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July 17. 2014 10:41PM

Hassan donations put GOP on attack

The Republican Party asked the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office on Thursday to expand and expedite its review of what the GOP claims are illegal contributions to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s reelection campaign after learning it accepted two more donations from labor-affiliated PACs.

The move prompted Hassan’s campaign to respond with its own request for the attorney general to do an expedited review of “the long-standing campaign finance practice” to reinforce the contributions were properly received.

At issue is whether contributions accepted by Hassan’s campaign prior to her officially filing for reelection were proper.

State GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn claims the donations accepted on June 12 are illegal because they exceed the $5,000 limit that campaigns must adhere to before candidates officially declare their candidacies. Horn cited a 2012 attorney general opinion to support her position.

Horn filed a new complaint with the attorney general Thursday accusing the Democratic governor’s reelection campaign of taking $10,000 each from the Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education political action committee and the United Food and Commercial Workers Active Ballot Club PAC.

“It is clear that Governor Hassan has operated a political fundraising operation for her reelection campaign that has not followed any of the contribution limits that are required by New Hampshire law,” Horn wrote Foster when filing her second complaint against Hassan’s campaign.

The state Attorney General’s Office already is reviewing a complaint Horn filed Wednesday alleging Hassan’s campaign accepted an illegal $25,000 contribution from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC.

Hassan’s campaign welcomed the attorney general’s review and said New Hampshire law and practice permitted contributions without limitation for many years. The campaign said these not only were the practices of Hassan’s immediate predecessor, former four-term Gov. John Lynch, but also of candidates and political committee on both sides of the aisle for at least the last 10 elections cycles.

“We are confident that all contributions are in line with past precedent under New Hampshire law and advice that campaigns and contributors have received from the Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office over the years,” campaign manager Marc Goldberg said.

“There have been numerous past candidates going back nearly two decades who have accepted similar contributions based on that advice.” Goldberg added.

Goldberg said there are many examples of similar political contributions during the pre-filing exploratory period by political committees. They include comparable contributions to Lynch from 2006 to 2010, he said. They include: $30,000 contributions each from Heartland PAC and Forward Together PAC in 2006; a $50,650 contribution in 2008 from DGA-NH; and a $10,000 contribution in 2010 from Automobile Dealers PAC.

State GOP chairman Horn asked Attorney General Joseph Foster for an expedited investigation of the GOP complaints, saying the donations “could improperly influence the upcoming elections” in September and November.

Horn called the IBEW PAC a special interest committee trying to buy influence in Concord to push elected officials such as Hassan to support the Northern Pass transmission project.

Responding to the Hassan campaign’s request for an expedited review of the state GOP complaints, Horn said the attorney general’s 2012 opinion “makes it very clear that Governor Hassan’s limitless special interest fundraising scheme is illegal.”

“It is troubling that the governor thinks that the campaign contribution limits that are followed by every other state candidate do not apply to her. Governor Hassan clearly believes that she should be able to accept unlimited donations from unions, special interest groups and organizations with business before the state while she serves in the corner office. That is not the New Hampshire way, and it is a clear violation of our laws,” Horn said.

Horn also claimed the donor PACs failed to itemize where their money came from as required by state law.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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