Updated Granite Reports: AG dismisses latest NHGOP Hassan-related campaign finance probe request


THURSDAY, Aug. 28: NHGOP COMPLAINT DISMISSED. The Attorney General’s Office yesterday dismissed a request by the state Republican Party that the office look into a $25,000 contribution that the EMILY’s List group made to Gov. Maggie Hassan on June 11, one day before she filed for reelection.


The party said it had asked for the review because other donations Hassan received during that time, totaling $33,000, period had to be returned because they were received on June 13, the day after she filed for reelection and became subject to a $1,000 limit per contribution.


Originally, the NHGOP said EMILY’s List failed to file reports of receipts and expenditures, but in fact, the group did so. The reports were available on the Secretary of State’s Office web site. The NHGOP then amended its request.


But Associate Attorney General Richard Head refused to open a file, saying there was no basis for a review and no allegation that the law had been broken. He noted the contribution was received prior to Hassan filing for reelection. At that point, prior to her filing, she was allowed to accept contributions in excess of $1,000. EMILY’S List made another $25,000 contribution to Hassan on June 4, which the NHGOP did not contest.


“Because your complaint fails to state any factual allegation that Would constitute a violation of the State’s election laws, we decline to open a file,” Associate Attorney General Richard Head wrote to NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn.


Head also asked Horn to in the future file complaints that meet a “minimum threshold standard of alleging substantive facts that, if true, would constitute a violation of the election laws.” He copied that request to state Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley.


NHGOP spokesman Lauren Zelt commented, ““We are not surprised that Governor Hassan’s handpicked Attorney General (Joseph Foster) doesn’t want to move forward with another investigation into her illegal fundraising operation. Governor Hassan has already proven that she cannot be trusted to tell the truth on her campaign finance reports and has already been forced to return $33,000 in illegal donations. Governor Hassan has lost the public’s confidence as a result of her pattern of illegal behavior, and the Department of Justice should investigate every one of her questionable donations.”


(Earlier Granite Reports follow.)


TUESDAY, AUG. 26: BROWN AD FEATURES AYOTTE. Trying to ensure  a strong GOP primary victory in two weeks, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown’s campaign has tapped Sen. Kelly Ayotte for a new television ad.


Ayotte, who endorsed Brown over Bob Smith and Jim Rubens in May, is the highest-ranking elected Republican official in the state and is highly popular among members of her party.


In the ad, she calls Brown “my friend” and says he is “for fiscal responsibility, accountable government” and “a health care plan that works for all of us.”


She also issues a brief appeal to women, noting that she is the mother of a nine-year-old and a six-year-old.





(Earlier Granite Reports follow.)



MONDAY, AUG. 25: LATEST BROWN FUND-RAISING. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown’s campaign raised more than $1 million during the period from July 1 to Aug. 20, a source close to Brown told Granite Reports.


“During the slowest fundraising period of the year, Scott Brown still managed to raise over $1 million. That speaks to the growing momentum and strength of our campaign as we lay the groundwork to defeat Jeanne Shaheen in the fall,” the source said.


The filing is for the pre-election period from the beginning of the third quarter through 20 days before the election. The primary election is Sept. 9.


The latest $1 million brings to about $3.4 million the total amount raised by the Brown campaign.


The campaign had $1.5 million on hand as of June 30, but the Aug. 20 cash-on-hand amount was not immediately available, the source said.


(Earlier Granite Reports follow.)



FRIDAY, AUG. 22: HIGH GEAR. There are still more than two weeks until the primary election and more than two months until the general, but the battle is now officially fully engaged.


Three WMUR Granite State Polls completed by the University of New Hampshire this week have Republicans confident they can pull off wins at the top of the ticket. The polls are indicators that they can, but there is still a long way to go.


Still, the numbers have the Democrats in recent days ramping up their attacks on at least three of the four perceived frontrunners in the top races – Senate candidate Scott Brown, gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein and 2nd Congressional District candidate Marilinda Garcia.


Havenstein, while polling the most poorly of the GOP frontrunners against incumbent Demcrats, is, interestingly, being attacked the most sharply today, most likely because this week’s gubernatorial poll has signs of trouble even for Gov. Maggie Hassan.


While Hassan leads Havenstein 49 to 32 percent, her favorability rating has started to glide downward. The Wednesday poll showed that Hassan is now viewed favorably by 44 percent of Granite Staters while 25 percent were unfavorable toward her. About six week ago, the prior poll by UNH had her being viewed favorably by 58 percent and unfavorably by only 21 percent.


That’s a net favorability drop from +37 percent to +19 percent. She still does better than Havenstein, who remained unknown to nearly 80 percent of those polled.


Add to that the Thursday evening news that Scott Brown has now moved to within 2 percentage points of Jeanne Shaheen, and the congressional polling showing Frank Guinta leading Carol Shea-Porter by 4 percentage points and Garcia within 3 percentage points of Rep. Ann Kuster, and you have the makings of eight interesting general election campaign weeks.


