CONCORD — Attorney General Joseph Foster has made it official: he has recused himself from a review of a recent campaign finance complaint filed by the state Republican Party against Gov. Maggie Hassan’s campaign regarding a union PAC donation to her in 2012.
The NHGOP had asked Foster to step aside from any review or investigation because he served as a member of the Hassan campaign’s finance committee in 2012. That committee, like any campaign finance committee, is charged with raising money for the campaign.
Foster told the New Hampshire Journal on Tuesday that he would “probably” recuse himself in order to take a “conservative” approach and avoid any possible appearance of a conflict. (see story below)
Friday, Associate Attorney General Richard Head told the Journal in a brief email: “Attorney General Foster has recused himself from the undated complaint we received on August 6 regarding a June 15, 2012 donation.”
NHGOP Chairman Jennifer Horn issued this statement: “Governor Hassan’s illegal campaign money scandal has cast a dark ethical cloud over her administration and undermined public trust in state government. Attorney General Foster made the right decision given his role on Hassan’s 2012 finance committee and his close ties to some of the labor unions that broke campaign finance laws. We hope that the New Hampshire Department of Justice will expedite its ongoing investigation into Governor Hassan’s shady campaign finances and quickly provide an opinion on her suspicious failure to disclose her donors on required campaign finance report.”
(Our earlier report, from Aug. 12, follows.)
Updated: AG Foster will ‘probably’ recuse himself from review of latest GOP complaint vs Hassan campaign
CONCORD — Attorney General Joseph Foster said Tuesday he will “probably” recuse himself from a review of the most recent campaign finance complaint filed by the state Republican Party against Gov. Maggie Hassan’s campaign regarding a union donation to her in 2012.
Foster was a member of Hassan’s campaign finance committee in 2012, before he was named Attorney General. He said that while he does not recall any personal involvement in raising funds for Hassan’s campaign from the Plumbers and Steamfitters union, or any union, he wants to take a “conservative” route and avoid the appearance of a conflict.
“I haven’t made a final determination, but I expect that is what I will do,” Foster told the New Hampshire Journal.
Foster ruled earlier this month that Hassan’s campaign committee was legally able to take $10,000 contributions from each of two union PACs in June of this year because the contributions were delivered to her campaign just before she filed her candidacy.
But he ordered her to return $24,000 of a $25,000 contribution from a third union PAC – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC — because the contribution was physically received by the Hassan campaign the day after she became an official candidate.
The GOP then filed a second complaint involving two contributions by a fourth union, the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union – a $10,000 contribution received in June of this year and a $25,000 contribution received in June 2012.
The Hassan campaign then returned $9,000 of the $10,000 Plumbers and Steamfitters PAC donation received this year because, like the IBEW donation, it was received on the day after she filed for office and became subject to a $1,000-per-person contribution limit.
That left pending the issue of the June 12, 2012 donation from the Plumbers and Steamfitters PAC.
Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn pointed out the Plumbers and Steamfitters local did not register a PAC with the Secretary of State’s office until nearly two months after the 2012 donation was received by the “Maggie ‘12” committee and she wrote it appears to be a violation.
“Even more troubling,” Horn wrote, “there is no mention of this $25,000 donation on any of the (Plumbers and Steamfitters) Local Union 131 Volunteer PAC finance reports filed with the Secretary of State during the 2012 cycle. The PAC filed reports on August 22, 2012, October 17, 2012 and November 14, 2012. The contribution simply doesn’t exist on any of these reports.”
“Either the Hassan Campaign or the Local Union 131 Volunteer PAC filed a false document given the discrepancy regarding the $25,000 donation. If in fact the Local Union 131 Volunteer PAC did make the June 15 donation, they would have broken the law by waiting until August to file. Additionally, given the questionable nature of this donation, there are questions as to whether the Hassan Campaign received this check before or after she officially became a candidate,” Horn wrote.
Horn also asked for Foster’s recusal, noting, “(I)n 2012 you served on then-candidate Hassan’s finance committee and helped her raise money during the time of the questionable contribution at issue.”
Foster told the Journal in an interview, “On that one I probably will. If you recall, while I was in the Legislature (he is a former state senator and former private practice attorney), I was pretty conservative on conflicts, so regardless of what one might say to try to explain, there is always an appearance of a conflict.”
“I don’t recall having any involvement in fundraising from that union or any union,” he said. “That said, I want to be on the side of being conservative. I might be perceived as having a personal involvement in a matter. So I probably will” recuse himself.
He said that if he makes a final decision to recuse himself, he would ask Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice to head the review.
(Following our initial report earlier Tuesday evening on Foster’s probable recusal, the NHGOP issued a statement: “Governor Hassan’s illegal campaign donation scheme has raised serious questions and cast a dark ethical could over her administration. As a member of then-candidate Hassan’s 2012 campaign finance committee, Attorney General Foster has a clear conflict of interest that could taint the latest probe of the governor’s donations. We are pleased that the Attorney General recognizes this problem and is leaning towards recusing himself from the investigation. We hope he will quickly formalize his decision so that the New Hampshire Department of Justice can expedite its review of the tens of thousands of dollars that labor unions have funneled into Governor Hassan’s bank account.”)
(The New Hampshire Journal is seeking comment from the Hassan campaign.)