Almost famous

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(Host) For a couple of weeks, commentator Tim McQuiston may have been one of the most famous journalists in Vermont, thanks to Howard Dean.

(McQuiston) Recently I did a Google search on a quote taken from an old story of mine, and I made it to page 6 before the direct link started to peter out. The Google search revealed that I was quoted in a pantheon of prestigious press. From the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal to the Boston Globe to the Observer in London, among many others. And my words were broadcast from coast to coast.

How did I reach this lofty position? It all started back in 1994, when I interviewed then-Governor Howard Dean. Because I was doing a business story, our conversation turned to how healthy the banks were. I told him that they actually had been doing well for a while but that I’d never bought any bank stocks because it would be a kind of conflict of interest in my role as a journalist. He agreed that as governor it could be a conflict of interest for him, also; so he had sold his Vermont bank stocks shortly after becoming governor in 1991.

This is what he told me: “I bought a whole lot of bank stocks at $4 a share; I bought five Vermont banks; and then I had to sell them all when I became governor, because when the insurance commissioner came over one day and said, Here’s the inside report on all the banks, and I went, Yikes. But at least they went from 4 to 12, and they recently went to 25.”

Because Howard Dean is an international news figure now, an enterprising Associated Press writer found my story in a clip file somewhere and wrote a story three weeks ago about how Dean sold the bank stocks to avoid a conflict of interest. And suddenly I was famous. But I was never mentioned – just my publication with some of that direct quote. So maybe I’m almost famous.

Needless to say, my story was spun by many commentators as an example of how Dean used privileged information to sell some bad stocks in 1991. Which, of course, is not true. In other words, Dean had done the right thing. Today, those stocks would be worth several times what they were worth in 1991. The Dean campaign had to send out a statement saying exactly that, even though it was obvious to begin with.

And now three lawyers want Howard Dean investigated by the SEC for securities violations. Did a single journalist, commentator or regulator call me to ask about it? Nope.

However, a Washington Post reporter talked to my publisher to get a copy of that 1994 article. He said he didn’t want to talk to me, but when he called back to get some more of our stories on Dean, he said it was “a great interview.” So I have that going for me.

This is, um, whatshisname, from Vermont, uh, whatchamacallit Magazine.

Timothy McQuiston is editor of Vermont Business Magazine.

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