This afternoon, the NHGOP circulated a memo from executive director Matt Mowers with the subject line:


“Obama’s Wicked Awful Numbers a Drag for New Hampshire Democrats”


Mowers writes that the latest poll “confirms that Barack Obama’s historically low approval rating, along with the NHGOP’s success in highlighting serious missteps and scandals by New Hampshire Democrat office holders, has created a toxic political environment for Democrats seeking election in November.”


He writes that Obama’s approval rating is at an all-time low in the state, at 38 percent among all adults surveyed and 37 percent among likely voters, and that when the GOP swept almost all top offices (not the governor’s office) in 2010, Obama was at 51 percent approval.


Mowers writes that he expects the Democratic incumbents “to separate themselves from and avoid the President between now and Election Day” as the GOP continues to exploit their support for his “failed liberal policies.”


Mowers also writes that Shaheen’s “duck and dodge Rose Garden strategy is not working” and the NHGOP “will continue to expose Senator Shaheen’s failure to listen or to engage her constituents while maintain her lockstep loyalty to President Obama.”


Hassan, he writes, is in a weaker position than former Gov. John Lynch was in 2010, which ws a GOP year. In July of that year, Lynch’s approval rating was at 61 percent before he received 53 percent of the vote in defeating Republican John Stephen. Hassan is a first-term governor, while Lynch at the time was running for his fourth term.


Still her favorability rating is at its lowest point since she took office. It was at 48 percent a month after she took office and was at 59 percent in April of this year.



Also, Mowers predicts that Shea-Porterand Kuster, polling at about 40 percent, are in trouble because they are “tied to a toxic political environment caused by Barack Obama’s bottom of the barrel poll numbers and (due to) continued problems for the top of their ticket.”


Democrats are continuing to pound on the GOP frontrunners’ perceived weaknesses.


Today, the NHDP pointed out that while Havenstein has raised $2 million, a total of $1.4 million of it came in a loan from himself to his own campaign, and of the remaining nearly $600,000, only $242,00 came from in-state donors and $272,000 came from out-of-state.


That plays into their portrayal of Havenstein as, like Brown, an out-of-stater.


The NHDP also notes that Havenstein has been told to return $9,000 in property taxes to Maryland for improperly (according to Maryland officials) taking a homestead exemption there while being a resident of the Granite State. They also continue to accuse him of “failed leadership” while CEO of Science Applications International Corp., where he “drove the company into the ground” – a charge Havenstein, of course disputes.


Given these “scandals,” the NHDP said, “The big takeaway from Havenstein’s fundraising report is that he’s severely lacking in any meaningful support from the people of New Hampshire.”


Brown — who, according to the poll, is viewed favorably by 36 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent — continues to be portrayed by the NHDP as an outsider who will do the bidding of “Big Oil” and the Americans for Prosperity co-founders, the Koch brothers, if he is elected. They say he plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which, they say, would hurt seniors.


Garcia has recently emerged as a target of NHDP attacks, the most recent calling her an “ultra-conservative” and “protégé” of former New Hampshire House speaker Bill O’Brien who is trying to “hide her extreme record on women’s health and economic issues ahead of the general election.”



WALT’S NEW RADIO AD. Havenstein on Monday will begin airing a new radio ad that, through pseudo-news flashes, talks about the state’s economic difficulties and then has Havenstein say, “Don’t we deserve better news than this?” He goes on to say that his business tax plan will “cut taxes and create 25,000 new jobs.”

“New Hampshire needs to be back on top. Let’s get to work,” Havenstein says.

Listen to the radio ad here.




BEATING UP BROWN. With the primary approaching and the newest poll showing Republican Scott Brown in a statistical tie with Shaheen, super PACs supporting his competitors are beginning to hone in with with attacks.



Yesterday, liberal billionaire environmentalist climate change activist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Pac announced it would begin airing an ad attacking Brown on the environment and tying him to “Big Oil” leaders the Koch Brothers.


“Out-of-state oilmen like the Koch brothers are spending millions to elect out-of-state politician Scott Brown to our Senate seat,” a narrator says in the TV ad while contrasting visuals of the state’s scenery and someone tapping for maple syrup and oil rigs flash on the screen.


“Brown voted to protect tax giveaways for big oil, which is polluting our air and water,” the ad says. “We need a senator from New Hampshire, not a politician from Big Oil.”


The group is reportedly spending in the high six-figures.


NextGen is also launching radio and digital ads in New Hampshire.


Meanwhile, the pro-campaign finance reform MayDay PAC, which backs Brown GOP competitor Jim Rubens, is going up with a $600,000 buy through the Sept. 9 primary.


Its ad features the pseudo-“career politician” “Honest Gil” unloading a mock attack on Rubens.


“You see, me and my buddy, Scott Brown, want to take your tax dollars and hand them out to the cronies and lobbyists who bankroll our political campaigns. But this Jim Rubens guy, he wants to stop corruption in Washington. He thinks it’s his job to help the people of New Hampshire.”


Career politicians like me, we’ve got a sweet thing going on,” Gil says. “Do not let Jim Rubens screws that up.”


