Vermont VIPs organize Illuzzi’s first campaign fundraiser
by Nat Rudarakanchana | July 12, 2012 vtdigger.org Vincent Illuzzi, a state senator and candidate for state auditor, will hold his first campaign fundraiser next Thursday in Burlington, with an intriguing and impressive host committee that features influential Vermont leaders like David Coates, Ernie Pomerleau, and Paul Bruhn.
The fundraising host committee includes prominent business and nonprofit leaders, a Real Estate executive, and current and former elected officials across the political spectrum, including very liberal Democrats (Elizabeth Ready) and moderate Republicans (Mary Alice McKenzie).
Senator Vince Illuzzi files his election papers in June.
State senator Illuzzi, a Republican who represents the very rural Essex-Orleans district in the Northeast Kingdom, described the host committee as a “great group of people,” adding: “If I had to name 100 people who are leaders around Vermont, the folks on that committee would be on that list.” He said that he’d come to know the prominent group through business relationships in the Legislature.
Illuzzi downplayed the names and the mix of his high profile fundraisers, but political observers found it curious.
“It’s impressive and surprising,” said Kevin Ellis, communications strategist for KSE Partners. “It’s a real initial show of strength for Vince Illuzzi. In the past Vince has been a somewhat controversial character, but if this group is supporting him, this shows that he’s making the transition from gadfly to serious politician.”
Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College political science professor, described it as “very bipartisan, eclectic, and broad,” but observed that more progressive Democrats were absent from the committee.
According to Illuzzi and other committee members, Pomerleau, president and CEO of Pomerleau Real Estate, led the effort to organize the fundraiser. Pomerleau didn’t respond to requests for comment.
One host committee member, Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Vermont Preservation Trust, stressed that he was taking part in a personal and private capacity.
“This isn’t about my organization,” he said. “To be clear, this is about me as a private citizen.”
Organizers of the event said Illuzzi had attracted a bipartisan group of supporters because of the state senator’s ability to cut across party lines and deal with issues on a case-by-case basis, not on ideological grounds.
“His work with the Legislature has affected the business interests of every single one of those people, whether they know it or not,” Ellis said. “In the Senate Institutions Committee, he doled out a lot of money and did a lot of things. These people were grateful. This is what you get if you’re in the Senate for so long.”
Illuzzi downplayed concerns about potential future conflicts of interest. “Well, sure, anybody who receives a dollar of state or federal money might be the subject of an audit, but I don’t think these folks fall in the category of needing to worry about that,” Illuzzi said.
“I’ve known some of these people for over 30 years, and this fundraiser is based on that relationship,” he said. “Whether they might be subject to an audit – that thought certainly hasn’t crossed my mind, and I doubt it’s crossed theirs.”
Illuzzi was first elected to the Vermont Senate in 1980 at the age of 27. He’s currently the second longest serving member of the Senate, after Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Washington.
Ellis said potential conflicts of interest weren’t a pressing issue here, arguing that in Vermont, because of the state’s small size, “we all have business in front of everyone. One hopes that the press and the Legislature will keep everyone honest.”
The fundraiser will take place after the July 16 filing deadline for campaign finances, so it’s uncertain how much is raised right away. Organizers said they had “no idea” of a target or expected amount, or predicted attendance, though Illuzi said: “If I can get 30 to 40 people there, I’ll be happy.”
Illuzzi and Hoffer rumors
Several well-informed sources say that Illuzzi wants to hire Democratic candidate Douglas Hoffer in the event Illuzzi wins the auditor’s office. A rumor is also circulating that Illuzzi will offer Hoffer a job in the auditor’s office on the condition that he drop his campaign.
Both Illuzzi and Hoffer strongly denied the latter. Each called it, respectively, “an insult” and “offensive.”
“There’s no truth to that whatsoever,” said Hoffer, a self-employed policy analyst. “I’m running to be the state auditor, not to work for anyone else.”
“That’s simply not true,” said Illuzzi. “I can’t believe anyone would go on the record and say that.”
However, Illuzzi said the idea he might hire Hoffer “may be based on the fact that Doug Hoffer has provided testimony often to my committee over the years, and I’ve often appreciated his viewpoint on the issues before the Legislature.”
He said, however, that there have been no discussions about hiring anyone yet.
Hoffer also dismissed news of the fundraiser and its host committee, pointing out that Illuzzi has served in the Senate with Hinda Miller and others, and arguing that some of the “supposedly Democratic” figures have a history of cross-endorsing.
That group “doesn’t sound like much of a surprise,” remarked Hoffer. “Elections are won by the 250,000 people who come out to vote, and not by the 15 or 20 people fundraising for Vince. So far as I know, they only count for 15 or 20 votes.”
The invitation for the Burlington fundraiser, to be held at St. John’s Club, is below.