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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Senate lawyers back keeping Sanborn paperwork private

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 14. 2017 12:54AM

For the second time in less than a week, the state Senate’s lawyer responded to more questions about statements from Republican Sen. Andy Sanborn made in February 2013 within earshot or in the presence of four lawmakers and staff members.

Last Friday night, Sanborn acknowledged four years ago using “crass language” in response to an “absurd statement” made in a Senate office with two Senate staffers along with his wife, State Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford.

Sanborn, who is currently running for Congress, said no one was offended at the time and no complaint was filed.

Sources who were there said Senate Legal Counsel Richard Lehmann heard the comment and wondered if someone was offended.

Lehmann released a second e-mail to “clarify the Senate’s response to follow-up questions” about multiple Right-to-Know requests filed by media outlets about the incident.

The Senate cited many exemptions to the Right-to-Know in declining to release documents but did confirm their existence.

Within days of the incident, Lehmann wrote a memo to former Senate President Peter Bragdon and Chief of Staff Jay Flanders, but said it was being withheld because it was communication between an attorney and his clients.

In September, there were several correspondences between senior Senate staff and a private firm specializing in sexual harassment claims, which are all being withheld because of the attorney-client privilege.

In December 2013, Lehmann corresponded with another attorney “representing an individual” believed to be about this matter. Those documents were withheld citing internal personnel practice.

Lehmann said the White Plains, N.Y., law firm of Jackson/Lewis was paid more than $4,000 to do some work on this inquiry and update all policies regarding sex harassment and anti-discrimination policies for the Senate.

The Senate lawyer updated with this Wednesday: “Payments to Jackson/Lewis and follow up questions regarding payments to settle any matter involving a Senator or staff person: Jackson/Lewis invoices were paid from the Senate legal services and consulting line for their services, which included conducting an interview and broadening the General Court’s policy on harassment.”

The New Hampshire Union Leader has confirmed through several sources the person interviewed by Jackson/Lewis was a former Senate staffer who reportedly told the lawyers he wanted this entire incident over. He denied it bothered him.

The other update Wednesday was Lehmann chose to broaden a Senate denial that, beyond paying the firm for its services, there was no other payment of state money.

“No state funds were used to settle any issue involving Senators and staff. I have no knowledge of any private funds being used to settle any issue between senators and staff in any way whatsoever, nor have I ever been advised that any settlement of any kind occurred,” Lehmann said.

Former Senate President Peter Bragdon also said he was unaware of any state or private dollars spent on this matter. Bragdon said he interviewed everyone who had heard Sanborn’s comments and said all weren’t unnerved by them.

Bragdon also said he left as Senate president that summer to become CEO of the Local Government Center’s Health Trust and didn’t even know the Senate had hired this law firm a month later.

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It’s not unusual for a sitting governor to spend some time building a reelection campaign war chest. Given New Hampshire’s two-year term for governor, the job of raising money for the next race almost has to start immediately.

What is less typical and we’ve seen it with first-term Gov. Chris Sununu is a willingness to spend down the money raised.

Many of Sununu’s predecessors have spent little if any campaign money in the first year, preferring to build a significant enough nest egg to ward off potential primary challengers — along with making those in the other party examine whether any of them can take the incumbent out.

But from days after the election, Sununu has been content to keep his political organization well-fed.

For starters, he never shut down the 2016 campaign office on Portsmouth Avenue in Exeter, continuing to pay the monthly rent of $2,100.

This may be filed under preventive maintenance. State Democratic leaders loved the space Sununu had and were ready to try and take it from him if Sununu dropped the lease until 2018.

Meanwhile, the Newfields Republican has had on retainer not one or two but six different consulting firms for software management, fundraising, research and other campaign-related duties.

The top four are:

— SCR and Associates of Woburn, Mass..: $33,500;

— 1735 Group LLC of Washington, D.C.: $38,332;

— The Stump Group LLC of 20 Trafalgar Square, Nashua: $43,734 and,

— Jamestown Associates of Manalapan, N.J., $32,347.

Through his first year, Sununu has already raised $438,097 and spent $333,776.

One expense Sununu hasn’t made in hiring staff. He paid his 2016 campaign manager and longtime Sununu family operative Paul Collins just under $5,000, but all that was reimbursement of expenses he incurred.

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It’s no juggernaut but the only declared Democratic candidate for governor, Steve Marchand of Portsmouth, is doing a much better job of raising money the second time around.

