John DiStaso's Granite Status: Shaheen gearing up reelection campaign with new finance director
The AG's civil suit against the Bass Victory Committee, filed last April, is to be heard Feb. 19 in Merrimack County Superior Court, says Bass attorney Chuck Douglas.
The Attorney General charges Bass violated a state law that essentially requires those who make push poll telephone calls to tell the recipient who is sponsoring the calls.
The AG says that during the 2010 race, won by Bass, his committee "deliberately avoided" identifying itself as a sponsor of a negative push against then-challenger (and current U.S. Rep.) Annie Kuster.
The calls were cosponsored by Bass Victory and the National Republican Congressional Committee, but the AG says emails showed those two committees decided to have only the NRCC identified as the sponsor in the call script because the Bass campaign manager wanted "any issues about 'push polling' (to) be blamed on them." The Bass committee faces a potential maximum fine of $400,000
Bass is moving to dismiss the suit. Douglas argues the state push poll law does not apply to campaigns for federal office, such as Congress, and can be enforced only in state races.
Douglas relies heavily on a Federal Election Commission advisory opinion that says the state push poll law is clearly preempted in federal elections by the Federal Election Campaign Act, which requires no such disclaimers on calls.
The state law, Douglas wrote, "interferes with the intent of Congress, by requiring a candidate for federal office to make disclosures regarding election-related expenditures that the federal government has decided such candidates should not be required to make."
The Bass campaign has also said the calls were not push polls but simply "message testing."
Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards, in the state's objection, argues the FEC's opinion that a push poll falls under the definition of a campaign expenditure is "devoid of any analysis." She writes that the federal law neither regulates polling nor shows "any congressional intent to preclude state action in that area."
In other words, she wrote, since the federal law does not regulate polling, the state can step in and do so.
DELANEY: FEWER COMPLAINTS. It's a case being watched by campaign strategists, consultants and pollsters nationally.
AG Michael Delaney's promise to strictly enforce the state law has drawn criticism from national pollsters such as Whit Ayers, who warned last year that by "harassing" pollsters, Delaney was "handing ammunition to those who would like to supplant New Hampshire's primary as first-in-the-nation."
Interestingly, however, we've just gone through an entire election cycle - a presidential election no less - with no push poll controversies.
According to the Attorney General's office, there were 12 complaints of push poll law violations filed in 2012, compared to 21 in 2010
Delaney called that a "significant reduction" especially since, he noted New Hampshire was a swing state in the 2012 presidential election, while 2010 was a mid-term election.
It's possible fewer such polls were placed in 2012, but he believes his office's tough stance and enforcement efforts "had a deterrent effect, that more polls were placed in 2012 in compliance with state law, resulting in fewer complaints.
"The reduction in complaints received demonstrates how easy it is to comply with this rather straightforward disclosure law," Delaney said.
A decision in the Bass case will probably be appealed to the state Supreme Court. It will be timely because the state will have a presumably competitive U.S. Senate campaign gearing up as Jeanne Shaheen seeks reelection in 2014. Our two House members will presumably defend their seats as well.
DARK-HORSE? While a handful of Granite State GOP activists are jockeying for the post of state party executive director, a dark horse may have the inside track.
Ryan Gough, former Republican National Committee "Victory" director from Iowa, has been in the state in recent days meeting with, and impressing, high-ranking Republicans.
Gough has received high marks for his work in Iowa from former New Hampshire "Victory" staffers, including former state "Victory" director Brennan Ward, who has been introducing him to NH GOP'ers.
We understand Gough is interested in working in the GOP here, either as executive director or in another significant role.
True, Mitt Romney lost Iowa in the 2012 general election, but he also lost New Hampshire.
New party chairman Jennifer Horn is in the market for an executive director, a most important appointment as she looks to rebuild the party on all fronts, including expanding the staff.
Current executive director Jon Simons hopes to return to Washington by the end of February and says he never expected to remain at the party after a new chairman was chosen.
"I'm a realist and know that with a new chairman coming in, they are going to want to have someone in there to enforce their vision and someone who will commit for a couple of years," Simons said. "I can't do that."
He said a "majority of my life is still down in D.C."
Simons came up last July from the Washington area public affairs firm DDC Advocacy after former executive director Tory Mazzola left unexpectedly for the private sector.
Simons said he wanted to "help with the transition" from former chairman Wayne MacDonald to Horn, "but I told Jennifer I'd like to go down south soon."
He said he's willing to "stay around through February," but if something pops up sooner, he may depart before then.
Republicans tell us that among those who have expressed interest in the job are Ward, former Romney state director Phil Valenziano, former Herman Cain state director Matt Murphy, current party political director Jake Avery, former top Rick Santorum/Romney staffers Nick Pappas and Kristen Beaulieu and former Ovide Lamontagne and Romney campaign staffer Jill Neunaber.
