CONCORD — Charging that Gov. Maggie Hassan is using her office as a “political steppingstone and actively exploring” a run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, state Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn today filed a right-to-know request seeking all records for Hassan’s out-of-state travel for the month of January 2015.
Filing under RSA 91-A, the state Right to Know law, the party says it intends to file such requests on a monthly basis.
There is widespread speculation that Hassan is considering running against Sen. Kelly Ayotte next year, although she has said she is focused on her job as governor. She was sworn in for a second term less than a month ago.
But Horn writes, “Despite your dishonest denials, it is clear that you are using the corener office as a political steppingstone and actively exploring a campaign for the United States Senate in 2016. A Campaign for the United States Senate will require significant out-of-state travel in order to raise the millions of dollars needed for this race.”
In response, state Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said Horn “issued what may be the most ironic Right to Know request of all time while traveling overseas on a trip funded by extremist hate groups that has come under fire from organizations across the political spectrum.
“The blatantly political request also marks the height of desperation from Kelly Ayotte, whose own travel has gotten her in hot water as she exploits ‘loopholes’ to hold expensive Utah ski weekends paid for by lobbyists and corporate interests,” Buckley said.
Hassan legal counsel Lucy Hodder on Wednesday evening told Horn in a letter that the Right-to-Know law does not apply to the Governor’s Office, but responded under Part I, Article 8 of the New Hampshire Constitution, which requires the governor to be “open accessible, accountable and responsive” and says the public’s right to records “shall not be unreasonably restricted.”
Hodder, however, listed only one out-of-state stop for Hassan — a stop in Kittery, Maine, on Jan. 5 for an event marking the groundbreaking of construction on the Sarah Long Bridge replacement project.
In her right-to-know request, Horn also notes that the state Constitution requires the governor to temporarily transfer powers to the state Senate President due to “absence from the state,” as well as death, resignation, removal from office “failure to quality” or “physical or mental incapacity.”
Also, Horn notes, the governor must inform the Senate president about his or her absence from the state.
“The Daily Caller reported that on September 11, 2001, then-Governor and United States Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen, traveled to Washington, D.C .without informing the Senate president about her travel,” Horn wrote. “Governor Shaheen’s irresponsible behavior put New Hampshire at risk as officials scrambled to figure out who was in control of state government during their response to the terror attacks that took place on that fateful day.”
As a result, wrote Horn, “I formally request that you provide me with all records regarding your out-of-state travel for the month of January 2015. This request includes, but is not limited to, any information regarding the purpose and duration of travel, in addition to any costs incurred by New Hampshire taxpayers during your trips.
She also asks for “any correspondence with the state Senate regarding your out-of-state travel to ensure that you are following proper protocol.
Horn wrote: “Should you decline to provide any requested information, please provide the specific provision under RSA 91-A that exempts such public records from the Right to Know Law. Granite Staters have a right to know how often their governor is shirking the responsibilities of her office in order to advance her career. They also deserve a full-time executive in the corner office, not an absentee governor who has been dishonest about her political intentions.”
In his response, Buckley referred to the New Hampshire Journal’s exclusive report on Tuesday that Horn is touring Israel with this week with other members of the Republican National Committee courtesy of two evangelical groups that have come under fire for controversial language directed at gays, Mormons and Muslims.
As Politico reported, sponsoring the trip, reportedly for about 60 RNC members, is the American Family Association and the American Renewal Project.
NHGOP Elissa Voccola said Horn “does not agree with or condone comments made by some individuals associated with AFA and the American Renewal Project. However, this trip is an opportunity for participants to advance their understanding of U.S.-Israel relations. Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, and Republicans believe that we must do everything possible to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations.”
Buckley also noted that Ayotte was cited in reports in the New York Times and New Hampshire Union Leader more than a year ago about a “loophole” in a gift-ban law that allows lobbyists and corporate interests to indirectly pay for “destination fund-raisers,” where they mingle in exclusive vacation spots with members of Congress. The Times reported that Ayotte held an event for her campaign committee at the home of a lobbyist in Park City, Utah.
Ayotte’s campaign finance chairman, Steve Duprey, told the New Hampshire Union Leader it was “manifestly unfair” for the Times to imply that Ayotte could be influenced by those at the fund-raiser.