In 2016, Marchand finished a distant-but-respectable runner-up in the Democratic primary to nominee Colin Van Ostern, who proved to be an even better campaign fund-raiser than Sununu.

But Marchand was an abject embarrassment when it came to collecting cash.

Through the whole cycle, he amassed less than $30,000 prior to his primary defeat.

This time, slowly but surely, Marchand is attracting financial support while other Democrats — Colin Van Ostern and Concord Democratic Sen. Dan Feltes — remain on the sidelines, yet to decide whether to jump in for 2018.

Over the first 11 months of 2017, Marchand reported 737 different contributors, raising a total of $116,348.

Marchand’s wife has worked in the energy field and Marchand’s vocal opposition to the Northern Pass project no doubt helped him raise some alternative energy cash from the likes of Constellation Energy Group and executives with that Baltimore, Md. firm ($1,500) and $150 from Dan Dolan, president of the Electric Power Supply Authority.

Other big backers are Tom Elliot of Durham, a web marketing company owner who used to lead opposition to the Mount Sunapee ski area expansion, $1,000; former state Sen. Harold Janeway of Webster, $2,500; Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital executive Rebecca Kaiser, $1,000; Portsmouth restaurant owner James McSharry, $3,000 and the Portsmouth Used Car Superstore, $4,000.

Marchand has hired staff, four in fact, and that’s consumed most of the $92,672 he’s spent so far in his effort, along with a $5,600 printing bill.

A technique Marchand has perfected in 2017 is blast emails seeking donations trying to capitalize on all developments political.

When Doug Jones scored his massive upset in Alabama, Marchand was emailing for dollars again.

“Turn your excitement about last night into action right now — give $25 dollars today,” it said.

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The First Congressional District Republican primary campaign of Eddie Edwards has picked up 10 new endorsements, including one convert who was backing Sanborn but is now with Edwards.

“Eddie is a trusted and proven conservative. In an era where Washington is broken and career politicians are only making things worse, Eddie will not simply go along to get along on Capitol Hill,” said two-term state Rep. Len Turcotte of Barrington, who had been a Sanborn supporter.

The former liquor law enforcement division chief Edwards also picked up Manchester School Board member and state Rep. Lisa Freeman. Ex-state lawmaker and longtime Auburn Selectman Jim Headd also came aboard. The other Edwards backers are Gene Vallee of Rochester; Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Tarts of Rye; Ken Donahue of Derry; Anthony DiLorenzo of Portsmouth; Mike and Joanne Coutu of Rye.

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First Congressional District Democratic candidate Mark MacKenzie of Manchester continues to mine for support from his former brethren in organized labor. The latest to get on board was the Service Employees International Union Local 560 at Dartmouth College in Hanover.

Most of the more than 560 members in this union can’t vote since they live in the Second District and not the First, but they can certainly offer financial and volunteer support.

“Mark MacKenzie has spent decades standing up for working families in New Hampshire and we are proud to support him for Congress,” said Christopher Peck, president of the SEIU local. “Whether as a Manchester firefighter, an advocate for Medicare for all or as an elected leader, Mark has always been there on the front lines fighting for social and economic justice.”

In another camp, the Victory Fund endorsed Democratic rival and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester for the same nomination.

If elected, the group said Pappas would be the first “LGBTQ person” in New Hampshire history to win federal office.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a staff shake-up of sorts but New Hampshire’s chief connection there, Chief of Staff Matt Mowers, is still literally in the picture right behind the cabinet secretary when he gave Pentagon employees a status pep talk this week.

Another person with Granite State political chops, however, was not so lucky.

Tillerson senior aide R.C. Hammond, a former, New Hampshire presidential primary operative for 1996 GOP primary winner Patrick Buchanan, was out as the agency’s de facto spokesman.

In the past week, Tillerson had gotten on board a new under secretary of state who reportedly wanted a different messaging team that did not include Hammond.

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We don’t often report in this space on who’s up and who’s down in the latest polling.

Here’s the latest exhibit on why we do less reporting on it here than some of our peers do.

The American Research Group of Manchester looked at the nine polling firms that most closely followed the Alabama Senate race.

Only two of the nine, the Washington Post and Fox News, picked winner Jones upsetting Moore.

And ARG President Dick Bennett reports the accuracy of five of the nine firms was out of the measure of a polling standard that these surveys should be within a 95 percent confidence level.

Email news and tips to granitestatus@unionleader.

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