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Dunne Gave Cash to Own Campaign

  • Democratic gubernatorial Matt Dunne gives his opening statement during a debate in Hartland, Vt., on March 28, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Geoff Hansen

Published: 8/6/2016 12:22:53 AM
Modified: 8/6/2016 12:23:03 AM
Montpelier — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne loaned his campaign $95,000 this week after pledging not to self-finance his bid and attacking other candidates who have put up their own money to run.

The loans, first reported by Seven Days, were made by Dunne to his campaign in two chunks: $50,000 on Tuesday and $45,000 on Wednesday, according to filings with the Secretary of State’s Office.

A section on Dunne’s campaign website promises “I will personally be adhering to the contribution limits set for an individual Vermonter, and will not be self-funding the campaign above those limits.”

Following an inquiry to the campaign about Dunne breaking the pledge, Communications Director Jessica Bassett sent a statement that did not address the pledge.

“Matt made a bridge loan to the campaign that we expect will be repaid from outstanding contributions and ongoing fundraising,” she said.

Throughout the primary season, Dunne, a former state senator from Hartland, has derided candidates who self-finance campaigns, including during a Thursday candidate debate on Vermont Public Radio when he openly questioned the roughly $200,000 that competitor Peter Galbraith has spent on his run.

On Friday, Galbraith fumed at Dunne’s hit on him about self-funding, pointing out that it was made hours after Dunne, who is also a former Google executive, loaned himself the $95,000.

“The man is so desperate to be governor of Vermont that he just has a tendency to be selective with the truth,” Galbraith said. “He has a very flexible set of ethics and does not have the integrity to be the governor of Vermont.”

Dunne had followed his campaign pledge not to infuse the campaign with large amounts of his own money for much of the campaign, loaning himself the maximum individual limit, $4,000, up until this week.

He loaned himself $2,000 in March and another $2,000 in July, according to filings with the Secretary of State’s office.

In total, Dunne has brought in $918,425. Galbraith lent his campaign an additional $20,000 Thursday, notching his total campaign loans to $205,643 out of the $350,891 he’s raised.

Sue Minter, the third Democrat in the race, has not lent her campaign any money, and has raised a total of $893,009.

Molly Ritner, Minter’s campaign manager, fired off an email blast about Dunne’s self-funding Friday.

“This is another instance of Matt Dunne saying one thing while doing another on key progressive issues like gun safety, the environment, and campaign finance reform,” Ritner said. “Sue Minter is the candidate Vermonters can trust.”

The biggest self-funder of the primary season has been Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman, who has sunk more than $1.5 million of his own money in his bid for governor.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of out-of-­state dollars began pouring into the Vermont media market this week, aimed at promoting statewide candidates and swinging undecided voters in Tuesday’s statewide primary.

The largest buy came from Reid Hoffman, a Silicon Valley billionaire and co­founder of LinkedIn and PayPal, who sank $220,000 into television, radio and online ads on behalf of Dunne’s campaign, according to a report filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Secretary of State Jim Condos said Hoffman’s outside expenditures were perfectly legal, assuming there was no coordination between the tech mogul and Dunne’s campaign.

Dunne said the the huge media buy “was a surprise to us just like everyone else.” He described Hoffman as a close friend who spent part of his youth in Vermont, adding that “he’s getting involved in the most transparent way possible, by putting his name on it.”

Hoffman did not return multiple phone and email requests for comment.

Minter is receiving her own share of outside media spending, with $120,000 spent on her behalf by Vermonters for Strong Leadership, a Washington, D.C.­based political action committee.

The PAC’s president, Bob Sherman, co­founded the Montpelier lobbying outfit KSE Partners before retiring in 2014.

According to media contracts filed with the Federal Election Commission this week, the Minter PAC received financial support from Emily’s List, a political organization aimed at electing female Democrats to office.

The organization endorsed Minter in February.

Sherman said that besides himself and Emily’s List, four or five other Vermonters had put up money to support Minter, but did not give their names.

He said up to $200,000 could be directed toward media buys from the PAC in the run-up to primary day, which is Tuesday.

“I think these are the rules that we live by, every candidate has the opportunity to do this until the rules change,” Sherman said. “Applauding or lamenting the rules is not important, really. These are the rules, and we are playing by the rules.”

On the Republican side, the American Future Fund put up $27,000 in television and radio ad spending on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman. The two names behind the money are Warren Spector and

Robert Steinberg, two former colleagues of Lisman at the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns.

Condos, the secretary of state said this year’s level of primary spending seems unprecedented.

“I think, personally, it changes the political landscape in Vermont,” Condos said. “There are First amendment rights of free speech, and courts have ruled that money is no object here, unfortunately. But I think the cost of elections in Vermont just went up significantly, not just for statewide races.”

Tuesday’s elections also include a handful of contested party primaries for Vermont legislative seats from the Upper Valley, as well as contested Democratic and Republican primaries for lieutenant governor.

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