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February 27. 2013 9:57PM

Election law violation: NH attorney general backs state Sen. Boutin

The Attorney General's Office has backed Republican state Sen. David Boutin's election law complaint against three Manchester Democratic aldermen, finding they should have filed as a political action committee when they sent out a mailing last fall backing Boutin's opponent.

Boutin, of Hooksett, charged that current candidate for Manchester mayor Patrick Arnold, as well as Joyce Craig and Ron Ludwig, violated a state law that defines a political committee as "any organization of two or more persons to influence elections" and requires a committee to register with the Secretary of State's Office after receiving contributions totaling, or spending, at least $500 "to promote the success or defeat" of a candidate in an election.

That candidate was Boutin's Democratic foe, Kathleen Kelly.

Assistant Attorney General Steve LaBonte said in a letter to Boutin this week that Arnold acknowledged he drafted the letter and purchased the supplies and postage stamps with his own money.

LaBonte said Arnold did not know how much he spent on the mailing, but that "it may have been close to $500."

LaBonte wrote that although the three aldermen "were unaware that their actions constituted the formation of a political committee," when Arnold "reproduced and mailed the letters at his own expense," he acted "in violation of RSA 664:3, II."

LaBonte issued a cease-and-desist order and instructed the three to file a retroactive political committee registration and expenditure/contribution statement with the Secretary of State's Office.

Boutin said he was pleased with the finding, adding, "How can the voters have trust and confidence in our elections when elected officials like aldermen Arnold, Ludwig and Craig, who should know better, knowingly violate state election laws?

"My hope is this action by the Attorney General's Office will serve as a deterrent to others who may consider engaging in illicit campaign activities to influence the outcome of an election," Boutin said.

jdistaso@unionleader.com

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