National and New Hampshire Republicans are quietly gearing up for a major campaign against the potential appointment of Lucy Hodder as the Granite State’s next Attorney General. Last week, NH Journal broke the story that Hodder, a former top casino lobbyist who currently serves as Governor Maggie Hassan’s legal counsel, is the front runner for the job.
NH Journal has since learned that a team of out-of-state opposition research operatives are currently engaged in an extensive review of Hodder’s lengthy career as a corporate lobbyist. Hodder also served as an Assistant Attorney General from 1994-1998.
It is unclear who is providing resources for the review of Hodder’s lobbying record. Several Republican consultants interviewed told NH Journal that they had been approached by an outside group tied to several experienced political operatives about working on the project. One Republican called it “well-organized” and said that the team had already turned up a “gold mine” of opposition research that will be used against Gov. Hassan if she nominates Hodder.
“They are planning to hit Hassan for nominating a corporate lobbyist who will basically hand over the justice department to her former clients in the gambling industry,” said the operative close to the project. “The confirmation hearings are going to be a circus.”
The first-term governor has already come under bipartisan fire for her decision to consider her legal counsel to the top job at the Department of Justice. Hodder served as the personal lobbyist to Millennium Gaming President William Wortman, whose firm will most likely obtain a casino license at Rockingham Park if gambling legislation supported by Hassan and included in her budget proposal is approved.
“Under no circumstances should Governor Hassan even consider appointing a well-heeled casino lobbyist to be our next Attorney General,” said New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn in a statement released Friday. “New Hampshire doesn’t want a top law enforcement official who is in the pocket of the gambling lobby and working with the special interests groups that are promoting Governor Hassan’s illegal revenue scheme.”
Democratic State Representative Peter Sullivan echoed Horn’s criticism.
“Nominating a casino lobbyist attorney general is not acceptable,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter last week. “This isn’t about party, it’s about ethical government.”
Gov. Hassan’s appointment of Hodder could also open her up to accusations of hypocrisy. As a candidate, Hassan criticized her Republican opponent Ovide Lamontagne for allegedly lobbying for Rockingham Park.
“I don’t think Ovide’s being straightforward either about his firm’s relationship with Rockingham Park,” Hassan said during an October debate hosted by WBIN-TV. “They are a current client, they currently pay fees to his law firm, he’s been a lobbyist and a lawyer with that law firm. I think it’s wrong and really gives people a lack of confidence in our government for someone running for governor to pre-select a client’s location without a transparent or competitive bidding process.”
Lamontagne denied lobbying for Rockingham Park and claimed that Hassan was misleading voters.
“Everybody knows that Lucy Hodder has and always be [Millennium President William] Wortman loudest advocate in Concord,” said one longtime anti-gambling activist not affiliated with the Hodder research project. “Hassan is going to look pretty bad when a bunch of oppo gets dumped on her showing the woman she wants to be AG was paid to rig the system for Millennium. That’s the same thing she falsely accused Ovide of trying to do.”
NH Journal has also learned that the casino industry is trying to quell conservative grassroots opposition to a potential Lucy Hodder nomination. Republican lobbyists working for gambling interests have been ordered to persuade NHGOP party officers and elected officials to tamp down their attacks on Hodder.
A spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Republican Party refused to respond to questions about these efforts.
But a senior Republican contacted by NH Journal seemed unimpressed.
“If anybody thinks Maggie Hassan is going to get a free pass for appointing a lobbyist to take over the justice department, they are not very smart.”