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John DiStaso's Granite Status: New conservative advocacy group sends direct mail in Manchester Ward 2 special House election

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 08. 2013 5:42PM

FRIDAY, MARCH 8: NEW CONSERVATIVE ADVOCACY GROUP. A group of conservative activists have filed an issues advocacy group with state.

Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire, Inc., is a 501 (c)(4) self-described “diverse, nonpartisan grassroots coalition of concerned citizens, community leaders and other stakeholders concerned with promoting and preserving strong families and a strong economy for New Hampshire.”

It says on its Facebook page it supports jobs creation, limited government, lower taxes and efforts to “improve the economy” and to "lead to a better social welfare” in the state.

Its board members are veteran activists Chris Wood, Maureen Mooney and Bill Boyd, as well as Lino Avellani and Glynis Citarelli.

RightOnStrategies, headed by Mike Biundo, Derek Dufresne and Kory Wood, have been hired as consultants for the organization.

The group has become involved in the special election campaign for the open state House seat in Manchester’s Ward 2 between Republican Win Hutchinson and Democrat William O’Neil with direct mail issues pieces critical of O’Neil. The election will be held March 19.

“We will be active educating the citizens of New Hampshire on the issues we believe benefit a strong New Hampshire,” said a source close to the group. “We highlight those that stand with us on these issues and point out those who don’t.”

(The full March 7 Granite Status follows.)


THURSDAY, MARCH 7: DINING WITH BARACK. President Barack Obama's new effort to personally reach out to Republican U.S. senators includes New Hampshire freshman Kelly Ayotte.

Ayotte received a call from the President Tuesday afternoon and was invited to be among about a dozen GOP senators slated to have dinner with Obama on Wednesday night.

"I enjoyed the dinner with the President and appreciated the discussion we had about how we could work together to address the fiscal challenges facing the country," Ayotte said in a written statement. "I hope we can continue this important dialogue."

The Washington Post reported dinner was scheduled for The Jefferson Hotel. It described the series of Obama calls as a new "charm offensive" to bypass leadership and go to the rank-and-file. In his calls, the Post reported, the President has expressed a willingness to reform health and retirement programs if they agree to raise taxes to address the national debt.

Other GOP senators invited: John McCain of Arizona, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dan Coats of Indiana and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

But even as Obama invited the GOP out to dinner in the snowstorm hitting D.C., his political committee, Organizing for America, was being anything but conciliatory.

Its email to supporters charged that "Republican obstructionism in Congress" had forced "devastating" and "destructive" automatic budget cuts.

OFA set up an online petition called "Tell GOP to Act."

The dinner was criticized for going on as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) led a filibuster in the Senate over the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA. Paul said he had questions about the Obama administration's definition of civil liberties, specifically its authorization of drone strikes. His office earlier this week released a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder saying the U.S. government had the legal authority to kill a U.S. citizen on American soil.

The Campaign For Liberty, which has Rand Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul, as its chairman, criticized the senators who dined with the President, naming three, one of whom was Ayotte.

"Rather than choosing to 'Stand with Rand,' a small group of GOP senators are dining with the President this evening. According to ABC News, this includes John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte," wrote Tim Shoemaker, the Campaign for Liberty's Director of Legislation, in a blog post on the organization's web site.

"The only good that could come out of this dinner, rather than support Senator Paul in his 8+ hour filibuster, would be if they return with a sworn written statement signed by the President himself saying, 'No President has the authority to carry out lethal drone strikes on American citizens on U.S. soil,' " Shoemaker added.

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BROWN HEADED TO NH. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, and summertime Rye resident, will cause a buzz in the first-in-the-nation primary state next month.

He will headline the Grafton County Republican Committee's Lincoln-Reagan Luncheon on Saturday, April 20, at the Hanover Inn.

Committee Vice Chair Tyler Drummond said that "Republicans and independents from all across New Hampshire and Vermont are encouraged and welcome to attend."

Since losing a Senate reelection bid last November to Elizabeth Warren, Brown has been mentioned among possible presidential candidates in 2016.

He has also been rumored to be eyeing a bid for Massachusetts governor next year.

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TILLE WORKING FOR CAIN. Veteran Republican political strategist and organizer David Tille of Concord has landed a key role in the expansion of the pro-small business Job Creators Network.

The Granite Status has learned Tille has been named Northeast regional director of the free enterprise group founded last fall by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus and former presidential candidate Herman Cain. JCN is officially a "C" corporation for tax purposes.

Tille has served on the congressional staffs of former U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Jeb Bradley. He was state political director of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign in 2007 and part of 2008, and worked on Cain's presidential exploratory committee last year.

JCN says its role is to "counteract what big government proponents and their big labor friends have long been doing for years - educating their workforces as to the politics that benefit their own special interests, which are regularly counter to free enterprise, private sector prosperity."

The group says it helps business owners communicate the benefits of free enterprise to their employees.

JCN says small businesses make up more than 96 percent of employers in New Hampshire, employing nearly 51 percent of the private sector workforce.

"That's an even larger share of the labor force than the nation as a whole," Tille said. "That's why it's so important that our small businesses know they can count on Job Creators Network to help them communicate free enterprise values to their employees in simple, kitchen-table terms.

"Even though the Granite State has no income or sales tax, plenty of challenges remain on the state and federal levels that call for vigilance from our employers," he said.

