Gardner: Lawsuits, death, arrest have tied up elections integrity panelBy KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader
November 12. 2017 1:16AM
CONCORD - The recent death of one member, the child pornography arrest of a key staffer and a blizzard of lawsuits have paralyzed the work of the federal Election Integrity Commission, according to Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who serves on the controversial panel.
"There is so much inertia because the powers that be worry about whether there will be a lawsuit in response to whatever we do," Gardner said during a telephone interview.
"They have really tied this commission up pretty well with all the different lawsuits in all kinds of different directions."
But Gardner, a Democrat, said he's got no evidence to confirm fellow member and Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap's claims that some on the commission have been communicating only among themselves.
Last week, Dunlap filed a lawsuit in federal court and charged the group may be guilty of the "kind of one-sided partisan undertaking that the Federal Advisory Committee Act was designed to prohibit."
"I didn't know he was going to do that. I knew Matt had sent down a request for information. He must have some reason he thinks there is an improper communication going on, but I don't have any basis to think that."
The commission hasn't met since Sept. 12 when the panel convened at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on the campus of St. Anselm College.
But the commission remained in the news last month.
In mid-October came confirmation that Ronald Williams II, a senior researcher, was arrested and charged with 11 counts after police said they found child pornography on his cellphone. Trump administration officials confirm he was fired following the arrest.
Then David Dunn, a commission member, Democrat and former state representative and lobbyist in Arkansas, died suddenly on Oct. 16 following heart surgery at age 52.
Meanwhile more than two dozen lawsuits in states have been brought against the commission.
"I have to think that's one of the reasons we were told early on not to even have any private conversations with members of the commision about our business except for communication that takes place at the meetings," Gardner said.
State officials have finished compiling all the election data information the commission has asked all the states to provide but Gardner said he requires a secure electronic link before sending it all there.
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley repeated his call for Gardner to sever all ties.
"Commission member Matt Dunlap's suit makes it clear that President Trump's Election Integrity Commission is a sham with a partisan agenda. Secretary Gardner should immediately refuse to move forward in sending along New Hampshire voter information, step down from the commission, and join Maine's lawsuit," Buckley said.
Gardner pointed out the work of previous commissions on federal elections have faced similar controversies.
"If we don't get the facts and information we are looking for, I am going to be really disappointed because as a commission, we want the facts to speak for themselves," Gardner added.