Paige, Klar accuse VTDigger of coordinated attack on ‘Agripublicans’

Two Republican candidates for statewide office accused a nonprofit news organization Wednesday of coordinating a political attack designed to discredit new “Agripublican” candidates who announced their candidacies earlier this month.

In a lengthy Facebook post, H. Brooke Paige, a 2020 candidate for secretary of state, posted a response to a VTDigger story published on Monday in which former Democratic transgender gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist accused him of being “transphobic.”

In that story, the reporter highlighted two-year-old comments by Paige that poke fun at Hallquist’s transgender-issues-oriented campaign and attire. Hallqust, formerly known as Dave Hallquist, a prior CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, began identifying as a female in 2015.

Paige said on Facebook that that the tipster for the VTDigger story was Hallquist, and that the story’s aim was to smear Agripublican coalition candidates, including gubernatorial candidate John Klar, through association with his past comments. Paige was one of 12 “Agripublicans” who announced their candidacies jointly on Jan. 6 at the Vermont Statehouse.

H. Brooke Paige

STANDING HIS GROUND: H. Brooke Paige said Wednesday in an interview that it’s better for voters to know how candidates really feel about issues, and that political correctness hurts democracy.

“As our conversation evolved, [the VTDigger reporter] revealed that the ‘tip’ had not been anonymous, rather that Hallquist had called ‘digger’ to out John Klar, his Agri-publican effort and their association with me,” Paige wrote. “Here was the real story that Annie [VTDigger Editor Anne Galloway] and her employee, Grace [Elletson], were trolling for — to try to ‘tar’ John and his newly minted candidates with my politically incorrect past!”

He added that the reporter had an hourlong interview with him on Jan. 14 but failed to report the “content or context” of the interview.

“It is obvious that Grace had only called, and wasted both our time, to provide cover for the story she had crafted (most probably with Annie’s guidance) before she even contacted me!” Paige wrote.

Paige claims that the reporter pressured Klar in a separate interview to disassociate himself and the Agripublican candidates from Paige due to his comments about Hallquist.

“It is obvious that vtdigger is doing the dirty work for the Vermont Democratic Party as that party assembles their lack-luster statewide slate for 2020,” Paige wrote.

Klar, also lashing out in a statement Wednesday, called the VTDigger article an “effort at guilt-by-association … to tarnish not just me, but all of our accomplished and brave agripublican candidates, and our exceptional policy ideas.”

He wrote: “Digger invested a full week in a guilt-by-association hitjob to slander me for comments I never had any association with, and which I hereby, in accordance with Christine’s demand, heartily denounce.”

VTDigger Editor Anne Galloway, responding Wednesday to claims that her publication coordinated with Hallquist to smear candidates, told True North she was aware of the accusations. “These claims are baseless and untrue,” she said.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

John Klar

Late Wednesday afternoon, Klar released information to the media indicating he has filed a Form 13909 Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint with the IRS against VTDigger.

“I have observed (and experienced) for years that Vermont’s largest news organization, vtdigger.org (the subject of this complaint, dba), represents itself to be a balanced news resource, but is in fact eminently biased, and essentially a propaganda arm of progressive political actors here. The vast majority of Vermont media exhibit a strong liberal bias, but they do not receive 501(c)(3) benefits,” Klar’s cover letter to the IRS states.

Throughout the VTDigger article published Monday, Hallquist said Paige should be shunned by fellow Agripublicans for his 2018 comments on transgenderism.

But Paige, in an interview with True North, said it’s better for politicians to be more upfront about their beliefs. If candidates are allowed to speak freely, voters get to decide.

“The VTDigger article and conversation out there more generally seems to indicate that everybody wants everybody to be so very politically correct, independent of what their actual thoughts are,” he said. “If you ask me, it’s far more genuine to just say what’s on your mind, as long as you really believe it, and this helps to further inform the voters.

“For candidates to be threatened or feel threatened of the consequences of saying what they believe and what they feel is the truth, it’s patently absurd. It flies in the face of one’s right to speak freely, to speak what’s on their mind. You would think that the voters would rather see what’s on the candidate’s mind.”

Hallquist, despite calling for Republican candidates to publicly shame and disavow Paige, said she does believe in free speech.

“I mean, people can be as mean and disrespectful as they want to be, but also I think I have the right to call it out as well. It’s about free speech,” she told True North. “I’ll certainly unleash all of the people I know to go after what I would call hate speech. I mean, Facebook actually defines that as hate speech.”

Klar, who urged Paige to “disassociate from the Agripublican campaign” due to the media-made controversy, nevertheless said he is a supporter of free speech.

