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David Lang honored with First Amendment Award for fighting Local Government Center

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 29. 2012 11:22PM
John MacDonald, vice president of PSNH, holds a 1992 Buchanan poster with Patrick Buchanan, guest speaker, during the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, First Amendment Event, held at the Capital Center for the Arts, on Thursday in Concord. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

CONCORD - "The new media and the new new media are at war with one another," former U.S. presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan told an audience at the First Amendment Awards ceremony Thursday night. "You've got Rush and Hannity and Laura versus NPR and Big Bird."

The conservative columnist spoke of the self-appointed Internet media "sitting at their computers for hours on end" creating their own online newspapers. He said they have followed in the footsteps of the 24-hour cable news networks, encroaching on what was the territory of newspapers and network news programs.

"They create their own newspapers, if you will, where they only have to read and understand and know what their side is saying. So more and more people are living in these separate bubbles of their own making," he said.

Later in the evening, David Lang, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, received the First Amendment Award, which is presented annually by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

"I was surprised," Lang said Wednesday night during an interview about his selection. "I'm very proud that the firefighters and myself, as president, were recognized for this prestigious award."

Lang led a decade-long push to force the New Hampshire Local Government Center, which manages health insurance and liability insurance for dozens of cities, towns and school districts in New Hampshire, to publicly disclose how it was spending money collected from its risk pool.

His effort has resulted in a court order for the LGC to return tens of millions to its members.

Lang said he was concerned about the "direction" of the Local Government Center when he decided to resign from the LGC board in protest in 2003. He started filing Right-to-Know requests, which he said ultimately showed that the LGC was spending risk pool money intended for health care to subsidize workers compensation claims - and an expansion of the LGC building in Concord.

"We knew that information ... needed to get into the public domain," Lang said Wednesday night. "We were immediately met with resistance."

The fight continues. The LGC has appealed a court order to reimburse $52 million to towns and cities across the state.

"So unfortunately, I do not have a definitive ending for you tonight," Lang said during his remarks at the ceremony.

YMCA Youth & Government Program Director Debi Clark Valentine was selected for the school's Quill and Ink Award.

Clark Valentine was saluted for her work to educate children about the Constitution and government.

Led by presenting sponsor People's United Bank, the First Amendment Awards are backed by many business, civic and media leaders.

Other sponsors included Public Service of New Hampshire, Amoskeag Beverages, Bank of America, the TD Charitable Foundation and The Common Man.

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