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GOP criticizes Shaheen over gas tax

By Tim Buckland
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 09. 2014 8:47AM

A month-old article paraphrasing U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen as supporting a federal gas tax increase has her campaign suddenly facing Republican Party criticism that she is attempting to conceal her support for a tax hike with new denials.

On June 9, the Portsmouth Herald reported that Shaheen, while speaking to the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials in Portsmouth, said that the increase may have to be part of a broader solution to fixing the country’s infrastructure needs. The story did not quote her directly.

“Shaheen said she believes the solution is going to involve ‘a whole variety’ of moves, including raising the gas tax, which hasn’t been increased since 1993, asking states to pay more of the burden and turning to the private sector for support,” the story read.

Beginning July 2, the New Hampshire Republican Party and state conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity and Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire, jumped on the story, saying Shaheen’s comment comes as New Hampshire enacted its first gas tax increase since 1991.

The campaign of one of Shaheen’s Republican opponents, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, has also tweeted about the issue. Of the last 11 tweets sent by Brown campaign manager Colin Reed, nine have been about the gas tax and Shaheen.

“Senator Shaheen is trying to walk back her comments and hide her obvious support for more taxes,” NHGOP chairman Jennifer Horn said in a statement.

For its part, Shaheen’s campaign said the criticism is misplaced and inaccurate.

“Senator Shaheen has never voted for an increase in the federal gas tax, and does not support one,” Shaheen campaign spokesman Harrell Kirstein said.

Kirstein pointed to an interview Shaheen gave to WMUR on July 1, one day before the GOP criticism began, in which she said: “I think we need to look at a whole range of possibilities. I don’t think a hike in the gas taxes is going to fix this problem.”

Kirstein also pointed out that Brown was quoted by the Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel and Enterprise during his unsuccessful 2012 campaign to keep his seat against current U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren that he would be open to raising the gas tax. Brown has also said several times he does not support an increase in the federal gas tax.

Howard Altschiller, executive editor of the Portsmouth Herald, said the Herald this month received requests from Shaheen’s campaign asking the Herald to change the story because they believed it was inaccurate.

He said he reviewed reporter Deborah McDermott’s typewritten notes, and said McDermott was sure about her reporting and that he believed the story was accurate.

“We stand by our reporter and our story,” he said.

Kirstein confirmed that Shaheen’s office reached out to the Herald to request a correction.

“We have been clear that Senator Shaheen does not support an increase in the federal gas tax,” Kirstein said.

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