CONCORD — Days after Gov. Chris Sununu and his staff refused to release detailed information about the six-figure payments they received from his nonprofit inaugural committee, a Democratic state Senator has introduced a bill that would require significantly more disclosure from such funds.
The bill, sponsored by Dan Feltes, D-Concord, would cap donations to gubernatorial inaugural committees at $10,000 and mandate that the committees file a report with the Secretary of State’s office within 48 hours of expending more than $1,000 and provide receipts for any payments made to the governor-elect or his or her immediate family. It would take effect in 2020.
“These are modest reforms to enhance transparency and to help eliminate actual, or at least the possible public perception of self-dealing,” Feltes said, adding that the inaugural committees “shouldn’t be slush funds.”
The bill has not yet been assigned a number or to a committee. Feltes said he will now begin gathering support for it from other lawmakers.
Last month, the Union Leader reported that The Sununu Inaugural Celebration Inc., a 501c(4) nonprofit set up to fund the governor’s inaugural parties, had paid out more than $165,000 to the governor, members of his family and close advisers.
A company owned by Sununu’s sister, Catherine, received more than $50,000. Catherine Sununu is the chairman of the committee.
Paul Collins, the committee’s treasurer and Sununu’s senior adviser, received more than $47,000.
And the committee issued checks worth nearly $40,000 to the governor himself, including several for more than $5,000 for the purpose of “travel.”
The Sununu Inaugural Celebration Inc. was funded primarily by large donations — including three for $25,000 — from corporations and lobbyists.
“As Governor Sununu has long stated, our office stands ready and willing to work with the legislature to enact practical and fair updates to the statute,” the governor’s spokesman, Ben Vihstadt, wrote in an email. “Governor Sununu will carefully review the final language of this legislation should it reach his desk. As you are aware, the Sununu Inaugural Celebration has fully complied and made all disclosures as required by law, and will continue to do so.”
Sununu is the first governor who has been required by a 2016 law to periodically file donation and expenditure reports for his inaugural committee, although former Gov. John Lynch did so voluntarily and Maggie Hassan disclosed the donors to her committee but not its expenses.
Sununu’s office, in response to records requests from the Union Leader and the New Hampshire Democratic Party, has declined to provide more detailed documentation of the payments from the inaugural committee to the governor, his family and staff.
The bill would cap donations to gubernatorial inaugural committees at $10,000 and require that committees file a report with the Secretary of State’s office within 48 hours of spending more than $1,000.