More than $2 million has poured into the wide-open 2016 race for governor, with the four leading candidates reporting significant six-figure hauls — five months before primary election ballots are cast.
Campaign finance reports filed Tuesday showed Republican Bruce Lisman led the pack with $600,000 in contributions, though the former Wall Street executive has largely self-funded his campaign with $450,000 of his own money.
Fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott raised more than $400,000, while Democrats Sue Minter drew in $474,484 in contributions and Matt Dunne brought in $448,580.
House Speaker Shap Smith, who withdrew from the race in November, filed a campaign finance report but there were no contributions listed after he dropped out when his wife fell ill. Smith has indicated he's considering re-entering the race. Former Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, who plans to announce his candidacy Sept. 21, did not file a report, which is required if a candidate raises or spends more than $500.
Political analyst Eric Davis said all of the candidates have raised "healthy" amounts and have plenty of cash on hand for the August primary.
"My initial reaction is that on the Democratic side, we're looking at a very competitive primary," Davis said. "Money is not going to determine the outcome it will be decided by which one makes the best case he or she can win in November, have the best field organization, and in a low turnout, get the endorsements."
On the Republican side, Davis said both candidates have plenty of money but that Scott had many more small donors inside Vermont and, according to Davis, is still the clear front-runner for the nomination.
Lisman "could be a competitive in the general election but he has to get through the primary first," Davis said. "That's the real challenge for Lisman — to convince Republican primary voters to pass up someone they know for a first time candidate."
In the Democratic race, Dunne raked in $448,580 from 1,799 contributors, most of whom were contributions larger than $100.
The campaign has spent $134,668 so far, on everything from salaries to stamps. Nearly $10,000 of the spending went to media buys, bringing Dunne's total cash on hand to around $430,000.
Among Dunne's more notable contibuters were: Democratic Party activist Jane Stetson, who gave $2,000; Seventh Generation founder Jeffrey Hollender, $1,000; former state Sen. Hinda Miller, $1,000, and one-time Bolton Valley operator Mason Dwinell donated the maximum $4,000.
Dunne has sworn off corporate donations, and last week returned $16,500 in business checks last week. However, he took some contributions from individuals who run corporations.
Approximately 40 percent of Dunne's contributions came from out of state.
Minter, the other declared Democrat, collected $474,484 from 1,780 contributors. Her spending so far, $159,000, includes $11,500 on media buys. She goes forward with roughly $330,000 on hand.
Minter, a former secretary of the Agency of Transportation and former House member, received the maximum $4,000 donation from wind developer David Blittersdorf, Associates in Rural Development founder George Burrill, and Lola van Wagenen, who is married to Burrill and was formerly married to actor Robert Redford. She also received the maximum amount from Lisa Steele, a Burlington developer and philanthopist.
Minter also received a $2,000 contribution from Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead."
She also received $450 in contributions from former Gov. Madeline Kunin, the first Vermont female governor, $1,000 from state Rep. Paul Poirier and a total of $6,000 from several members of the Lintilhac family.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott raised $406,555 from 1,523 donors. He has already spent $216,531 of it on campaign expenses, including $45,141 in media time. He currently has roughly $287,000 on hand. In addition to what he raised in this campaign, Scott had almost $95,000 left over in the account from his race for lieutenant governor.
Scott, a co-owner of Dubois Construction, received a number of donations from builders and other trades, and most of his donations came from Vermonters.
A $26,000 spend on polling was not exhorbitant, according to political analyst Eric Davis.
The lieutenant governor received the maximum $4,000 donation from Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon. His wife, Karen, also gave the maximum, as did the Wayside Restaurant. Former Gov. Jim Douglas contributed $1,000, while Sen. Richard Mazza, D-Colchester, and his wife, Dorothy, contributed a total of $2,200. Businessman Ray Pecor gave $3,000 while Sugarbush co-owner Win Smith contributed $2,000, and Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, donated $400.
Republican Lisman has largely self-funded his campaign, according to the March filing.
His campaign raised $605,112 in the last reporting period, and about $450,000 came from Lisman himself.
Lisman received thousands of dollars from outside of the state, including a number of wealthy New York businessmen and lawyers.
He received $2,000 from Edmund Hajim, a former investment banker at Lehman Brothers who now is the president of Diker Management. Richard Ader, CEO of the asset management firm U.S. Realty Advisors, and Neal Garonzik, former vice chairman of Chase Manhattan Corporation, each gave Lisman $4,000.
Lisman also received $4,000 from New York lawyer E. Miles Prentice, who served as the chairman of the Center for Security Policy's board of directors for a number of years. CPS has been frequently criticized for engaging in anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including that Hillary Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin, is an undercover agent for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Lisman also netted $1,000 from Richard Harriton, the former chairman of the securities clearing subsidiary of Bear Stearns, who, according to the New York Times, was barred from the securities industry in 2000 after defrauding investors of $75 million.
Richard Tarrant, who mounted an unsuccessful U.S. Senate run against Bernie Sanders in 2006, gave Lisman $1,000. He received the maximum $4,000 pledge each from Jim and Judy Pizzagalli, whose family runs a construction business.
Lisman, who started an advocacy group, Campaign for Vermont, several years ago, has never held elected office. He has sunk more than $188,000 in television ads, more than any candidate in the race so far.
In total, Lisman has already spent $571,298 on the race thus far, significantly more than any other candidate in the governor's race.