“I have a long history of being a proponent of free speech and arguing cases on the issue of free speech,” he said. “However, we sometimes alienate people who we wish to persuade when we use we use speech in a way that is alienating.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR and H. Brooke Paige
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26 thoughts on “Paige, Klar accuse VTDigger of coordinated attack on ‘Agripublicans’

  1. I unsubscribed VTD today, after having numerous comments deleted over the past two years. The first one was when I used a term I invented many years ago. In the comment I prepared the audience with a concise explanation of why the term was created. The word is “Welfarian”. My definition is, a person who is capable of going to work but refuses to; who instead receives state welfare for any number of reasons like; because he can, the pay is better, there are benefits like free health and dental, free food, a debit card that can be used to get booze and cigarettes, daddy and mommy taught me how. A Welfarian is a career welfare recipient. It’s their profession.
    A Welfarian is not an individual who is unable to work, for many valid reasons. There are many folks who legitimately receive state assistance. And I would never mock them for taking advantage of what they qualify for.
    The last straw was yesterday when I commented on the article, “Treasurer and attorney general back Global Warming Solutions Act”. I drew a correlation between allowing the state to be sued by individuals and groups and being able to dictate regulations (that would force the citizens to buy electric cars or be fined, to give up wood heat and install electric heat, etc.) to opening the door to a dictatorship form of ruling. Apparently, it didn’t find a fond reception. VTDigger claims to be “In Pursuit of Truth”. It’s with reluctance that I have decided to boycott VTDigger. I will miss the good commentaries and articles but I’m annoyed by the practice of bias in publishing comments.

  2. Leadership starts at the top – Galloway owns this gig and all of the corresponding issues. Losing nonprofit status does not mean vtdigger would cease to exist but that their abjectly narrowminded actors posing as ‘journalists’ would no longer live high off the hog of public funds. But the donor base which are actually customers and paid ads as othe publishers must do.

    And they would still be at an advantage bc they are moving parts in the nonprofit leftwing machine that funds all ‘nonprofit’ publications and public airwaves while also employing dubious factcheckers that are also narrowly left.

    Print does not have these advantages while operating skeleton crews and unable to do the in-depth stories a so-called ‘nonprofit’ can afford. Majority of VT papers have been consolidated.

    Vtdigger has hollowed out the news industry in VT as those publications often do not publish certain items so as not to offend ‘donors’ aka customers and advertisers…soo vtdigger now has ‘customers’ aka donors creating a false dichotomy while offering similar views.

    • Another advantage is they do not have print and associated deadlines which is another *huge* expense.

  3. What has been stated about the VTDigger and the Bennington Banner is not entirely accurate. This Republican has been writing a bi-weekly column for the Digger almost since its founding and for the Banner 17 years. If you are counting this weekend’s column will be number 428. In all that time the two publications have never turned down or edited a column, including near 20 on Senator Sanders and his escapades.

    • So Digger runs one little column to pacify it’s opponents and keep their non profit status. They consistently sensor those who have a different viewpoint, particularly those who disagree with their major “donors”.

    • Don, I’m glad that they have allowed you the opportunity, many of us have been repeatedly prevented form doing so – not only casting OP/EDs into the circular file but deleting conservative comments to articles and OP/EDs submitted by others !

      The problem is not their exercising editorial discretion – it is the issue of their not doing so evenhandedly. It is the discretion they have agreed to exercise carefully in order to secure and maintain their 501(c)(3) privilege – a privilege they should lose because of their flagrant biased editorial conduct !

  4. Vermont digger is just a puppet for the left. When Burton snowboard owners posted a pro carbon tax piece, I questioned their hypocrisy, I was immediately silenced and banned from future comments. I’m thinking I may have ruffled the feathers of a large donor? Vt digger, bought and paid for.

  5. VT Digger is an media outlet and supporter of the Socialists in Montpelier. They must be getting return benefits. Reading their articles and comments, it’s mostly about the slimy socialist atmosphere in the state.

    As a result of their “reporting” and heavily anti-conservative printing, they defiantly are biased and as such in the IRS regs, they can’t be to qualify fore non-profit. Like to see an independent CPA (outfit) looks at their books for bogus itemizing to keep their tax status. Entries can be written (falsified) and they perhaps hope will be accepted. When is the last time they had an audit?

    I feel they (and The Commons) are taking advantage of the system.

