CONCORD — The Attorney General’s Office has found that a local plumbers union violated two state election laws by contributing $25,000 to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s 2012 campaign two months before it registered as a political action committee and by failing to publicly report its expenditures for parts of more than four years.
The office found the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 131 Volunteer PAC failed to register with the Secretary of State’s Office, as required by law, for six years in total and that political contributions were not reported as required by law for the periods July 13, 2009 to July 27, 2012, Aug. 29, 2012 to Sept. 12, 2012, and Nov. 15, 2013 to Feb. 21, 2014.
The Attorney General’s Office did not ask Hassan to return the illegal contribution. The state Republican Party asked her to donate to charity the $25,000 contribution from 2012 and a total of $16,000 more she received from the same PAC in 2013 and this year.
The PAC was ordered by the Attorney General’s Office to file retroactive PAC registrations for three election cycles, covering 2006 through 2011, and then file a report of all receipts and expenditures from Jan. 1, 2009 to the present.
Until it makes those filings, the Attorney General’s Office wrote, the PAC must “cease and desist” from any political activity in the current campaign or face “enforcement action and/or prosecution” in the state Superior Court.
To view the three-page letter from the Attorney General’s Office to the PAC chairman, click here.
The office acted on one of a series of complaints filed during the summer by the state GOP charging that Hassan had accepted illegal contributions.
In a separate investigation, the AG office ordered the Hassan campaign to return $24,000 of a $25,000 contributions it received from another union PACs, and $9,000 of a $10,000 contribution it received from the Plumbers and Steamfitters PAC, both this year, because the contributions were received by the Hassan campaign a day after she formally filed for governor and became subject to a $1,000 limit on each contribution received.
Attorney General Joseph Foster recused himself from the probe into the NHGOP complaint against the Plumbers and Steamfitters contributions because in 2012, before he was named Attorney General by Hassan, he was a member of her campaign finance committee.
Foster told the New Hampshire Journal in August that he did not recall soliciting campaign funds for Hassan from unions, but decided to step aside to avoid the appearance of a conflict.
Associate Attorney General Richard Head wrote in to David Pelletier, chairman of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 131 Volunteer PAC, that his office agreed with the NHGOP that the PAC did not register with the Secretary of State’s Office until nearly two months after it made the $25,000 contribution to the Hassan campaign. State law requires any political committee to register no later than 24 hours after receiving any contribution of more than $500.
The Attorney General’s Office further found that the PAC had not registered from just after the 2006 general election until Aug. 2, 2012.
Also, wrote Head, the PAC did not file its expenditures with the Secretary of State’s office, as required by law, for periods of time from 2009 through February of this year.
“Based on our investigation, we have concluded that the (PAC) has violated both the obligation to register (RSA 664:3) and the obligation to report expenditures (RSA 664:6),” Head wrote.
Head wrote that since state law does not allow his office to issue fines for the violations, it ordered the PAC to file retroactive registrations forms for three election cycles and report receipts and expenditures for the past five years.
After the finding, NHGOP chairman Jennifer Horn issued a statement critical of Hassan.
“Today’s ruling confirms that Governor Maggie Hassan’s union allies broke the law by refusing to report tens of thousands of dollars in tainted donations to her campaign,” Horn said. “Governor Hassan has already been caught red-handed accepting $33,000 in illegal contributions from other ‘Big Labor’ PACs, and her behavior raises serious ethical questions about her administration.
“The dark ethical cloud hanging over the Hassan Administration has undermined public confidence in state government and called Governor Hassan’s integrity into question,” Horn contended.
Horn noted that the Plumbers and Steamfitters PAC has contributed $41,000 to Hassan over the past three years and called on her to donate all of those funds to charity.