John DiStaso's Granite Status: Former Sen. Scott Brown heading to NH
Greg Moore of Manchester, the former chief of staff to the New Hampshire House under former speaker Bill O'Brien, has been hired as the new state director of AFP-New Hampshire.
At the same time, Corey Lewandowski of Windham, who founded the chapter more than four years ago, has been promoted from state director to regional director, overseeing the group's activities in 25 states east of the Mississippi River.
Both told us they are excited about the moves and hope to continue to build the group's influence statewide and nationally.
Lewandowski said his post will be in "very capable hands. Greg knows legislation and the players phenomenally well."
Prior to serving as House chief of staff during O'Brien's controversial tenure, Moore headed John Stephen's campaigns for the U.S. House in 2008 and for governor in 2010.
When Stephen previously served as state Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Moore was director of public affairs and government relations for the department.
AFP says it has nearly 30,000 followers in New Hampshire who support its advocacy for the free market, limited government and lower taxes.
Moore said he has been on the advisory board since 2009, and, "I'm very familiar and comfortable with the mission of protecting the free market and expanding economic growth. We're going to continue to work toward more limited government, lower taxation and more economic freedom."
Lewandowski put AFP on the political map in New Hampshire. The group was founded nationally nine years ago, and he began the state chapter in 2008.
He said AFP now has paid staffers in 32 states and volunteer chapters in several others.
Under a new AFP alignment, Lewandowski will oversee operations in 25 state east of the Mississippi River, while former Kansas state director Derrick Sontag will oversee the western half of the country.
"We are working on how best to maximize our reach," he said.
Nationally, AFP spent more than $33 million in issue advocacy independent expenditures during the 2012 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.
Lewandowski estimated the national group spent about $1 million in New Hampshire on the presidential race and AFP-NH spent a smaller amount on the governor's race, in radio ads criticizing now-Gov. Maggie Hassan's support for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Lewandowski said AFP-NH has focused on a wide range of issues.
It was involved in unsuccessful fights to enact right-to-work legislation and repeal the state's participation in RGGI, but also was active in supporting the O'Brien budget and the cutting of various taxes and fees.
The state chapter also held successful "Conservative of the Year" fund-raiser dinners in recent years.
As for his new role, Lewandowski said, "It's nice to be acknowledged for the hard work you've put into something."
Leaving as state director "is like giving up a baby, but it's going to be in very capable hands."
Hassan's spokesman said she is not trying to skirt a state law requiring that the transportation department receive at least 73 percent of all highway funds collected. She simply wants to suspend that law, just as the Republican-led Legislature did two years ago, said the spokesman, Marc Goldberg.
Goldberg said Hassan would have the safety department use the "extra" funds to put 10 new state troopers on the roads and to pay for the shift of five more troopers from licensing operations to the roads.
Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy pointed out in an opinion column in Wednesday's New Hampshire Union Leader that the "diversion," if you will, of extra money from transportation to safety was discovered by Republican Rep. Lynne Ober, R-Hudson.
Ober told us Wednesday that during a recent work session of a House finance subcommittee (called a "division" at the State House), she looked at a spread sheet of safety department use of highway fund money, and, "It appeared that safety was taking a huge amount of money more than they should have gotten."
She said she asked the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Assistant's office for an analysis, and it turned out she was correct.
According to an LBA spreadsheet, under the Hassan budget, the transportation department would receive not 73 percent, but only 67.3 percent, of the highway fund appropriation in fiscal 2014 and 68.4 percent of the highway fund appropriation in 2015.
Safety would receive not 26 percent, but 31.5 percent in 2014 and 31.7 percent in 2015.
It adds up to just over $13 million-a-year more than the safety department would receive than the law, left intact, would allow.
Ober said it would be much easier to avoid these questions if the governor would submit a companion bill to the budget, which sets out proposed budget-related legislative changes, known as House Bill 2. The proposed suspension would have been explained there.
The governor's office continues to work on HB 2.
