A NUMBER of New Hampshire Republicans, including gubernatorial candidates Walter Havenstein and Andrew Hemingway, have signed a pledge issued by Americans for Prosperity’s New Hampshire chapter, AFP-NH. In doing so, they adopted an agenda promulgated by an out-of-state organization that refuses to disclose its financial sources.
Ironically, many of these same candidates complain bitterly about what they say is an overreaching federal government, with Washington exercising too much control over state and local government. Yet these same candidates are willing to cede their political independence to an unelected, secretive group headquartered in a Washington suburb that seeks to control our state and local governments. That is just plain wrong, and New Hampshire voters should give a resounding “no” to this effort.
AFP-NH claims 42,000 members. That number, even if accurate, is not as large as it sounds. By comparison, another Granite State affiliate of a national organization, AARP-New Hampshire, has 228,000 members. AFP-NH also is a fraction of the overall electorate. As of Jan. 15, there were 870,629 registered Granite State voters; 261,846 were Republicans. That means that only 16 percent of the GOP’s membership, and 4 percent of all voters, belong to AFP-NH, if its membership numbers are correct. Unlike political parties, the very political AFP does not have to be transparent about its actual membership.
So why are New Hampshire Republicans so eager to dance to the tune of a small, out-of-state-controlled organization? One could be the fear factor. In prior elections, Republicans who strayed from right-wing orthodoxy on marriage equality could face primaries from candidates backed by right-wing nonprofit organizations focused on social issues. These groups have faded, replaced by AFP and similar anti-government groups.
Republicans who supported bipartisan legislation to fix the state’s infrastructure through a four-cent per gallon gas tax increase, or to help 50,000 Granite Staters obtain health care through Medicaid expansion, are targeted now by groups like AFP. Several state senators face primaries because they voted for what they thought was in the state’s best interests, not what AFP and its friends wanted. Unfortunately, too many candidates lack the courage to stand up to AFP-NH and its far right ideology.
AFP has the money to follow through in expressing its anger. It has already spent millions of dollars in New Hampshire. It would be one thing if all that money came from people who cared about our state. Although campaign finance loopholes protect AFP’s backers from disclosure, Forbes Magazine, among others, has written of multimillion dollar contributions to AFP from New York City billionaire David Koch and North Carolina businessman Art Pope. In taking the AFP pledge, Havenstein, Hemingway and other Republicans are acting at the behest of monied out-of-staters.
Doing so can put candidates in awkward positions. One of the pledge components is to oppose Obamacare in all forms in New Hampshire. Yet only three months ago, Havenstein told a New Hampshire newspaper that he favored improving Obamacare, not a repeal, and that the governor could improve the program by encouraging more companies to participate in the exchange. Now he is pledging to completely oppose Obamacare because an out-of-state group funded by out-of- state billionaires asked him to do so.
New Hampshire needs candidates who put the interests of our state first, not those willing to flipflop upon demand because a group out of Virginia demands it.
Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and member of the Democratic National Commmittee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.