A hefty campaign contribution to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan is raising eyebrows among those familiar with New Hampshire’s complex campaign finance laws, as it appears to be inconsistent with filing procedures and the candidate’s own rhetoric about transparency.
The June 20th report filed by Hassan’s ‘Maggie ‘12’ campaign committee lists a $25,000 contribution received on June 15th – the day Hassan filed her candidate papers with the Secretary of State – from the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union, based in Hooksett, NH. The contributing entity is listed as a Political Action Committee (PAC) on the report, as direct political contributions from unions are prohibited under New Hampshire law.
Campaign contributions for Granite State candidates are limited to a total of $7,000 if a candidate is raising unlimited funds, or $15,000 if a candidate accepts a fundraising cap of $675,000, according to the NH Attorney General. Hassan has already exceeded that spending cap, so her contributions from any single entity are limited to $7,000. No other contribution listed on her report exceeds that amount.
A contribution in the amount of $25,000 is only permitted if the funds were transferred directly from one PAC to another, which appears to be the case with the $25,000 contribution. While the contributing entity is listed as “Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union” on Hassan’s report, the funds appear to have been transferred from the union’s Local Union 131 Volunteer PAC, as it is named on its registration forms.
However, the timeline of the donation and the PAC registration call into question the legality of the contribution. While Hassan’s report lists the donation as received on June 15th, the Local Union 131 Volunteer PAC did not file its registration papers with the Secretary of State’s office until months later, on August 2nd. A press release from Hassan’s campaign announcing her endorsement by the Plumbers & Steamfitters union makes no mention of a corresponding PAC.
If the union did not have a registered PAC at the time the funds were transferred, it may be in violation of New Hampshire’s campaign finance laws.
Another inconsistency arises when examining the union PAC’s filings. The first report, filed on August 22nd, does not list the donation to Hassan’s committee, nor is it listed on subsequent filings. The August 22nd report lists $29,257.71 raised but only $1,500 spent.
Based on the information available, it seems that at the very least Hassan exploited a loophole in New Hampshire election law.
These questions are particularly pertinent given Hassan’s past criticism of third party political spending. In June of 2010 – a mere two years before accepting a murky $25,000 donation from a labor union group – Hassan decried outside contributions in a Nashua Telegraph interview:
“You can come into New Hampshire. You can purchase an election. You can drown out the voices of all others in a campaign,” Hassan charged. “You can hide your identity from public scrutiny.”
It appears that Hassan is able to put aside her harsh views on entities trying to “purchase an election” when they are purchasing it for her.
Inquiries made with the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union about the status of their PAC were not returned by press time. Hassan’s campaign did not respond to our request for comment as of this filing.