FOLEY GOES OFF. Much of the talk since Saturday's Republican State Committee meeting has been on the scolding party finance chairman Jim Foley leveled on some committee members during his finance committee report.
On a day the party faithful were focusing on unity, Foley, at the podium, blasted Republicans who have been critical of the party organization and its fund-raising efforts, including its short-lived attempt to charge committee members $25, a move Foley supported.
Said one committee member, "It was just a weird, shocking moment for everyone."
Foley is not backing down.
"It was very odd," he emailed us. "As chairman of the finance committee, I took offense to the numerous voices who said the party could not fund-raise. It was unfair to a dedicated and hard-working group who actually put the Party into the best financial situation it has been in 20 years.
"That's (party treasurer) Robert Scott's description, not mine."
Foley added, "It also seemed to me that loudest voices were those I never saw at any event or who gave little or no money to the state party. So I called these people out."
20 YEARS LATER. Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton took the oath as President after campaigning with the help of his faithful "Arkansas travelers," a legion of home-state supporters who traveled the country to campaign on his behalf.
Clinton last weekend hosted a celebration and honored the "travelers" in Little Rock.
On hand and "treated like rock stars" was a group of his old friends from New Hampshire, says former state Democratic Chair and longtime "Friend of Bill" George Bruno.
Also making the trek were other Granite Staters who helped make Clinton the "Comeback Kid" with his second-place finish in the New Hampshire Primary on Feb. 18, 1992 - Terry Shumaker, Alice Chamberlin, Deb Crapo, Nancy Richards-Stower and Ricia MacMahon.
Bruno said the group presented the Clinton presidential library with a seedling of a black walnut tree that is on the grounds of the State House, provided by Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
Bruno said there was "a little boomlet" at the event for another Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy.
It's early, but, he said, "There was a lot of excitement and a buzz about her."
THREE SPOKESMEN. Shaheen now has three press spokesmen in her Senate office.
Joining recently were former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee press secretary Shripal Shah as communications director and Elizabeth Kenigsberg as press secretary.
Kenigsberg had been press secretary for Richard Carmona, an unsuccessful candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.
They join deputy press secretary Mark Gordon.
THAT WAS FAST. All it took was for Kevin Smith to pen an op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader saying that he will be, watching events in Concord closely over the next two years, as he says we all should.
Three days later, he received a measure of national media attention, as the National Journal's "Hotline On Call" declared, "Smith considering another Gov. run in NH," mentioning his opinion piece.
Since his lopsided loss to Ovide Lamontagne in last September's GOP governor's primary, Smith has sent clear messages that his political career is just getting started.
"I certainly haven't ruled anything out in terms of running again in '14," Smith told Hotline. "If I did, it would most likely be for governor again."
"Apparently," he told the Status, "having an op-ed in your paper is the natural prelude to announcing a candidacy!"
KELLY AND THE SWETTS. Sen. Kelly Ayotte Tuesday delivered remarks at a U.S. Capitol event organized by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.
She joined Granite Staters Katrina Lantos Swett, daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos and foundation president, and former Ambassador/U.S. Rep. Dick Swett.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize Award was presented to blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng.
The Washington Post quoted Ayotte as saying Chen "bravely stood up in the face of oppression" and that China would only reach its full potential when it recognizes the unalienable rights of its people rather than viewing them as a threat to its political power.
Katrina Lantos Swett said, "Chen Guangcheng's work standing up for the rule of law in China has been an inspiration to people from around the world."
The annual Lantos Prize is awarded to raise awareness about human rights and the brave individuals who are committed to fighting for justice around the world.
Also speaking were U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Chris Smith, R-N.J.
2ND AMENDMENT RALLY. Tea Party/liberty movement leaders Jack Kimball and Jerry DeLemus are organizing today's noon "Line-in-the-Granite 2nd Amendment Rally" at the State House.
"The Patriot Pastor," Garrett Lear, will give the invocation and speakers will include Rep. Dan Itse, former Reps. Al Baldasaro, Bob Guida and Jenn Coffee, activist Karen Testerman and Sheriff Chris Conley of Carroll County and Donnie Smith of Washington County, Maine.
Separately, Grafton County Sheriff Douglas Dutile is among 226 sheriffs nationally who "have vowed to uphold and defend the Constitution against Obama's unlawful gun control measures," according to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.
MORE ATTENDEES. The latest confirmed attendees for the GOP meeting on Feb. 7 being hosted by RightOn Strategies at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics are Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, Sen. Sam Cataldo, former Sens. Tom DeBlois and Bob Letourneau, former House Majority Leader Pete Silva, former House Ways and Means Committee chair Norm Major and former NHGOP vice chair Pam Manney.
Also, former state Reps. Fran Wendelboe and Will Smith, NHGOP Area 1 vice chair Vicki Schwaegler and Testerman.
(John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at mailto:jdistaso%20@jdistaso.)