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October 01. 2012 11:16PM

Shea-Porter, Guinta continue negative attacks in NH congressional race

Forget about the federal budget and jobs programs.

Republican Frank Guinta and Democrat Carol Shea-Porter attacked one another Monday over pay of congressional staff, local offices and a 2-year-old investigation into campaign financing.

A news conference and follow-up statements show that the two candidates for the 1st New Hampshire Congressional District continue to publicize anything possible to paint their opponent in a negative light.

Monday morning, Guinta held a press conference and media interviews to criticize Shea-Porter’s actions in late 2010, in the waning days of her two-term tenure as congresswoman.

Guinta released the copy of a one-page notice, posted on Shea-Porter’s office Manchester office. It said Shea-Porter’s office is closed and constituents should address concerns to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., or Gov. John Lynch.

Guinta said it was posted on her office shortly after the November 2010 election, which he won. Guinta did not take over the job until January 2011.

“This is part of what our job is, to deal with constituents. That’s not a partisan matter,” Guinta said. .

But Shea-Porter’s spokesman, Naomi Andrews, said the Government Services Administration shut down the office. In the last week of November, it took the computer. In the first week of December, it took the telephone, all in preparation for Guinta’s arrival.

She said staff was still inside the office, but had no equipment.

“It is amazing to criticize us for closing an office on the date when ordered to do so after the election, when Congressman Guinta never opened the Dover office at all ... for vindictive political reasons,” reads a statement distributed by Andrews.

Guinta also faulted Shea-Porter for granting 49- and 29-percent pay raises after the 2010 election. Shea-Porter also paid her top two staffers for two days of work. That amounted to $25,000.

“This is like a staff stimulus. This is fleecing the taxpayers,” Guinta said.

But Andrews said the raises are a common practice in Washington.

“We were conservative with the budget (throughout the year). We were able to give a little extra to the entire staff,” said Andrews, who was Shea-Porter’s chief of staff when the Democrat was in Congress.

Andrews said the pay for Shea-Porter’s staff —$118,000 for chief of staff, and $86,600 for deputy chief of staff Robert Moller — are about the same as Guinta pays his staff. The Guinta campaign said he pays $115,000 to Chief of Staff Ethan Zorfas and $82,000 for Deputy Chief Austen Jensen.

Guinta said House Republicans voluntarily cut their office budgets by 11 percent, and despite that he returned $75,000 to the treasury last year.

Meanwhile, Shea-Porter’s campaign said Guinta continues to be investigated by the Federal Elections Commission for the sudden appearance of a bank account in 2010, which he used to loan $245,000 to his campaign.

The Guinta campaign has paid $52,000 to a Washington law firm that specializes in dealing with the FEC, the Shea-Porter campaign said.

His campaign contributors and New Hamsphire residents have a right to know about the status of the FEC investigation and if the legal fees are connected to it, Andrews said.

In a statement released late yesterday, Guinta campaign spokesman Derek Dufresne said the campaign maintains legal counsel to approve advertising and ensure that campaign materials comply with laws and regulations.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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