CONCORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan's choice for attorney general runs a Manchester law firm that lobbies for numerous high-profile companies in New Hampshire, including the Ohio-based company Exel, which just landed a contract to operate a liquor warehouse in the state, and an insurance trust associated with the troubled New Hampshire Municipal Association.
On Wednesday, Hassan plans to nominate former Democratic state Sen. Joseph Foster to be the state's next attorney general. Foster is a managing partner of the Manchester-based McLane, Graf law firm, one of the largest in the state. He also chairs the firm's bankruptcy practice.
In the recent past, governors have selected most attorneys general from the criminal-prosecution fields. But Foster's selection means state government's top lawyer could be a person whose clients are heavily involved in state government.
“All firms as large as McLane represent a wide range of clients with a variety of priorities,” said Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg. “Any attorney general with private sector experience would need to recuse him or herself where appropriate, and, if confirmed, Joe Foster will undoubtedly fulfill his duties with complete impartiality.”
A check with the McLane website lists a sampling of clients that the firm lobbies on behalf of. They include the New Hampshire Municipal Association Health Trust, which is caught up in questions of how the Local Government Center handled self-funded insurance for cities and towns.
Other clients include AES Granite Ridge, the natural gas-powered electricity plant in Londonderry; manufacturers such as Anheuser Busch, Monadncock Paper Mills and Hitchiner Manufacturing; the RiverStone Group insurance company; the Wheelabrator trash-burning power plant company; and trade associations representing public water suppliers, buyer brokers, psychologists, geologists, natural resource scientists and interior designers.
In December, McLane announced it had started its own lobbying branch, McLane Public Strategies Group, and was hiring a bipartisan staff, including Joel Maiola, staffer for former Sen. Judd Gregg, and Rich Sigel, former chief of staff for John Lynch.
Maiola is listed as a lobbyist for Exel, the Ohio company that has been awarded a contract to operate a Liquor Commission warehouse in the state. A recent review of the contract by the Attorney General's Office found the contract procedure complied with state law
Maiola is also listed as a lobbyist for Cate Street Capital, SMG and Well Sense Health Plan.
In a statement released today, Hassan said she plans to present Foster's name to the Executive Council on Wednesday. It will be up to the five-member Council to approve or reject the nomination.
“The role of attorney general in protecting and ensuring justice for the people of New Hampshire is one of the highest responsibilities in our state,” Hassan said in prepared remarks. “I am confident that Joe's judgment and experience make him the ideal candidate to serve as New Hampshire's chief legal and law enforcement officer.”
Foster called the nomination an honor. He was a member of the New Hampshire House from 1995 to 1998. Foster's nomination is subject to confirmation by the Executive Council.
Republican Senate President Peter Bragdon congratulated his former colleague for getting the nod.
“I served with Sen. Foster in the Senate for four years and remember him as a dedicated and respected legislator,” Bragdon said in a statement. “If confirmed, he will no doubt bring those same talents with him to the Justice Department, along with a solid legal background. I look forward to a strong working relationship with him.”
He was a state senator from 2002 to 2008 and was majority leader in 2007. As state senator, he chaired the Judiciary Committee, both under Democratic and Republican majorities. Hassan's office said he led efforts to enact the Sexual Predators Act, one of the toughest laws in the nation protecting New Hampshire's children from child predators.
Gov. Hassan will formally nominate Foster to the Council at Wednesday's meeting.