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August 01. 2014 10:17PM

State AG's ruling: Gov. Maggie Hassan must return $24K

CONCORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan will return $24,000 in campaign contributions following state Attorney General Joseph Foster’s ruling that the contribution was made in violation of state law because the funds were delivered a day late.

The state Republican Party had objected to contributions of $10,000 each from the Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education, a political action committee, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Active Ballot Club PAC, as well as a $25,000 contribution from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC.

The GOP argued that the contributions violated a state law, RSA 644:4, which sets a $5,000 limit that campaigns must adhere to before candidates officially declare their candidacies.

Attorney general’s ruling

Foster’s ruling, which also sought to “provide clear guidance” on the law, said that the limits can be made up until midnight on the day a candidate officially files for candidacy.

Hassan filed her candidacy on June 12, which is when the two $10,000 contributions were delivered to her campaign, according to the ruling.

The $25,000 contribution, however, was made by the IBEW PAC on June 12 but not physically delivered to the campaign until June 13, meaning it had to adhere to another portion of the law that calls for contributions from political committees to be limited to $1,000 upon declaration of candidacy.

“Because it exceeded the limit by $24,000, the Friends Committee will be ordered to return $24,000 to the IBEW PAC,” Foster wrote.

The ruling had both Hassan’s campaign and the state GOP declaring victory.“Today’s ruling confirms that Governor Maggie Hassan broke the law by accepting an illegal campaign contribution from a special interest union PAC,” state GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn said in a statement. “Governor Hassan was caught red-handed trying to funnel tens of thousands of dollars in illegal donations into her campaign bank account, and her behavior raises serious ethical questions about her administration.”

“We thank the Department of Justice for quickly reaffirming that these long-standing practices are in accordance with New Hampshire law,” Hassan campaign spokesman Aaron Jacobs said. “While all of the contributions were issued before the deadline, we will return the funds that were physically delivered after the deadline in line with the Department of Justice’s guidance.”

GOP’s complaint

Foster also concurred with Horn’s complaint that the three PACs violated another state law, RSA 664:3, which requires a political committee to register with the Secretary of State’s Office within 24 hours of either receiving or making a contribution of $500 or more.

The UFCW PAC and SEIU PAC registered on June 16, while the IBEW PAC registered June 17.

“Based on the timeline described in this letter, all three PACs failed to file timely registrations with the Secretary of State,” Foster wrote. “All three have been sent cease and desist letters based on this finding.”

Hassan is in Aspen, Colo., this weekend to participate in the McCloskey Speaker Series event with five other Democratic governors. William Hinkle, the governor’s office’s press secretary, said her campaign is paying for the trip, not the state.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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