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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Hassan in Washington to meet with Obama, attend first NGA, DGA meetings

By John DiStaso
Senior Political Reporter

February 22. 2013 1:38PM

FRIDAY, FEB. 22: HEADING TO D.C. Gov. Maggie Hassan is Washington today and through the weekend to meet with President Barack Obama along with other members of the Democratic Governors Association, her office says.


Hassan will attend the weekend-long National Governors Association winter meeting, also in Washington. The NGA is composed of all of the states' governors of both parties.

Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said it will be her second trip out-of-state as governor. Her first was to attend Obama's inauguration on Jan. 21, he said.

At the meetings, he told the Granite Status before her departure, Hassan "will be urging Washington to stop the deep automatic cuts of sequestration, which will hurt our economy, put jobs at risk at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, BAE Systems and others due to defense cuts, and impact critical services throughout our state with cuts to federal grants and other programs."

(The full Feb. 21 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, FEB. 21: DRAFTING HILLARY. Former state Democratic Party Chairman Chris Spirou emerged as a player in first-in-the-nation presidential politics Wednesday as chairman of a committee to draft Hillary Clinton to run for President in 2016.

Spirou made the disclosure about his new political action committee in an interview with the Granite Status, which first reported it yesterday on




The name of the PAC, filed by Spirou with the Secretary of State's office, is "In 2016, Run Hillary Run." He said a website,, will be launched next week.


Spirou, a former House Democratic Leader and his party's 1984 nominee for governor, chaired the state Democratic Party during Bill Clinton's initial run for President in 1992. He has been under the radar, politically speaking, for many years.


Ever blunt, Spirou told us he is stepping up to form the draft committee at this early stage of the 2016 cycle to establish it as a "preemptive political tool to ward off a challenge" to Clinton in the 2016 leadoff presidential primary and to serve as a place for Hillary Clinton supporters nationwide to urge her to run.


Clinton won the 2008 New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary but eventually lost the nomination to Barack Obama, who she served as Secretary of State until Feb. 1.


"This is simple," Spirou said. "The purpose is to ensure we have sufficient commitment of support for her to win the New Hampshire primary in 2016."


The draft committee comes less than a month after Vice President Joe Biden courted a group of influential Granite State Democrats at his official residence during the inaugural weekend.


Biden has a core of supporters in New Hampshire, but Clinton and her former President husband have been favorites of state Democrats dating back more than 20 years.


A poll last week by the University of New Hampshire for WMUR showed Hillary Clinton supported by 63 percent of likely Democratic primary voters and with a favorability rating among Democrats of 87 percent.


But Spirou said he is concerned that a contentious 2016 primary campaign will lead to a Republican victory in the 2016 general election.


He believes former Sen. Ted Kennedy's challenge to President Jimmy Carter in 1980 was a factor in the election of Ronald Reagan. And 20 years later, he said, former Sen. Bill Bradley's challenge to Vice President Al Gore contributed to Gore eventually losing New Hampshire -- and the general election -- to George W. Bush in the 2000.


Spirou said it is not too early to set up a draft committee.


"As I have told all presidential candidates who have sought my advice," he said, "in a forest full of chestnut trees, those who arrive on the first day pick bags-full, those who are late pick pockets-full and those who are last can pick only hands-full."
Spirou said he is acting alone in setting up the committee. His daughter, Stavroula "Stavy" Bakolas, is the committee treasurer.


In a press release issued following our online report, Spirou said he will be organizing a network to recruit and solicit Granite Staters to join the committee.


"The time has come for a female President of the United States," Spirou says. "It is only fitting that it be Hillary Clinton. To my friend Hillary I say 'In 2016, Run Hillary Run.'"


D.C. FRIENDS OF SHAHEEN. As Sen. Jeanne Shaheen ramps up her reelection campaign, she's planning a March 18 fund-raiser at the D.C. home of a major Capitol Hill lobbyist.


She will be hosted by David Leiter, president of ML Strategies, and his wife, Tamera Luzzatto, managing director of government relations at Pew Charitable Trusts.


Both have connections with the Clintons, Luzzatto as chief of staff when Hillary was in the Senate and Leiter as an Energy Department official during Bill Clinton's administration. He was also a chief of staff to another friend of Shaheen, current Secretary of State John Kerry.


Leiter's firm's client list is long.


Republicans note that among his clients is Exxon Mobil, or as Shaheen used to call it, "Big Oil."


She especially used that term, repeatedly, in deriding former Sen. John E. Sununu's defense of the industry during their 2008 U.S. Senate race.


Prices for the reception and dinner range from $500 to $5,000.


HONORING PIERCE? He was the only President from New Hampshire, but Franklin Pierce is not exactly the favorite of the African-American community here — or anywhere for that matter.


Pierce was President in the years leading to the Civil War and supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed residents of those territories to decide whether to allow slavery.


He also supported the Fugitive Slave Laws, which returned runaway slaves to their owners.


Pierce's portrait still hangs on the wall of Representatives' Hall, but when a bill was filed to establish a "day" to honor him, the local NAACP was outraged.


As it turns out, the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee on Tuesday voted 15-0 to recommend that House Bill 576 be killed, and it will probably officially die in the full House soon.


"But," said Rogers Johnson, treasurer of and spokesman for the NAACP of the Seacoast, "it never should have gotten that far. It's an affront to people of color all over the state."


Johnson says someone in the Democratic majority leadership should have made sure the bill didn't see the light of day, especially since it was sponsored by two of their own — Democratic Reps. Dick Patten of Concord and Linda Lauer of Bath.


