominees and most of those nominees are non-controversial.

- Erin Kelly



Sex offenders on the agenda

Senate Judiciary has convened the first of its hearings on sex offender laws and what might have gone wrong in the state's dealings with Michael Jacques, the man accused of kidnapping his niec, 12-year-old Brooke Bennett of Braintree, who was found dead this summer.

Room 10, the smaller of two hearing rooms in the Statehouse, is fairly full with state officials, vicitms advocates, legislators and media.

The Legislature has a link on its Web site related to these meetings, which will include three public hearings around the state. You can see it here: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/workgroups/sexoffenders/

The goal of the committee, according to its charge from Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin is to examine what went wrong to allow Jacques to be released from probation early, to see if there is evidence that sex offender treatment works, to see how recent changes to sentencing laws might have made a difference, to see if the laws the governor proposes (Jessica's Law, civil commitments, changes to sex offender registry) would help, to see what other changes may be warranted.

Whether they'll get the answers to the first question is unclear. There's a heap of stuff the state can't talk about for a variety of reasons. But that's one of the biggest looming questions.

What do you want them to explore?

- Terri Hallenbeck

- Terri Hallenbeck



Unusual write-in campaign

Can you make someone become a candidate for an office that he isn't interested in pursuing?

That's what Kevin Kennedy wants to do to Anthony Pollina, using the Internet to organize a write-in campaign to essentially "draft" Pollina to the lieutenant governor's race.

Why would Kennedy do this? Because he thinks -- as do others -- that a three-way race for governor assures the re-election of Jim Douglas. And Kennedy of Marlboro doesn't want that outcome.

So he has set out to change the candidate lineup, not only for governor, but also for lieutenant governor. He believe Pollina would have a better shot at defeating Republican Brian Dubie than Tom Costello or Nate Freeman, the two Democrats who have to duke it out in a primary before facing the incumbent lieutenant governor in November.

Kennedy wants to build a movement, using a newly launched Web site, to write in Pollina's name for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ballot in the primary election on Sept. 9. He estimates only 20,000 people would have to write in Pollina's name to make him the winner.

Of course, Pollina could decline the offer and continue to pursue his top-of-the-ticket dream. Judging by the reaction from his campaign manager, he doesn't appreciate this initiative.

"It isn’t helping our effort," complained Meg Brook, Pollina’s campaign manager.

Couldn't reach Costello or Freeman, but I can't imagine they would appreciate being bumped off.

So what's gained by this? Kennedy said he couldn't just sit on sidelines and watch a "slow-motion political train wreck." You can read the rest of his justification here.

-- Nancy Remsen



Food for thought

Having just eaten green beans and tomatoes fresh from our garden, I encourage you to tune into my co-worker Candy Page's blog about eating local this week. You can find it HERE on the Free Press home page, down a bit under recent blogs.

Easier to eat local this week than the first week of February, but still not simple, particularly
if you're not in the habit of preparing everything from scratch. And I'm not in the habit of leaving enough time to prepare breakfast from scratch every morning.

I did have homemade zucchini bread this morning, which comes darn close. The zucchini came from my father-in-law, but mine are on the way. The flour may have come from Norwich. The eggs from Colchester. The sugar, I'm guessing, came from farther afield. The cooking oil? Nowhere close to home. The spices? No idea.

Anyway, check it out and weigh in whether you think we can realistically bring our food closer to home.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Sanders joins with Dems

Look who's going to Denver for the Democratic National Convention later this month: Bernie Sanders.

That's right, Bernie Sanders, the independent, going to the insider's party.

He told Gannett News Service reporter Erin Kelly today that he'll be be trying to drum up independent voters' support for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

"I think it is especially important for the millions and millions of independents, who are not particularly enthused about either party, to understand why Obama is by far the superior candidate in this campaign," Sanders said.

Sanders said he expects to rally with independents in Denver and travel later this fall throughout the country to reach out to independent voters on behalf of the Obama campaign. He also will do some campaign events in Vermont.

"I'm doing this because from the deepest part of my soul I believe the future of the country is at stake in this election," Sanders said.

Here's the trick with independent voters, though. They're independent. They will scurry to one side or the other before this is done, but is Bernie Sanders going to be able to herd those not already inclined toward Obama?

- Terri Hallenbeck


Mi casa es su casa?

Today, Gov, Jim Douglas released his personal financial information. He's worth about $2 million, if you count the $730 Dodge Neon that he doesn't drive because he has a state cop assigned to him.

Tomorrow, independent Anthony Pollina is expected to release his.

Last week, Democrat Gaye Symington released hers, showing assets of $373,222, including 70 beef cattle. That does not include the assets of her husband, Chuck Lacy. Douglas called on her to release her husband's records, saying it's all part of the package.

Pollina's people have said his info will include his wife's.

You'll recall that Peter Clavelle went through this four years ago, first not releasing his wife's, then changing his mind a few days later.

Symington indicated in releasing her own records that she buys into the idea behind the disclosure - that the public has a right to know where your money's coming from if you want to be their governor. Her claim is that it's her running for governor, not her family. She wasn't budging on that Monday.

The question is can a family's pot of money really be separated? Is her $48,000 in income paying to heat part of the house, put food on part of the table, clothe part of the children, pay part of the property taxes, being put away for her part of retirement? Does she benefit at all from her husband's money?

- Terri Hallenbeck

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