Commentary

Klar: Zuckerman, “Mr. Palmolive,” slick-handed agri-businessman

Land trust deal netted lieutenant governor candidate cash, property, farmer/candidate Klar says

By John Klar

David Zuckerman touts himself as defender of the impoverished and down-to earth farmer, but his wealth accumulation suggests gross hypocrisy. Many Vermont farmers pejoratively refer to the former Lieutenant Governor as “Mr. Palmolive” for his soft, unfarmerly hands (referring to the iconic TV commercial for Palmolive dishwashing liquid: David avoids “dishpan hands”!). This metaphor applies to his elitist business dealings as well.

There is a pattern of trust-fund-baby behaviors from this current Democrat LG hopeful. In 2010, Mr. Zuckerman was criticized by Seven Days for collecting mileage and other expense reimbursements that he clearly had not earned, and for being the only legislator who voted against a legislative pay cut. But Mr. Palmolive defended his unethical behavior by implying he was poor:

“Every day I claim the mileage, and I probably shouldn’t,” says Zuckerman, a ponytailed Progressive who runs an organic vegetable farm in Hinesburg. Beyond that, though, Zuckerman isn’t apologizing for his behavior.

Zuckerman’s main argument is that lawmakers earn so little money, the job is unaffordable for average working Vermonters. Even after maxing out his mileage and food allowances, Zuckerman says his legislative pay comes to around $16,500 — barely enough to pay the farm hands he hires to replace him in the fields while he’s at the Statehouse.

“The pay is so low it’s deterring people who are accelerating in their careers,” Zuckerman says. “If you look around this building, there are very few people in their prime earning years, in their thirties and forties and even early low fifties. Shouldn’t we make this a position that can bring all types of expertise to the process?”

But Dave was invoking the poverty of others here to justify maximizing his own plutocratic bloat. David is quite wealthy, and reported nearly $280,000 in adjusted gross income for 2021 in his campaign filings – including $23,826 in dividend income; $3,207 in interest; and $157,136 in capital gains. Not as bad off as the “average working Vermonters” he invoked to justify scalping taxpayers for unethical non-expenses, is he? 

Faux-farmer Dave hardly limits his wealth-suction to expense reports. A review of Vermont Property Transfer Tax Returns shows that Mr. Palmolive washes land as well as expense reports. Here is a summary of how this “social justice warrior” obtained his Vermont farmland, whether or not legal:

– an LLC named Esnid, LLC (apparently named after high-priced, not-for-average-Vermonters Burlington Law Firm, DINSE, spelled backward) was formed April 27, 2006 naming Thomas Storrow of Castanea Foundation as manager and DINSE KNAPP & ANDREW, PC as registered agent.

– On or about 12/12/07, The Wayne Bissonnette and The Barbara Bissonnette Family Revocable Trusts transferred 32.2 acres on Hines Road in Hinesburg to Esnid LLC for $318,000; and 123.67 acres on or about 7/31/2007 for a reported $1,000,000. (a total of 155.87 acres for $1,318,000).

– On or about 6/19/2008, Esnid, LLC transferred to David Zuckerman and his partner Rachel Nevitt 4.79 acres for $125,000 and 151.08 acres for $254,000 (155.87 acres for $379,000).

– On the same date, David and Rachel transferred the development rights to “151 =/- acres” to the Vermont Land Trust, for $500,000.

In the midst of the nation’s financial meltdown, Dave Zuckerman appears to have used a star entity to purchase a $1,318,000 property for $379,000 and sell the development rights simultaneously for $500,000 of Land Trust funds – walking away with 151.08 acres of prime farmland PLUS $$121,000 in his pocket. If this looks fishy to “average Vermonters,” perhaps they just need to wash in the appropriate dishwashing liquid to purge the stench. Like Donald Trump’s tax liabilities, this was all presumably legal – if below board. 

Wayne Bissonnette was a longtime employee of the USDA and worked with the Vermont Farm Bureau. Castanea Foundation is a privately-held nonprofit entity that issues low interest loans to individuals and non-profit agricultural enterprises, and invests in preferred stock of private agricultural companies. David Zuckerman was throughout this time chairing the Vermont House Agriculture Committee.

As explained on his campaign website:

Having farmed in Burlington’s Intervale for 10 years, David and Rachel bought their own farm in Hinesburg, VT, in 2008 with the help of the Vermont Land Trust, the Hinesburg Land Trust, The Trust for Public Land, and the Castanea Foundation. Going from managing 15 acres to 150 acres overnight was no easy feat for Rachel and David.

Being paid a net of $121,000 by Vermont taxpayers (Vermont Land Trust, a taxpayer-supported 501(c)(3) entity) to acquire $1.3 million worth of prime farmland is no easy feat for anyone! Those softy hands have access to opportunities unavailable to regular Vermonters  – these transactions occurred while the nation was roiling in financial meltdown, and when many rough-handed Vermont dairy families were denied the opportunity to sell the development rights to their intergenerational family farms to the VLT! (Castanea Foundation donated $100,000 to the VLT in 2018 – the big money rolls around through so-called “nonprofits” while working-for-meager-wages-Vermonters watch their paltry incomes decline).