The bill would require the governor to declare each Nov. 23, Pierce's birthday, as "Franklin Pierce Day" in New Hampshire "in commemoration of his many accomplishments and service to New Hampshire and his country."


The bill encourages schools to observe Pierce with appropriate educational activities. Johnson said that although the NAACP did not learn of the bill until after a public hearing, the executive departments committee did hear from the group, including Juan Cofield, the NAACP's New England Area Conference president.


"It's head-scratching," said Johnson. "You can't be any more offensive to people of color than to do something like this.


"The committee got it right but it's sad it got that far," he said.


The sponsors could not be reached for comment Wednesday.


RAY'S AMBASSADORS. As Executive Councilor Ray Burton continues to rest while being treated for kidney cancer, his friends are stepping up to represent him at various events in his vast council district.


GOP activists B.J. Perry and Joel Maiola, along with Neil Levesque of the Political Library, are forming "The Ray Burton Ambassador Committee" and are recruiting his friends and supporters to, according to Perry, "wave the Ray Burton flag."


For instance, said Perry, one friend will be attending a ham and bean supper in Dalton soon. It's the sort of event Burton normally wouldn't miss.


"We're reaching out to friends of Ray and putting a structure together," said Perry. "We'll be bringing the greetings, and, of course, the combs."


POLLING THE 2ND CD. As former state Sen. Gary Lambert continues to look at a run for the 2nd District U.S. House seat, supporter Judy Brown posted on his Facebook page Wednesday that she had polled on potential match-ups on Tuesday night.


The pollster surveyed Lambert and fellow Republican former House speaker Bill O'Brien pitted against Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster.


Brown said the questioner asked first whether President Barack Obama was leading the country in the right or wrong direction, then if the election were held today, to choose between Lambert and Kuster and Kuster and O'Brien.


Next was a question on whether Kuster's well-publicized late property tax payments has affected her credibility and would hurt her in 2014.


Lambert said he has progressed from "serious" to "more serious" as he gets positive feedback.


O'Brien continues to make the rounds considering a run. We understand he has added the Club for Growth to his list of people and groups to visit.


ADVICE TO MARY. The state Republican Party had a little "fun" with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu at Kuster's expense this week after reports surfaced that Landrieu owed about $1,200 in back property taxes on her Washington, D.C. home.


Landrieu quickly paid the bill.


The NHGOP suggested that Landrieu not "hide from your constituents," don't claim "that you are struggling like everybody else," and "stop calling for higher taxes if you don't want to pay your own."


Republicans, by the way, also point out Kuster had rolled up at least $65,000 in credit card debt, according to her latest personal financial disclosure form, filed last May.


PERKINS CATCHES D.J. On Twitter this week, former Union Leader vice president Charlie Perkins caught former House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt plagiarizing nationally known columnist John Podhoretz in a New Hampshire Journal online essay.


Following the resignation announcement of Pope Benedict, Podhoretz tweeted on Feb. 11:


"The last time a pope resigned, Richard III was pulling into a very bad parking space in Leicester."


Bettencourt, who resigned his seat in disgrace after claiming a college degree he hadn't received, began this week's essay with the same sentence, but no attribution.


Perkins tweeted:


"In his new NHJournal essay, D.J. Bettencourt plagiarizes @jpodhoretz."


Bettencourt, or someone at the Journal, quickly changed the essay's lead sentence to attribute the quote.


He then tweeted that he had praised Podhoretz all along.


"BS," replied Perkins. "You changed it after my tweet."


Bettencourt did not contest that, and an update on the Journal later admitted that an earlier version did not include the reference to Podhoretz.


Before the admission, Perkins received a tweet from one Kate Huminick, who wrote that she was Bettencourt's "editor" and that "the final draft that was given to me for editing contained the attribution."


Huminick's Facebook page says that she, like Bettencourt, lives in Salem. It says she works at Victoria's Secret.


Perkins' former boss, Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid, tweeted in: "Never question (a) serial liar, Charlie."


Podhoretz tweeted simply: "Geez."


Later, William Tucker of the Miscellany Blue web log pointed out two other Bettencourt passages that were remarkably similar to previous pieces by other writers.


TARGETING CAROL. The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting Rep. Carol Shea-Porter with its first television ad of the 2014 election cycle, anywhere in the country.


After a WMUR-UNH poll showed Shea-Porter potentially vulnerable in next year's election, the NRCC hit her for voting against House Speaker John Boehner's "No Budget No Pay" plan.


Shea-Porter said she voted that way not to protect her own pay, but to ensure that congressional workers continue to get paid.


The ad buy is small, only $20,000, and will continue through next week.


AFP GRADES. The conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity has issued its congressional scorecard for the 112th Congress, basing grades on a long list of tax and spending issues.


The group's grading of last year's New Hampshire delegation contained no surprises.


Shaheen received a "D-," while Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Rep. Frank Guinta received "B's" and former Rep. Charlie Bass received a "C."


LUTHER'S SPECIAL PROGRAM. Former state Sen. Jim Luther tells us he will have a special program on Benghazi on his radio show on WSMN 1590 AM at 9 a.m. today. Featured will be Donald Huber, a longtime supporter of Mitt Romney, who, Luther says, has some explosive information to convey about the continuing controversy.


RYAN IN ROLL CALL. Former state Republican Party spokesman Ryan Williams penned an op-ed piece in the Washington-based "Roll Call" Wednesday calling for the Senate to reject Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense. Williams, most recently a top spokesman for Romney, wrote the piece in a new role as adviser to a new anti-Hagel group, Americans for a Strong Defense.


(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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