Today, the PAC dropped direct mail to Granite State homes lauding Rubens and saying that Brown “was a reformer” when he served in Massachusetts, but, “Since his recent move to New Hampshire, Scott Brown has apparently given up on reform. He has chosen to go along with this corrupt system.”


Meanwhile, Politico reported that the Ending Spending Action Fund will launch a seven-figure buy against Shaheen.


The super PAC, largely funded by billionaire GOP donor Joe Ricketts, has also hired veteran New Hampshire strategist David Carney to head up Granite State effort through the remainder of the campaign, Politico said.


It’s ad, focusing on Shaheen’s family finances, is below.


TO REPORT OR NOT TO REPORT. Associate Attorney Richard Head says his office is continuing to work on a state Republican Party request that it review the reporting requirements of state political committees.


The state GOP asked the Attorney General’s Office to clarify the issue after the New Hampshire Journal reported (link) that Gov. Maggie Hassan’s political committee filed as a PAC but then, according to Head, “self-designated” as a political committee of a candidate as she filed for reelection.


The re-designation meant that “Maggie ‘14” did not have to file a report on June 18, as other political committees did.


She was subject to the Aug. 20 reporting deadline, and did so. But her filing was placed under “political committees” on the Secretary of State’s web site.


At the same time, Republican Walt Havenstein filed a “political committee” back in April but did not pay the $50 fee that Hassan’s committee did, meaning


that it was a political committee of a candidate all along and also not subject to the June 18 reporting requirement.


Fellow Republican Andrew Hemingway filed a different kind of report last Wednesday, one entitled “for candidates,” rather than “for political committees.” So, he was clearly not required to have filed in June.


Sound confusing? You bet it is.


And the AG’s office agrees.


So, with all the different forms for registering and filing, and differing reporting requirements, look for the office to issue a clarification – or the issue be addressed either through legislation or rule-making.


Action would be too late for this year’s election. But wouldn’t it be nice if this mess were cleared up in time for 2016?


Havenstein, meanwhile, has put out a seven-point plan to clarify campaign finance requirements.


He would require political committees to be held to the same contribution limits as individuals and would disallow PACs from making unlimited contributions to candidates before they file for office.


He calls for the Secretary of State’s Office to impose fines on campaigns that accept illegal contributions, rather than simply having them return them.


He proposes quarterly fundraising reports for elected officials, PACS and political parties, as is the case at the federal level.


He’d also make the Governor’s Office subject to the right-to-know law and prohibit elected officials from campaigning on state property.


And in a related matter, he’d require a 48-hour posting period before any proposed contract goes before the Executive Council for consideration.


Hard to see how anyone, of either party, could take issue with these suggestions, but we’re sure some – of both parties – will.


Meanwhile, Hemingway will filed an amended report after attorney Sheridan Brown filed a complaint that his report “seems to show willful concealment of certain donors.”


The Hemingway camp said it was nothing more than a computer printing glitch and emailed the Secretary of State a complete version.


SAME AS THE CHICKEN? Some Republican are upset that while its party’s “chicken” got arrested for allegedly harassing Shaheen and Hassan at the Londonderry Old Home Day Parade last Saturday, Democratic trackers were allowed to walk into the parade and track Scott Brown.


According to the police report of the arrest of “chicken” Michael Zona, the young man ignored an initial warning of getting too close to Shaheen and Hassan and did so a second time before being arrested.


Republicans wonder why Democratic trackers were allowed to follow Scott Brown back and for the on the parade route and were not warned by police.


By the way, former state Rep. Jon Richardson had a succinct analysis of the latest polling numbers showing Brown in a statistical dead heat with Shaheen.


“it’s the chicken!” he tweeted.


And when WMUR sends a crew to a Shaheen event to cover the chicken, rather than the event itself – which is what happened earlier this week – who can argue with Mr. Richardson’s take?



JINDAL’S NEXT. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is in the state tonight and tomorrow for a series of GOP-related events, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is on the way.


Jindal, who, like Perry, is a potential 2016 presidential candidate, will be in New Hampshire on Sept. 6 for three events (so far). He will attend the Strafford County GOP barbecue in Dover along with former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, the Seacoast Republican Women’s Club’s “Chilifest” at the Scamman Farm in Stratham and the Hillsborough County GOP “Primary Gala” at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua.


Another potential 2016 Republican hopeful, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, will be the special guest at a reception for Scott Brown at the home of Wayne Semprini, former GOP state chair, in New Castle, next Tuesday evening, Aug. 26.


KUSTER FEATURED AT OFFICE OPENING. The NHDP’s coordinated campaign, Granite State Forward, will host an office opening party in Milford tomorrow at 10 a.m., headlined by Rep. Ann Kuster.


It’s part of the coordinated campaign’s “ongoing organizing effort to spread the word and build support for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot this November,” the party said.



(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political columnist/reporter in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1982. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column and of course separate stories on NHJournal.com as news breaks. He can be reached at distasoj@gmail.com and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)

Author: John DiStaso

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