CONCORD — The Attorney General’s Office today issued a finding that Republican Walt Havenstein’s campaign committee violated state campaign finance law by failing to register with the Secretary of State’s office within 24 hours of receiving a contribution of more than $500.
The ruling responded to a complaint filed in August by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which noted that the candidate for governor began loaning his campaign personal funds on March 1, spent $24,000 four days later for “strategic consulting” – but did not register a political committee until April 2.
The NHDP also charged that the Havenstein committee’s initial campaign finance report on Aug. 20 failed to list occupations and employers of dozens of contributors, as required by law.
The Attorney General’s Office agreed on both allegations, but noted Havenstein eventually fixed the second violation.
Associate Attorney General Richard Head wrote that a loan is a contribution under state law and that Havenstein, as a result, broke the law.
“Based on our investigation, we have concluded that the Havenstein Political Committee violated the obligation to timely register (RSA 664 :3), and failed to provide the required details regarding contributors in its original August 20 , 2014 report (RSA 664:6).
“Because the March 1, 2014 loan exceeded $500, the Havenstein Political Committee was obligated to register within twenty-four hours of receiving the contribution. In addition, the Havenstein Political Committee was obligated to register prior to making the expenditure of $24,000 on March 5, 2014. Because the Havenstein Political Committee did not register until April 2, 2014 , it failed to register within the time required by the statute.”
Head noted that state law does not allow the Attorney General’s Office to issue fines for such violations, so it issued a “prospective” cease and desist order, which simply means Havenstein cannot commit the violations again.
The AG noted that Havenstein amended his initial Aug. 20 report on Oct. 9 to include the proper listings of employers and occupations of contributors.
The Attorney General continues to investigate other charges listed in the NHDP complaint: that Havenstein received contributions from out-of-state political action committees that did not register in New Hampshire, as required by law.
Head wrote that if the two committees are found to have violated the law, they would be held responsible, not the Havenstein committee. The committees are Rogers for Congress – a federal PAC apparently belonging to a Michigan U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent who was recently in the state campaigning with Havenstein on law enforcement issues, and the Fund for American Opportunity, a federal leadership PAC affiliated with former Michigan U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham.
Head also noted that the registration law has been changed to now allow prospective candidates 48 hours to register after receiving contributions of more than $500.
To read the Attorney General’s letter, click here.
The finding today means that both candidates for governor have been shown to be in violation of campaign finance laws. Gov. Maggie Hassan earlier in the campaign returned $33,000 in contributions from labor union PACs after the AG found that her committee received the contributions a day after she had filed for reelection and became subject to a $1,000-per-contribution limit.
The AG ruled that she could keep other large contribution because they were received prior to her filing for reelection, and that under state law, there is no limit on contributions from one PAC to another PAC until a candidate files.
Havenstein, calling it the “Hassan Loophole,” at the time issued a lengthy plan on state campaign finance reform and charged that Hassan “has just demolished the integrity of New Hampshire’s campaign finance rules for her own selfish political ends.”
Today, NHDP chairman Raymond Buckley said the AG’s ruling on Havenstein showed that his “manufactured outrage on issues of campaign finance was hypocrisy at its worst.
“Today’s ruling by the Attorney General reinforces that Havenstein can’t be taken seriously on ethics, which is not surprising, given his record of failing to stop massive fraud that cost taxpayers millions of dollars under his watch as CEO of SAIC,” Buckley said.
“Havenstein has repeatedly attempted to duck responsibility for his bad management and failed leadership at SAIC, and now that the Attorney General’s office has confirmed that Havenstein’s campaign violated state law with its campaign finance practices, the only question is what will Havenstein say to try to avoid accountability this time?” Buckley said.
NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn said, “Walt Havenstein has already complied with the requirements laid out by the Secretary of State and no further action is required. In contrast, Maggie Hassan was repeatedly forced to return illegal campaign contributions totaling $33,000. A dark ethical cloud hangs over the Hassan administration in the wake of her campaign finance scandal, and the only remedy is to elect Walt Havenstein, who has already laid out his plan to enact campaign finance reform in Concord.”