  6. VT Digger is a front. I too get censored all the time by the editor, on comments. Many they refuse to print, because I’m right! I hope there is an IRS investigation? Count me in as willing to make a statement. Digger is NOT neutral and unbiased, they are liberal biased as day is long. Digger is, for all intents, and Liberal promotional PAC committee. HERE! JUST TODAY! Hours ago I replied to the current Digger piece on BURLINGTON property taxes rising 7% or more. Inside teh article is an AMAZING quote that nails VT;’s soon HUGE problem. The Burlinton officlal stated that a huge prooblem is that his Common Level of Apraissal (CLA) is going DOWN!. It proves that higher taxes are LOWERINg house price sales and values. I relpied with this to VT Digger, and for hours they REFUSE to publish it (so far)…because FACTS bear me out! the CLA in Burlington is going DOWN! It will soon happen ALL over VT! High propery taxes will LOWER values! which means you have to raise taxes HIGHER later. Please READ wht Vt Digger refuses to post by me: “It’s starting, and it will manifest itself on a broader basis, state wide….soon. People will realize that huge increases in property taxes, will start to make their houses worth less – ESPECIALLY the high end homes (they pay most of property taxes). Taxes are so high that 70% of Vt’ers need subsidized of them! Read this quote from the above article – and worry!: “A drop in the city’s Common Level of Appraisal is having a “serious impact,” he said. ” Is my math right from recent headlines? Statewide property tax is rising 6%? Burlington’s local tax is rising 7.4%? Health insurance increases of about 12%? FYI, inflation is barely 2% annually? Only 30% of Vt’ers pay the full property tax. This can’t go on. The result of huge yearly tax increases, will make houses worth less!!..especially the high end who pay most already! Lower taxes from values, means all taxes have to be raised, after!…..I hope the IRS goes after them 🙂

    • In Townshend, the CLA got to a certain lower level and the VT Tax Dept required the town to reassess. What a farce that turned out to be and all that expense. A Lister telling the Select Board let the Listers do it, they have the property records, far less cost, don’t get an outsider. The town hired a guy (a jerk) from Westmoreland NH costing a lot. I had to appeal my assessment 2-3 times (involving a few years) to rectify it for fair market value.
      TNR had two articles about my case and what the town put me thru. Look it up “Deer Camp”.

      Beware of the Tax Dept, those bureaucrats think they control all and fine the town if you don’t kowtow to them. Townshend had to pay a $100K fine for giving the school district too much money, per the Tax Dept. for instance. That’s 33 houses at $3000+ tax receipts, lost to the state.

  7. Vermont Digger?? Big deal. Just another liberal lobby posing as a nonprofit. The organization is a sham and should be recognized for what it is. Who gives a diddle what the outfit thinks or supports.

  8. Not a very smart move at all and shows a lack of judgement. In Vermont where almost all of the media leans to the left VTDigger at least provides equal opportunity coverage for candidates. I know because they took the time to cover my campaign several times. Where the Rutland Herald, Times Argus, Brattleboro Reformer, and the Bennington Banner refused requests for interviews, VPR and VTDigger gave me an opportunity to get recognition.
    Just wait until Seven Days does its hit piece on him as it did to me.

    • Rutland Herald, Times Argus, Brattleboro Reformer, and the Bennington Banner aren’t non-profit organizations. And neither are Seven Days or TNR.

      • That isn’t the point. One has to work with the tools available to them and the media is one very large tool.

        • . . .and when a bad actor is on the stage, they should be identified as such. I’m glad that you were given a platform to present your ideas – few of us have been granted the privilege by the queen bee of the vtdigger hive !

        • You can accomplish nothing on a CNC machine if you’re never allowed a turn at the input interface.

  9. Not only is Vermont Digger biased, it exercises its bias in several subtle ways…and some not so subtle.

    I’ve submitted numerous comments, that conform to Diggers commentary protocols in every way, that have been censored or, at least, delayed in editorial consideration, and I’ve had an on-going dialog with Digger editor, Anne Galloway, about the issue.

    Digger’s editorial staff has actually re-written the headlines submitted by its own reporters, to affect its progressive point of view. And one need only consider the incessant and grossly repugnant Danziger cartoons to see Digger’s partisanship in full force.

    And yes, Digger’s non-profit mission statement requires it to be non-partisan.

    But make no mistake, Digger is funded by wealthy progressive elites, including but not limited to the Johnson Family Foundation out of NYC and the Lintilhac Foundation, often through what amounts to their in-state subsidiary, The Vermont Community Foundation. These groups have an obvious progressive agenda.

    Meanwhile, Digger receives taxpayer funded subsidies through its non-profit status to allow these organizations to receive and/or qualify for continuing tax-exempt status – not only allowing donations as tax-deductible contributions, they are tax-exempt in their purchases of goods and services – and they don’t pay taxes on their significant investment holdings. Take a look at the Vermont Journalism Trust (dba VT Digger) 990 IRS forms to see just how much money is passing through this organization.

    And also keep in mind that Vermont Public Radio is an accessory to the fact. VPR is affiliated with Digger and receives much of its funding from the same organizations. And, yes, VPR is a non-profit too.

