Despathy: The need for independent spirit, representation and bravery

Observations From the Statehouse -Part 3

Image by David from Pixabay

by Alison Despathy

  1. The statehouse is in a constant battle between special interests and lobbyists paid well to fight hard for their agenda VERSUS the people, environment and natural resources of Vermont. Vermonters are struggling for a voice as the supermajority of ELECTED legislators choose special interests versus representation of their constituents. 
  1. Special interests are the predators and Vermonters and Vermont’s environment and natural resources are the prey. Without legislators in the statehouse working as a line of defense and serving the people, we will continue to be taken advantage of by these predators. More fees, taxes, reduced options, and a form of local protectionism in which certain industries are heavily favored will intensify and harm the people and economy. We are way past overreach and we must draw a line
  1. Every day the legislators and lobbyists go to work together at the statehouse. There are no clear boundaries. Many are friends, they move in the same circles, work in the same place or industry. They hold history and relationships outside of the statehouse. When you are day in and day out with another human- connecting, sharing time and space there is bound to be a relationship that develops. How do lobbyists manipulate this relationship? Does this bond override the trust and promise between a legislator and their constituents? Does it make it easier to believe that lobbyists have Vermont as a priority versus their agenda or employers? Is it easy to ignore actual Vermonters when they are not coordinated and funded to be in the statehouse everyday. This is the job of the representatives and if this past session tells us anything, it is that the supermajority is failing. 
  1. It is also quite common to see conflict of interest and ethics issues arise. For example, Representatives Dara Torre (D) and Gabrielle Stebbins (D) both sit on the House Committee for Environment and Energy. Torre is Program Coordinator of the Regulatory Assistance Project with Richard Cowart, the primary architect of S.5- the Unaffordable Heat Act. Stebbins is a Managing Consultant at the Energy Futures Group “committed to transforming our energy system” and she was also involved in the Clean Heat Working Group, responsible for writing S.5 legislation. It does not appear that these conflicts of interest were transparently discussed during the committee sessions regarding S.5. Both Torre and Stebbins voted Yes on S.5 in committee. There are also numerous legislators who directly benefit from the passage of S.5: Representatives Mike McCarthy (D), Kari Dolan (D), and Caleb Elder (D) are three examples. There is clearly vested interest for both lobbyists and legislators in the passing of S.5. 
  1. Legislators must remember who they work for and not usher in destructive legislation. They must understand the struggles and work to ensure Vermonters have options to decide what is best for themselves and their families. Historically, when a reigning party gains too much control, is swamped by special interests and does not recognize their overreach, the people must help swing the pendulum back to center. Does the supermajority realize that they are throwing Vermonters under the bus with their votes? The financial burdens, unconstitutional legislation and the limitations placed on the people of Vermont this past session are devastating. If legislators who have fallen for special interest agendas cloaked in propaganda cannot open their eyes and represent, if balance is not restored, Vermont will continue to suffer. 
  1. Overall, The most important lesson I learned from my time spent at the statehouse this past session is that there actually is a machine in place. Special interests including industries, institutions, professions and causes are intensely vying for attention and funding. There is a constant struggle for opportunity to utilize the government and legislation to exert a favored action. 
  1. Many lobbyists and activists are attempting to strike the right balance and protect their professions, fight for worthy causes, and ensure revenue for industry and institutions. However others abuse the system and try to exert control and create situations in which their industry or agenda alone can thrive and dominate. S.5 is a prime example of this situation. The people squashed, certain industries greatly favored, no beneficial impact yet increased costs and a real risk for Vermonters. S.5 is a punch to the Vermont people and businesses. What makes S.5 an even greater insult and slap in the face is the fact that it hides behind a lie promising social and environmental justice.
  1. Whomever has the ear of the leadership and thus the supermajority determines action. Special interests and lobbyists are doing exactly what they are paid to do and if we do not have legislators recognize this situation, choose representation of Vermonters and ensure right direction then Vermont will continue to be taken advantage of and abused. At this time, it seems most of the supermajority has been gobbled up by the machine itself versus keeping an eye, protecting the people and making sure Vermont stands on solid ground now and into the future. 

Bottom line: We need statesmen, not politicians. In his book,  Are We Good Enough for Liberty, Lawrence Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education, states, 

“Within government, character is what separates a politician from a statesman. Statesmen don’t seek public office for personal gain or attention. They often are people who take time out from productive careers to temporarily serve the public. They don’t have to work for government because that’s all they know how to do. They stand for a principled vision, not what they think citizens will fall for. When a statesman gets elected, he doesn’t forget the public-spirited citizens who sent him to office, becoming a mouthpiece for the permanent bureaucracy or some special interest that greased his campaign. 

Because they seek truth, statesmen are more likely to do what is right than what may be politically popular at the moment. You know where they stand, because they say what they mean and they mean what they say. They do not engage in class warfare, race-baiting, or other divisive or partisan tactics that pull people apart. They do not buy votes with tax dollars. They don’t make promises they can’t keep or intend to break. They take responsibility for their actions. A statesman doesn’t try to pull himself up by dragging somebody else down, and he doesn’t try to convince people that their victims so he can posture as their savior.

When it comes to managing public finances, statesmen prioritize. They don’t behave as though government deserves an endlessly larger share of other people’s money. They exhibit the courage to cut less important expenses to make way for more pressing ones. They don’t try to build empires. Instead they keep government within its proper bounds and trust in what free and enterprising people can accomplish. Politicians think that they’re smart enough to plan other people’s lives; statesmen are wise enough to understand what utter folly such arrogant attitudes really are. Statesmen in other words, possess a level of character that an ordinary politician does not.”

The author is a clinical nutritionist in St. Johnsbury.

Categories: Crime, State Government

3 replies »

  1. The US is critically ill. A cure at this point is a virtual impossibility. We are simply akin to a person on life support with the possibility of once again being fully functioning likely a pipe dream. The Roman Empire fell, so too shall we. Greed, power & Godlessness do not a society make.

  2. And before the legislature spends one more dime on the climate hoax, they need to read this article.

    It’s a lie and it’s designed to line the pockets of all the connected players with $$$ pushing the lie. It’s also designed to convince the public of the necessary climate emergency that they have planned to control the people like the unconstitutional move by the New Mexico governor to disarm the people. None are more blind than those who refuse to see. Wake up people, you are being lied to.

  3. Money is the life blood of their corruption. It is also the life blood of the politicians.

    When we formed the Green Mountain Party, we wanted to tax the PAC’s, Tax the Lobbyists….like 90%.

    It’s not stopping free speech, it’s stopping bribes.

    Corporations aren’t people, they have no vote.

    The underlining problem is we struggle with chasing the wrong form of what we think is contentment or happiness. Money can be a rough slave master.

    We were completely censored across the state, no statewide website would even allow us to discuss our issues if we have Green Mountain Party in the comments.

    A friend said later, “Well you know, the only thing the two parties can agree on, is they don’t want a third.” More true words have ever been spoken, they do NOT want any change. They love and are bathing in money.

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