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In Gubernatorial Debate, Lisman Critiques Scott For Doing Business With The State

Meg Malone
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, left, and businessman Bruce Lisman, the two Republican candidates for governor, faced off in a live debate on Vermont Edition Wednesday.

Democrats long ago raised concerns about the fact that Lt. Gov. Phil Scott owns a construction business that regularly bids on government transportation contracts. Now, Scott’s opponent in the GOP gubernatorial primary is joining them. With one week before the primary, Republican candidate for governor Bruce Lisman is opening up a new line of attack against Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. And Lisman says Scott’s ownership of a construction business poses an inexcusable conflict of interest.

“And what the heck would it look like to the world outside of Vermont when we have a governor doing business?” Lisman said during a debate on VPR’s Vermont Edition Wednesday. “It would look like cronyism at its worst.”

Scott co-owns Dubois Construction with his cousin. The Middlesex firm has won nearly $4 million in state contracts since Scott entered elected office as a state senator in 2001.

Lisman decried the arrangement in a television ad that began running earlier this week. And in a debate Wednesday, Lisman doubled down.

“Going forward he’s going to have a choice: If he’s going to be governor, don’t do business with the state. Or don’t be governor,” Lisman said.

Scott says he’ll retain his 50-percent ownership stake in the business if elected governor. But he says he’s working with a consultant to establish an arrangement that will insulate him from its daily operations.

“And there’s going to be a blind trust set up that will have a complete firewall between me and the business,” Scott says. “I will completely disassociate myself from the business. I will not profit from the business.”

"What the heck would it look like to the world outside of Vermont when we have a governor doing business? It would look like cronyism at its worst." - Bruce Lisman

And if elected, Scott says Vermonters will be able to ensure that he isn’t using his authority to direct business to Dubois Construction.

“The contracting process is open and transparent,” Scott says. 

Scott’s answer doesn’t appease Lisman.

“He’s going to be appointing, if elected governor, agency heads, department heads, associate heads and all kinds of people,” Lisman says. “You can’t have people he’s appointed look to him while his company in any kind of trust is bidding. It’s simply a conflict of interest.”

Scott, however, says Lisman’s latest critique only exemplifies the gutter tactics Lisman has used to try to discredit and disparage his reputation. Lisman’s campaign has spent nearly $1 million on radio and television ads this cycle, many of them portraying Scott as an ineffectual bystander who’s failed to keep Democrats in check in Montpelier.

“I think the ads are misleading at best, deceitful in many instances, and I just think it’s disappointing that the campaign has reached this level of lowness,” Scott says.

"I will completely disassociate myself from the business. I will not profit from the business." - Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

Lisman says the ads fairly depict the “contrasts” between himself and Phil Scott. 

“All we’ve said is factual. And he’s angry, and better to direct it at himself for saying those things as opposed to me,” Lisman says.

On Wednesday, Lisman said Scott’s failure to hold Democrats to account bode poorly for how he’d perform as governor.

“My own response to you is thinking that you don’t really believe in ideas, you don’t have conviction,” Lisman said. “And in America, it’s big ideas that matter.”

Scott says it’s absurd to blame him for the higher taxes and fees the Democratically-controlled Legislature adopted to support government spending. And Scott says he’s worked to advance fiscally conservative policies.

“But when you’re in the minority, you can’t do anything about it,” Scott says. “That’s why I believe I’m the best person top move forward, use my ability to work with others and move Vermont in a much different direction.”

Scott says he thinks Republican voters will demonstrate on primary day that they feel the same way, despite Lisman’s ad blitz.

“I believe Vermonters know the truth,” Scott says. “And I believe that I’ll persevere by being positive in this campaign and talking about the issues rather than degrading my opponent.”

Voters head to the polls next Tuesday, Aug. 9.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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