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Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Northern Pass influence questioned

September 23. 2012 12:04AM

NORTHERN PASS: You just knew sooner or later the Northern Pass project would become an issue in state Senate races, particularly in the North Country.

Last week, Democratic District 1 candidate Jeff Woodburn sent out a fundraising letter noting his opponent, Republican Debi Warner, had received significant contributions from former Sen. Bob Clegg, a Northern Pass supporter. Clegg heads the New Hampshire Coalition for Secure Energy, which supports the project to bring Hydro-Quebec power to New England through a direct-current transmission line from the Canadian border to Deerfield. Woodburn opposes the project.

In his letter, Woodburn notes that nearly 20 percent of all of Warner's contributions came from Clegg and his son.

Woodburn writes: 'I don't doubt my opponent's opposition to the Northern Pass. But rest assured, the forces that want the Northern Pass are strategic and want a say in this election. They have a right to participate, and so do you, and that's why I'm writing''

He continues, 'Please help me meet the challenge of Northern Pass' intervention into this Senate race.''

Clegg says the Northern Pass, which he does support because he is the head of a small-business group that wants cheaper electricity, has nothing to do with his contributions to Warner.

'I've known Debi and her husband, Mike, since 1994,' Clegg said. 'They're friends.'

He said he does not know what her position is on Northern Pass.

Clegg said his son donated to Warner, as well.

'He's very close to her, too,' Clegg said. 'It's got nothing to do with anything about Northern Pass.'

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MORE MONEY REQUESTS: While money flowed into New Hampshire for the primary election, there is no reason to believe it will stop anytime soon, with both national parties, governors' associations and congressional committees lining up to help candidates.

Although there is no U.S. Senate race this year in New Hampshire, there will be one in two years, and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is putting out chips she can call in when she does run for reelection in 2014.

The day after the primary, Shaheen sent out an email soliciting financial help for the Democratic nominee for governor, Maggie Hassan, who had spent almost all of the $1 million she had raised thus far.

Last week, Shaheen sent out another email, this time asking her supporters to help Democratic 1st District Congressional candidate Carol Shea-Porter.

In her letter, Shaheen asks people to stand with her and Shea-Porter in support of the state's middle-class families.

'Mitt Romney and Rush Limbaugh may believe that 47 percent of Americans are victims who want to depend on government, but those aren't the Americans I know. And that's most certainly not the case in New Hampshire,' Shaheen wrote.

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UNIVERSITY SYSTEM CHANGES: The University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees recently took steps to streamline the Chancellor's Office and give the four campuses more autonomy and responsibility for running their own affairs.

One of the changes eliminated the system's government relations office, moving that function to the individual colleges. The campuses are now responsible for doing their own lobbying of lawmakers.

Last year, USNH officials beat back a bill that would have done away with the office and moved most of its functions to the colleges or trustees.

The bill would have used the money that was saved to reduce tuition.

The prime sponsor of that bill, Rep. Robbie Parsons, R-Milton, said he intends to introduce the bill again next session.

He noted the trustees have developed a plan to decentralize much of the functions of the Chancellor's Office, and if they are willing to speed up the process, he's willing to make changes to his bill.

At the same trustee meeting this month, the board asked lawmakers to return the $50 million a year they cut in state aid to the system in exchange for the board freezing tuition for the next two years.

Not so fast, said the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Morse, R-Salem.

'We support greater access to higher education in New Hampshire and urge USNH to freeze and/or reduce tuition for students and their families. To do so, the trustees should remain focused on continuing budget reform efforts,' Morse said.

Nothing comes easy these days.

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Garry Rayno may be reached at

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