David labels as “bigots” parents who challenge experimental gender hormone therapies and sexualization of their schoolchildren. What then will Vermonters call Mr. Palmolive, if not completely out of touch with the lives of real Vermont farmers and farm families?

This cursory review of public document filings surely does not tell the entire story – it is hoped that Mr. Zuckerman will fill in the blanks. I am here reporting what I was able to unearth, but there must be more under the surface: perhaps David and Rachel paid or received other monies not evident in these filings, and have a perfectly sensible explanation – and clean hands – to share with would-be Vermont voters. 

The author is a Brookfield resident, lawyer, author, farmer, and the 2022 Republican nominee for Orange County Vermont Senate seat. A response from Lt. Gov. candidate Zuckerman, if forthcoming, will be published fully and verbatim.

Categories: Commentary

9 replies »

  1. A few things that distanced this fellow, from my vote. Fault me, if you may. One is that he is another, hoping to ride on Bernie’s coattails. Two, who the hell wears a ponytail in 2022? I didn t like how his Wife got venomous when last running against Molly Gray? Lastly, farming as a job? It’s only a novelty job for you though, am I right? You don t look like any real farmer I ve seen.

  2. For all their foresight, our Founding Fathers never foresaw the phenomenon of career politicians. They envisioned ordinary folks serving the best interests of our new country for one, at most two elected terms. Then it was back to the farm, the store, the tavern business or whatever. At which point different people were elected. Unfortunately, what our Founding Fathers never envisioned was people climbing the political ladder, going from one position to another, and using their position(s) as a pretext to line their pockets. Every day more and more, we see what this has devolved into. Corrupt institutions and their members abound.

    Which brings me to Mr Zuckerman, who it appears has taken every advantage of the system that he possibly could. Simply ask yourself if this man displays Vermont values in his words and deeds. If not, refrain from voting for him. Words mean nothing to a man who will say whatever he needs to get what he wants. And what he wants above all is power, when you come right down to it.

    My only question is, what did Esnid LLC get out of it? It would appear they now control Zuckerman and want their control over him to provide them with future considerations. The considerations he might be able to provide as LG, perhaps? He owes them and sooner or later, they will want to be repaid.

    And what kind of work does Esnid LLC do, anyway? Pull that string, start unraveling, and this all might become far clearer.

  3. Marcia Law, You are exactly right in your comment. I want people running that scarifice to serve US, not some giant holding company or corporation

  4. I greatly appreciate the Editor’s footnote, promising to publish a verbatim response
    from zuckerman. I would guess none will be forthcoming, as by zuckerman’s actions to date he prefers the liberal elitist over the rest of Vermont’s voters.

  5. He admitted that he probably shouldn’t have claimed certain expenses like mileage and housing allowances he didn’t earn. He never apologized, he didn’t stop doing it and even used the excuse that the money was there and “earmarked” for his use. So, really, it was his. If I remember the story correctly, he claimed mileage for days he didn’t drive to Montpelier and lodging & meal expenses for nights he didn’t stay in Montpelier. I have to wonder who was in charge of oversight on the expense accounts? (Any time I have had an expense account I had to produce receipts.) And I don’t care if he has a pony tail – I just don’t buy that he is the laid back hippie farmer he wants everyone to believe he is. I’ll take my trust, my Birkenstocks and my vote elsewhere.

  6. As noted elsewhere, this non-profit scam has become the latest virtue signaling device while getting wealthy at taxpayers’ expense. It is seems to be common practice among our so called “representatives” and is often connected with celebrities. Our local legislator did the same thing, selling to the town for local, state and federal money as a community forest and recreation; except the only recreation permitted by the forming committee (stacked with club members) is virtually the same as it was before the sale — nothing that interferes with the mountain bikes and skiers allowed — so no real public benefit. That legislator still lives on the main parcel and kept two highly developable parcels closest to municipal water & sewer. I predict at some point there will be a change in residential zoning district lines to accommodate the soaring growth, but with “affordable housing” included, of course.

  7. Ode to the Leftist: Psalm 36:1-4 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good. He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.

  8. Thank you to John Klar for what I view as fighting these “progressive” snakes tooth and nail. It is beyond sad how well-meaning and decent folk allow themselves to be suckered by the likes of Bernie and Zuckerman. It’s bewildering how more people cannot see that the Bernies and Zuckermans really couldn’t care less about them or anyone but themselves and somehow wind up quite wealthy from feeding at the public trough. Zuckerman is an ordinary thief, stealing chump change from hard working Vermonters and rationalizing it with lies. Voting for crooks like Zuckerman and windbags like Bernie requires profound ignorance or willing masochism.

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