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Republican Candidate For Governor Bruce Lisman Worth $50 Million

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Peter Hirschfeld
/
VPR file
The former Wall Street executive voluntarily disclosed to VPR that he has a net worth of more than $50 million.

On Monday, Bruce Lisman became the first candidate for governor to disclose information about his personal finances. As it turns out, the former Bear Stearns executive has done pretty well for himself, and the Republican’s net worth places him among the very richest Vermonters.

Credit Suisse is a financial services company headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. And it’s created a special designation for the kind of wealth accumulated by people like Lisman.

The term “ultra-high net worth” refers to individuals with at least $50 million to their names. According to documents Lisman released voluntarily, he’s a member of this exclusive club.

“When I announced I was running for office we said that we would offer up full disclosure, so here we are, offering it,” Lisman says.

Lisman’s assets include $19 million in brokerage accounts, $7 million in cash, $4.5 million in retirement accounts and his $5.8 million home in Shelburne. His assets, which total $50.9 million, include ownership stakes in nine private companies, including four that are based in Vermont.

He made $1.6 million in 2014 and $1.3 million in 2013, according to his tax returns, the vast majority of which came from dividends and investment income.

"When I announced I was running for office we said that we would offer up full disclosure, so here we are, offering it." - Bruce Lisman

Lisman says he’s a self-made man who came from humble beginnings.

“I grew up in a middle class family. My father was a school teacher, my mother a secretary, and I started work before I could drive,” Lisman says.

Lisman says he hasn’t lost his appreciation for the struggle of working-class residents, and he says he thinks Vermonters care more about his message than his means.

“You know what they really care about? The direction of the state,” Lisman says. “They care about solving problems that they’re facing, whether it’s matters of property taxes or jobs or disappearing population around them in certain communities.”

Lisman is calling on other gubernatorial candidates to provide media with similar disclosures. Vermont is one of the few states that doesn’t require statewide elected officials to disclose their personal finances, and Lisman says that as governor, he’d pursue legislation mandating it.

Candidates for governor, at least, have generally provided some financial disclosure, though the scope and depth of the information has varied from person to person. Gov. Peter Shumlin, for instance, only discloses his annual income on election years.

Lisman accumulated his riches during a four-decade career on Wall Street, where he worked as head of global equities for the investment bank Bear Stearns.

Lisman accumulated his riches during a four-decade career on Wall Street, where he worked as head of global equities for the investment bank Bear Stearns. Lisman says his division played no role in the financial mistakes that led to the investment bank’s collapse in 2008. He finished his career at JP Morgan Chase and Co., where he retired in 2009.

Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College, says Vermonters have demonstrated a willingness to elect members of the 1 percent; Shumlin is worth more than $10 million. And he says Lisman’s ability to self-fund could help him overcome the financial limitations that might otherwise strain his campaign.

Davis, however, says Lisman’s wealth stands in contrast to the blue-collar image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, his opponent in the Republican primary. Scott co-owns a construction business, Dubois Construction, and reported household earnings of about $160,000 in 2013 when he last disclosed his personal financial information, in September of 2014.

“And Phil Scott has presented himself throughout his political career as a representative of sort of the common person in Vermont, as someone who can identify with everyday Vermonters, who’s attentive to their concerns, who works at their jobs," Davis says. "And that’s part of Phil Scott’s appeal."

Davis says polling data indicate that the GOP base consists of people who don’t have high-income jobs, and live in rural parts of the state.

Lisman's wealth stands in contrast to the blue-collar image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, his opponent in the Republican primary. Scott co-owns a construction business, Dubois and King, and most recently reported household earnings of about $160,000.

“And I think one of the challenges Bruce Lisman faces is convincing some of these core Republican voters to vote for someone whose financial statement shows someone who is in a very different situation than the great majority of Vermonters,” Davis says.

Lisman wouldn’t say Monday how much of his own money he’s spent on his campaign to date, or how much of it he’s willing to invest in his bid. He says he’s just begun to do outside fundraising; his campaign currently has four full-time paid staff members.

In response to inquiries about Lisman’s disclosure, and his call for other candidates to follow suit, the Scott campaign said in a written statement Monday that the lieutenant governor “is no doubt … the candidate who best understands the perspective of everyday, working families and the burden Vermont's growing crisis of affordability has placed on us and on our economy.”

“Our campaign is about building a diverse coalition of Vermonters who want to bring this much-needed perspective, and commonsense solutions, to the Governor's office,” the campaign said. “As he has in previous campaigns Phil will release his tax returns, as well as a list of assets. This information will be released in the spring, after 2015 taxes have been filed.”

Democratic candidate for governor Matt Dunne says he’ll disclose earnings and assets as well, as he did when he last ran for governor, in 2010. Democratic candidate Sue Minter’s campaign manager says Minter will disclose information about her personal finances sometime next year.

Lisman has ownership shares in four Vermont companies, according to his disclosure. They include NG Advantage, a Colchester-based company that delivers compressed natural gas to industrial clients; NSA, Inc., a St. Johnsbury-based manufacturer that specializes in metal fabrication and precision machining; Point Bay Marina, in Charlotte; and SemiProbe, Inc., in Winooski.

Tom Evslin, co-founder and CEO of NG Advantage, gave $10,000 to the Vermont Republican Party in November of 2013.

Lisman says he doesn’t think any of his business interests would pose conflicts, should he become governor. And he says none of those businesses have contracts with the state of Vermont. But he says the disclosing the information now will allow voters to determine for themselves where there are any conflicts of interest.

“So here it is, everything that I’m connected with, and we can have this discussion,” Lisman says. “But at least you’ll see it.”

Lisman gave more than $158,000 in charitable contributions in 2013 and 2014 combined.

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