Ober believes efficiencies can be found in the Department of Safety that would limit the shift of funds. She said an audit report found in 2009 the department could more efficiently manage how it sets up its chains of command so that "we wouldn't have so much money going to officers who are not on the roads."
Arlinghaus pointed out that although the law setting out where highway fund money should go was suspended for the current (fiscal 2012-2013 budget), in the end, the current budget actually meet the goals set out in the law.
He said opponents of the proposed gas tax hike will likely use this move to further argue their case. Even supporters of the gas tax hike should oppose the shift of funds, he said, because those folks would likely want every penny of highway fund money used for _ yes _ highways, roads and bridges.
Indeed, if the governor is successful in gaining support for renewing the suspension of the distribution law, her move may well be a topic for debate as Nashua Democratic Rep. David Campbell's proposed 15 cents gas tax hike comes up for a vote in the House next week. But there is nothing illegal about it.
CUTTING $80 MILLION. The above episode is not unlike the governor putting $80 million in gambling revenue in her budget before a gambling bill is passed.
That's what the House Finance Committee is dealing with as it deliberates on her budget and formulates its own proposal for consideration by the full House.
Committee Chair Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, confirmed she is asking each committee division to find as much savings as possible as part of an overall effort to come up with at least $80 million in savings to offset the governor's proposed gambling revenue.
"The issue for us is that the House has not had a vote on a gambling bill, so to assume (gambling) revenue at this point is really not the position of the House, either for or against," Wallner said.
"I have to start to look at where we'll go in that we haven't got a position on gambling," she explained. "To accept revenue of $80 million would really be a mistake, especially if it didn't show up later."
Wallner, by the way, said that personally, she has "historically voted against gambling and I continue to be concerned about it."
While she has not yet seen the gambling bill being weighed by the state Senate, which has been cited by Hassan, "I doubt I will vote for it this time, but I will have to see," Wallner said.
FIGHTING PROPOSITION 8. Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass and two sitting state senators are among a group of prominent Granite State Republicans who have joined the legal battle to overturn California's Proposition 8, which currently outlaws same-sex marriage in that state.
With the challenge set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next month, about 100 well-known Republicans nationally have signed on to a "friend of the court" amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs attempting to overturn the measure.
Sources tell the Granite Status that New Hampshire Republicans who also signed the brief, along with Bass, included Republicans state Sen. Nancy Stiles of Hampton and John Reagan of Deerfield.
Also signing was Tyler Deaton, current secretary of the New Hampshire Young Republicans and managing director of B-Fresh Consulting. He is a former leader in the successful efforts to enact same-sex marriage in New Hampshire and defeat repeal attempts as campaign manager of New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality and a former spokesperson for Standing Up for New Hampshire Families.
State Rep. Adam Schroadter, vice chairman of the House Business Caucus, and Jacob P. Wagner, chairman of the New Hampshire Federation of College Republicans, have also signed on in support of the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case.
Bass said he backed repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in his final days as a congressman.
"I also don't think that civil marriage, which is what this case is about, poses any threat to religious freedom," he said.
"It also reflects the reality that we have in New Hampshire," in which same-sex marriage is legal, Bass said.
"I received a note from (former Republican National Committee Chairman) Ken Mehlman about it," Bass said. "He sent me the brief and I read it and I thought it made sense."
Nationally-known Republicans who have signed on to the brief include Mehlman, who is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, the former presidential candidate who backed only civil unions as a candidate but now backs same-sex marriage, former Massachusetts governors William Weld and Jane Swift, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and former California candidate for governor Meg Whitman.
DEMS TO CELEBRATE: 100 CLUB. The state Democratic Party will hold its annual "100 Club" dinner on April 6 at the Executive Court in Manchester. Party chair Ray Buckley said the party will celebrate its long list of victories in the last election and "hit the ground running so we repeat our victories in 2014."
Tickets range from $100 up to $10,000.
(John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jdistaso.)