U.S. Senate candidate solicits students for campaign
WASHINGTON --Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Tarrant has offered Vermont high school students money and laptop computers to help with his campaign.
Tarrant has written to teachers saying he would give students $3,000 and a laptop computer to work on his behalf.
"Getting our youth involved in the democratic system is more important now than ever before," Tarrant wrote in a letter obtained by the Bennington Banner and the Brattleboro Reformer.
Rep. Bernie Sanders' campaign accused Tarrant of disguising a multi-million dollar campaign as education for students and said the effort could make the Senate race even more costly.
"He's trying to buy volunteers," said Jeff Weaver, chief of staff to Sanders, who is leaving the House to run for the Senate. "The truth of the matter is he doesn't have hundreds of people who want to come out and work on his campaign."
Tarrant's letter offers students a 10-week internship in which they would campaign for Tarrant in their own towns.
"This program offers high school students an exciting opportunity to spend their summer learning about the American democratic process while earning additional money (and a laptop computer that they will be able to keep)," Tarrant wrote. "Hopefully you agree and will encourage students to participate."
Students would be required to write 500 words about "why Rich Tarrant should be elected to the United States Senate" and must submit their grade point average and list of extra-curricular activities to be considered.
Tarrant, who founded
IDX Systems Corp.of Burlington, has put $2 million into his campaign.
Sanders has raised $1.8 million and plans to have 1,000 volunteers to canvass for him around the state.
Tarrant's plan to solicit students drew a mixed reaction.
"That smacks of bribery," said Garrison Nelson, a political science professor at the University of Vermont. "He just opens himself up to misusing his money. This is the quintessential rookie mistake."
Jason Gibbs, spokesman for Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, said he was not aware of the program.
"It seems on its face to be a legitimate employment opportunity for high school students," he said. "I don't see that it would be any different than a manufacturer offering paid internships to students."
An interesting approach for campaigning, something I've never heard of... even in my home state of Texas.