Competitive Chase-Ryan race yields local view of campaign financing

By Cynthia Prairie
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

For the first time in many years, voters from this part of  Southern Central Vermont are viewing a rare bird: a competitive “spending race” for the Vermont House of Representatives  — in this case the new Windsor-Windham District that encompasses Athens, Chester, Grafton and Windham.

The race to fill Democrat Tom Bock’s seat, which he occupied for three, two-year terms, is between Democrat Heather Chase and Republican Eva Ryan, both from Chester.

It has been replete with public forums, door-knocking, sign-waving and voter meet and greets. And with it can be found stuff that make campaigns apparent, and expensive — door hangers, lawn signs dotting the streets, glossy mailers and advertising.

Just how much is being spent on this campaign — which is usually a low budget affair — and where is the money coming from? Honestly, it is still “low budget.” But for these communities and this race, the spending is interesting, but the contributors are more so.

State filing requirements

Mailers sent by the Ryan and Chase campaigns

But first, some background: The state requires every candidate to file contribution and expenditure reports, even if they don’t meet the $500 threshold for raising or spending money. (Candidates have 10 days following the election to report that they did not meet the threshold.) For those meeting the threshold, they must detail monetary and in-kind donations — contributions — and expenditures.

Detailed information must include names of donors who gave more than $100, those amounts, the total and the number of overall donors of $100 or less and the total.

These reports must be submitted before midnight on Sept. 1, Oct. 1, Oct. 15 and the Friday prior to the Tuesday Election Day, in this case Friday, Nov. 4 in time for the Nov. 8 voting day.

While there are no spending limits, there are contribution limits and there are requirements for reporting donors. However Ryan has been slow to file any information with the state and had seemed to be doing so only after The Telegraph emailed her with queries about such information. When last contacted about the reports on Monday night, she responded: “I have been working with the Secretary of State regarding my ‘filing’ issues.  … . I did not expect to have such challenges. I thank you for holding me accountable.”

Chase has been filing her campaign finance reports according to deadline. However, Ryan filed her first report — an expenditure report — on Sunday, Nov. 6, two days past the Friday deadline. On evening of  Monday, Nov. 7, Ryan filed her first campaign disclosure forum, which listed just one contribution, $500 from Lenore Broughton of Burlington, described by Vermont Political Observer’s John Walters as the “reclusive Montgomery Ward heiress.”  Broughton, Walters notes, donated $100,000 to Vermonters for Good Government Action, which has been working to defeat Article 22 which would amend Vermont’s constitution to ensure that “reproductive rights” – including abortion – would remain legal.

However, Ryan did email The Telegraph a spreadsheet of contributors and expenditures dating back to July.

Money coming in, money going out

According to her Nov. 4 report, in her campaign to-date, Chase has collected $2,850 in contributions of more than $100 and up from 11 contributors and $2,005 from 27 contributors of $100 or less, for a total of $4,855 collected.

Some of those “big ticket”  amounts aggregated include her son Harrison, now living in California $250; a 2nd homeowner and neighbor Peter Freudenberger for $200; Carl Wyman of Weathersfield $200; Cameron Brugler of California $250; Robert Buckley of Florida $125; Seth Pajcic of Grafton $500; Linda LaBarge of Colorado, $125; (incumbent state Rep.) Tom and Mariette Bock of Colchester, $200; Leslie Goldman of Rockingham $250, and Bill Dakin of Chester, $250. Chase also donated $500 to her campaign early on.

She has spend a total of $2,973.57, most recently $708.36 for a campaign mailing with a Burlington company and $437.50 for advertising in The Chester Telegraph. According to Chase’s treasurer, Philip Perlah, Chase also spent $846.68 in July on campaign signs purchased through a Texas firm.

The only reports Ryan had filed by Nov. 6 — two Mass Media expenditure reports — lists $592.02 for advertising in the Vermont Journal.  She also lists postcards and a mailing for $1,352.19. That was amended downward on Nov. 7 to $821.76.

Ryan’s spreadsheet lists eight donors, including herself, totaling $5,328. Ryan’s “big ticket” donors  start with Broughton, the Montgomery Ward heiress, who kicked in $500 in early September. Also donating are R.L. Vallee Inc. of St. Albans, which owns Maplefields, a convenience store and gas station chain in Northern Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, $1,050; Denise Vallee of South Carolina $1,050 , and Randolph Vallee, also of South Carolina $1,050. (The maximum donation allowable from a single source during an election cycle is $1,050.) Anna and Ron Pilette of Grafton gave an ‘in-kind’ donation valued at $233 and Ryan lists two small Chester donors as giving a total of $75. Ryan herself has contributed $1,370 to her campaign.

According to her spreadsheet, Ryan has spent $4,381.80, with the two biggest expenditures being campaign signs from a Texas company for slightly more than $900 and almost $1,000 with a Brattleboro graphics firm.

According to the state,  fines for knowingly violating the campaign finance report law are not more than $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months or both.

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Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedGraftonLatest NewsWindham

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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