MONTPELIER — The checkbook behind the Republican super PAC “Vermonters First” belongs to a woman named Lenore Broughton, according to documents filed Monday by the group’s treasurer, Tayt Brooks.
Broughton, a Burlington resident whose $100,000 contribution constitutes the lone funding source thus far for Vermonters First, is no stranger to money in politics.
According to federal elections data, she’s donated nearly $70,000 to federal candidates and political action committees in 2011 and 2012 alone. Beneficiaries include Republican vicepresidential nominee Paul Ryan, Minnesota Sen. Michele Bachmann, and Virginia Senate candidate Allen West.
She dropped another $115,000 in the 2008 cycle, including a $55,500 contribution to the McCain-Palin Victory fund.
Brooks says Broughton has lived in Vermont for 40 years and is “very private.” Efforts to contact her have so far been unsuccessful.
According to a 2008 story by former Seven Days columnist Shay Totten, Broughton served on the board of Defenders Council of Vermont, which sought to get Burlington Telecom to drop Al Jazeera English.
Totten referred to Broughton as a “right-wing funder extraordinaire.”
Her projects include True North Radio, the conservative talk show now hosted by Rob Roper, former executive director of the Vermont Republican Party.
GOP Chairman Jack Lindley on Monday called Broughton “a wonderful individual.”
“She’s one of those folks who has decided she’s going to put up her funds in order to ensure Vermont doesn’t go down a rabbit trail it shouldn’t go down,” Lindley said.
In documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission, Broughton is described as a self-employed business owner. Lindley said her family was in the retail business.
For the past week, Vermonters First has run 15-second ads touting the candidacies of Vince Illuzzi and Wendy Wilton, Republican candidates for auditor and treasurer, respectively. On Monday, Vermonters First launched a weeklong run of 30-second spots criticizing single-payer.
“Health care is a $5 billion issue and the governor and Legislature have decided they don’t want to talk about how to finance it until after the election,” Brooks said. “That’s unfortunate, and Vermonters deserve more than that.”
As for whether the group will spend money on the candidate who’s actually trying to unseat Gov. Peter Shumlin, Brooks was more cryptic.
“I’m not going to get into why various candidates haven’t necessarily been up on the airwaves to date,” Brooks said. “We’ve focused on a couple of races, but I think it’s fair to say those aren’t the only two races we’ll be focusing on, and I guess I’ll just leave it at that.”
Broughton also is listed as having donated $34,500 worth of “research and consulting” services to the organization. Brooks contracted with Target Enterprises, a California media strategy firm, to oversee the ad campaign. The firm, which serves an almost exclusively conservative clientele, was paid $98,200.
Having been out-raised by her Democratic opponent by a nearly three-to-one margin so far, Wilton said she appreciates the boost from a well-heeled GOP patron. Vermonters First is by law prohibited from coordinating its activities with political candidates, and Wilton said she’s had no interactions with Brooks, Broughton, or any other people associated with the group.
“I don’t know who they are,” Wilton said. “It’s certainly their right to participate in this race, and it’s great to see interest in the treasurer’s campaign.”
Brooks said he hopes increased visibility for the group from Broughton’s initial investment will compel new donors to step forward and contribute to the cause. Brooks wouldn’t say whether Broughton has committed to additional funding before the end of the 2012 elections cycle.
“We plan to do fundraising here moving forward,” Brooks said. “And it’s a lot easier to do fundraising once you have a product to show.”
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