Tille said he hopes to help preserve "the small business climate we are fortunate to have now, and build upon this solid base by helping our business leaders educate our state's hard working employees on how bad policies harm good people."

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VULNERABLE INCUMBENTS? It seems that regardless of who occupies our two U.S. House seats, and no matter which party they are in, they are politically vulnerable.

It illustrates the current political "color" of the state these days. New Hampshire is a purple state.

While it keeps electing Democratic governors, other offices tend to swing between the parties.

Just four months after Democrats Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster defeated Republicans Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass (who had been previously, and accurately, classified as vulnerable), the two Democrats are already viewed as vulnerable for 2014, by their own party.

And that's despite the fact that there are only rumblings of potential Republican challengers to Kuster in the 2nd District and not a word about a challenger to Shea-Porter.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has enrolled both women in its "Frontline" "incumbent-retention'' fund-raising program focusing on its most vulnerable members.

Shea-Porter and Kuster are on the list of 26 "Frontliners." The only other New Englander listed is Massachusetts' John Tierney.

Even before the list was announced, the National Republican Congressional Committee continued its relentless attacks on the two New Hampshire Democrats with web ads criticizing "their failure to address cuts to wasteful government spending as an alternative to the sequester."

Kuster's campaign immediately responded to the Republicans' "dishonest and vicious online attack" with a fund-raising email.

"We need to stand up and fight for our shared progressive values," the Kuster email says. "If we don't, the GOP will silence us, and America's middle class families can't afford for us to be silenced."

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PUSH POLL PROPOSAL. A bipartisan state Senate bill seeks to address an outcry from national pollsters and certain in-state campaigns over New Hampshire's tough anti-push poll law.

Senate Bill 196, sponsored by Republican Jeb Bradley and Democrat David Pierce, tries to distinguish push polling as negative telephone calls made under the guise of polling - as opposed to "bona fide survey and opinion research."

It does that by focusing on the length of the call and how many people it goes to.

Push poll calls are usually brief and often go to thousands of people, while opinion research calls are fairly lengthy and normally go to a few hundred people.

The bill gives a new definition to push polling, calling it "part of a series of like telephone calls that consist of more than 2,000 completed calls that last less than two minutes, and conducting such calling for purposes other than bona fide survey and opinion research."

It then defines bona fide survey and opinion research as "the collection and analysis of data regarding opinions, needs, awareness, knowledge, views, experiences, and behaviors of a population, through the development and administration of surveys, interviews, focus groups, polls, observation, or other research methodologies, in which no sales, promotional, or marketing efforts are involved, and through which there is no attempt to influence a participant's attitudes or behavior."

It adds, "Bona fide survey and opinion research includes message testing, which is the study for research purposes of how individuals react to positive or negative information on a candidate, elected public official, or ballot question."

The Attorney General has taken civil action against an alleged push poll by former Rep. Charlie Bass's 2010 campaign. Bass's camp, fighting the allegations in state Superior Court, says it was a bona fide research series of calls, not push polling.

Bass's calls, which lasted about 15 minutes and went to only about 400 people, would not have fallen under the definition had this bill been law.

The bill was the subject of a public hearing Wednesday.

The Attorney General's Office was not expected to take a position on the bill since it may have to defend it as a law in the future, according to Associate AG Anne Edwards.

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GUN POLL. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg of New York and Thomas Mennino of Boston, hired pollster Douglas Schoen to survey 600 Granite Staters on gun questions Feb. 18 to 21.

Results show 77 percent of those polled said it was important for Obama and Congress "to support the rights of gun owners but also advocate for stronger gun laws to reduce gun violence." And 85 percent favored "reasonable restrictions on gun ownership to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other people who are already barred from having guns," while 89 percent favored "requiring all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from."

But at the same time, the poll by the gun control group found that "gun violence prevention" was far down the list of issues those surveyed identified as "most important" to how they will vote in next year's congressional elections.

On top was the economy, with 65 percent, followed by the federal budget deficit, health care and taxes.

"Gun violence prevention" was ninth on a list of 12 issues, with 6 percent, behind even "not sure" at 8 percent. Those polls were asked to name their first and second choices.

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A QUIET MEETING. The Democratic State Committee will meet on Saturday at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to elect officers for the next two years, and as we've reported, none running is facing opposition.

The party announced in January that only one candidate filed for each position when its filing period closed.

It means Raymond Buckley will win a fourth term as state chairman, tying the record held jointly by his predecessor, Kathy Sullivan, and by J. Murray Devine, who was chair during the early- and mid-1960s.

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark is unopposed for a fourth term as first vice chair, while Dorothy Solomon will be elected to a third term as second vice chair.

State Sen. Bette Lasky will win her second term as party secretary, while Brian Rapp will win his first full term as treasurer, having been first elected to the post last August.

Attorney Dan MacKenna will win his first term as party legal counsel.

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-- Shea-Porter announced that Ben Wakana has joined her office as press secretary. She said he is the former deputy press secretary for the Obama campaign in New Hampshire.

-- Mario Piscatella is House Speaker Terie Norelli's new communications and policy director. Her office says his past experience includes "campaign management, communications consulting and training, speech writing, event planning and execution and field organizing Iowa, Utah, Washington, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, and Vermont."

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at Twitter: @jdistaso.

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