    I agree with the sentiment in this article. Digger and VPR have every right to publish whatever they want within the rule of law. But they don’t have the right to display the degree of partisanship they do, under the guise of a non-profit status. A complaint should be filed with the Vermont Secretary of State.

    • The Secretary of State, Jim Condos – himself a Democratic Party partisan – has no authority in this affair, fortunately ! The sole arbiter of the question of vtdigger’s 501(c)(3) status is the Internal Revenue Service and all those who feel that they have violated their privilege should take the time to file a written complaint and file the required Form 13909 Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f13909.pdf.) to Internal Revenue Service, EO Classification, Mail Code 4910DAL, 1100 Commerce Street Dallas, TX 75242-1198.

      Further the IRS provides certain incentives for reporting activities that may have prevented the proper payment of taxes to the Federal Government – such original information is encouraged by offering a reward for reporting such activity by way of Form 211 “Application for Award for Original Information” (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f211.pdf.) which, once completed, is submitted to: Internal Revenue Service Whistleblower Office – ICE 1973 N. Rulon White Blvd. M/S 4110 Ogden, UT 84404

      I would encourage all who believe Anne Galloway and her compatriots have overstepped the boundaries for operating their non-partisan non-profit to report their experiences to the IRS for consideration.

      H. Brooke Paige

  10. Let’s not forget Jon Margolis’s hateful commentary, “Gadflies have taken over State GOP reins” in Vt Digger. Why would anyone want to run for public office when the minute they announce their intent the media immediately claims they are gadflies and have no support and are doomed to fail? Media, please be more considerate of new candidates. Tell us the new candidate’s platform but don’t tell us what to think about it. We have minds of our own and we can make our own decisions. I am glad so many people are taking an interest in the 2020 election, I want to know how the candidates stand on the issues that are important to me. It was only Margolis’s opinion that Trump supporters are gadflies and it was only Paige’s opinion that a wig didn’t look good. People make fun of Trump’s hair. Does that make them Trumpphobics? I know in the past people have made fun of H. Brooke Paige but I have always enjoyed seeing him in the PBS Political debates.

  11. From the past comments seen in various TNR articles about the bias from VT Digger against conservative comments by not printing them. You’d think it would provide a more complete exposure about the happenings in VT and increase their circulation. But I don’t believe the editor(s) have that mental capacity.

    The exact scenario is with The Commons as I mentioned in this comments section. They allow in their “letters to the editor” section being 99.9% liberal and constant put down of anyone that has an opposing opinion-thought and I have a email about an editor saying that he didn’t like my comment and didn’t print it. I answered to a commentator slamming me. I won’t pick up that bird cage bottom rag again, the best place for it. The Commons is refereed to as The Communist by conservative locals as I learned.

    There are also other socialist papers in VT, well know. But that’s VT, constant media brainwashing the populace. One paper and publisher in the Kingdom is nice.

    This one reason why any conservative running for VT office will have an uphill battle to get exposure. Media Flatlanders all.

  12. I plan to also reach out to IRS with what I have published re vtdigger on this site and Galloways’ attacks, trashtalking and removal of individual who she falsely accused of claiming self be a “journalist(s)” for vtdigger…perhaps she and her coterie of partisan hacks will also kindly stop referring to site as journalism and selves as journalists but come out of closet and admit to being the publicly paid stenographers for the VT Democrat Party they always have been and encourage others to do so.

    • I was going to suggest the IRS as well. Mainly to revoke their “non-profit” tax status. They are not doing community work by being biased. The state does not need to support them (and your tax $$$ goes to their pockets). They are another Montpelier outfit, heavily socialistic and biased to maintain their status.

      The Commons in Brattleboro is another such paper. “Free operations”.

      • What is worse is Galloway’s building a ‘news’ org on the backs of taxpayer funding, demanding all commenters use real name which yields a ton of personal info … job, location, political affiliation, friends and fam, but first and foremost *annual income*. After securing email then free to demand funds as Ms G does right around Xmas each year.

        • And now sells in-your-face advertizements, sponsors,underwriting, difficult to remove popup demands for additional funding etc etc..

          There is no conservative columnist to balance Galloways gadflies, opeds and other leftwing lunacy…iow should lose nonprofit status…

  13. Thanks to Michael Bielawski and Bruce Parker for their well-researched, well-written summary of my “dust-up” with Annie and Christine, who decided to dredge up a two-year story in order to taint the good work of John Klar and his “Argi-publican” compatriots !

    Vermont needs new ideas and new candidates to save our proud little state – I believe that their platform will help to achieve that goal !

    H, Brooke Paige
    Washington, Vermont

    My Facebook post “Annie’s Democrat “Hack-O-Rama” Strikes Again !”
    referenced in Michael’s story can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/brooke.paige.395/posts/10218600746707429

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