Shumlin’s “Step Towards National Prominence” is Not His First

Governor Shumlin’s recent elevation to Chair the Democratic Governor’s Association is seen by the Burlington Free Press as a “step toward national prominence.”  The article raises the question of why a Governor in only his third year of running the state, with so much on his plate, would accept a national fundraising profile so soon:

This afternoon at a meeting in Los Angeles, Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to become chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

It’s a role that will raise his national profile, give him a chance to play politics at a higher level and raise speculation about what he’s really up to.

Why would a governor in his third year of running Vermont, with a boatload of things on his to-do list (rebuilding an entire state office complex, starting an entirely new form of health-care coverage, decriminalizing marijuana, changing laws regarding end-of-life…), want to be the head of this organization that helps elect Democratic governors, requiring him to go around and ask people for money?

Because he wants to run for president, said someone to whom I posed this question and whom I do not think of as prone to hyperbole.

Anyone who has been following Governor Shumlin closely should not be surprised by this at all.  The article talks about him taking a “step toward national prominence”, but it is not his first by any means.  Governor Shumlin has been seeking a national role and seeking out national level fundraising sources since he first took office.  I explored the phenomenon of the Governor acting as a “Magnet for Out of State Political Contributions” in an October 15 article for True North Reports:

In August, the Burlington Free Press ran a story about how Peter Shumlin actively courted the financial support of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and offered to be a national spokesman for the group:

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the pro-marijuana group NORML, doesn’t get many calls like this. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin rang him up last week, he said, and told him he’d like to be a national spokesman for the marijuana reform movement.

“I’ve taken tens of thousands of phone calls,” St. Pierre said. “Not many from sitting governors.”

The reason for Shumlin’s call: “What Shumlin wanted was money, of course. This was a fundraising call. St. Pierre said Shumlin asked him for as much of the $6,000 that NORML’s political action committee is allowed to give. St. Pierre said he’s got to run it by the PAC board, but he hopes the PAC will give the full $6,000.”  Actually, according the National Institute on Money in State Politics, their total contributions to the Shumlin campaign so far is $8,000.  Furthermore, it is not just the PAC board that is looking to fund Shumlin’s campaign, but their rank and fie supporters from all around the country: “I want to relate to NORML supporters my recent call with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin his support for major cannabis law reforms and his wont as a re-elected governor to become a national spokesperson for cannabis law reforms before the Congress and Executive branch.”

Nor is NORML the only source of out of state funding that Peter Shumlin’s money magnet has attracted.  In addition to the $100,000 it used to get Vermont Leads started, the Service Employees International Union has “invested” $12,000 in the Shumlin campaign.  $,6000 from the New York City branch and $6,000 from the Washington D.C branch.  That is the only political campaign in Vermont that they have contributed to.  A look at Shumlin’s biggest donors, ones who have contribute $6,000 or more, reveals a similar pattern.

TABLE 1: Top 20 Contributors
Contributor Total % of Total Sector
MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT $8,000 0.78% Ideology/Single Issue See Records
AFSCME $7,000 0.68% Labor See Records
COCA-COLA $6,000 0.58% General Business See Records
1199 SEIU UNITED HEALTHCARE WORKERS EAST $6,000 0.58% Labor See Records
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS $6,000 0.58% Labor See Records
AFL-CIO $6,000 0.58% Labor See Records

All of these PACs are from out of state.  Again, this only accounts for the PAC itself and not the rank and file supporters of each of these PACs.  Of the more than $1 million that Governor Shumlin has raised so far for his campaign, 46.8% of it has come from out of state, with 1.2% unknown.  The single biggest source for contributions to the Shumlin campaign so far is New York City, with Washington D.C. not far behind.   This is for a first term Governor, who is not expected to deal with national issues in the same way that holders of federal offices do.  Peter Welch started his career as a Congressman receiving slightly more of his contributions from inside Vermont than from out of state.  It did not take long for this to change, as he now receives more on his campaign contributions from out of sate.  It looks like Governor Shumlin is determined to pass Welch by and catch up to Leahy and Sanders when it comes to being a magnet for out of state political contributions.

It just might be a good idea for Vermonters to ask the question of whether he is merely using our Governor’s office as a stepping stone for his national political ambitions.