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Campaign Monitor

Capital Beat: When both campaigns tout support from veterans, what’s the point?

As Scott Brown released a new television ad and began his “Honoring our Veterans” tour last week, Jeanne Shaheen kept right up with his pace, holding her own “Veterans for Shaheen” event and creating a new web video highlighting veterans who have endorsed her. The message from both campaigns was clear: “I am the candidate who veterans support.”

Rolling out endorsements from or focusing a message on a specific identity group is central to any campaign – see also “Women for Brown,” “Students and Young Professionals for Brown” and “Moms for Shaheen” – but when your opponent is doing the same thing, what’s the point?

It’s partly symbolic, but primarily organizational. Finding volunteers and building a message around one issue helps campaigns organize themselves and offers a good way for voters who care deeply about a single topic to get involved.

“It’s not uncommon in modern political campaigns because it’s a way to get people that might not necessarily be part of your innate coalition,” said Candice Nelson, chairwoman of the government department at American University and an expert in congressional elections.

Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said a big question is whether campaigns actually use these voters beyond putting their names on a list of supporters. Both the Shaheen and Brown campaigns say they do.

“We’re trying to take this beyond just the press release with names,” Shaheen’s campaign manager Mike Vlacich said. “We’re getting good information from people about what they’re interested in, and then we’re aligning those people with other people interested in those issues.”

Likewise, Brown’s campaign says a focus on specific groups helps build a “volunteer army.”

“We’re running a traditional, New Hampshire-style campaign, focusing on direct voter engagement, door to door, phone calls,” campaign manager Colin Reed said. “We use coalitions as a way to build the volunteer army that you need to do all these things.”

Picking a group or an issue to focus on each week also helps give a campaign shape. Shaheen first announced a list of veteran supporters in May, and announced an expanded version of that list – with 100 total supporters – last week. Some of those supporters participated in a veteran-to-veteran phone bank on Friday night, which Shaheen attended. Shaheen’s message to veterans focuses on concrete things she’s done to help veterans during her political career, such as working with the Legislature to secure money to build the veterans cemetery when she was governor and helping bring a veterans clinic to Keene as a U.S. senator.

Brown’s campaign spent last week releasing an ad about Brown’s support for veterans, touring veterans homes and holding a town hall with veterans.

“It gives everything a structure and a backbone and just makes everything more cohesive,” Reed said.

Brown’s appeal to veterans centers on his own military career in the Army National Guard.

As the election continues, look for candidates to continue rolling out new coalitions based around a single issue. And expect the campaigns to keep going back to the groups – veterans, women, students – they’ve already highlighted.

“Campaigns are about hammering the same message over and over again in a bunch of different ways,” Scala said.

Koch brothers love Garcia

We’ve known the Koch brothers were fans of Marilinda Garcia since January, when it was reported that Aegis Strategic, a new consulting firm with ties to the brothers, picked her as its first client. As the liberal Mother Jones magazine reported, Aegis was looking to handpick candidates with a free market agenda and help them win elections.

Garcia, a staunchly conservative state representative, seemed like the perfect fit. At 31 years old, she’s represented Salem in the state Legislature for the past eight years and now hopes to win the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

Garcia’s fundraising reports show that, six months later, the Kochs are still very much interested in her candidacy.

On May 23, David Koch contributed $2,600 on May 23 and Koch Industries Political Action Committee gave her $2,600 on June 29. Her spending reports also show a charge to the St. Regis Hotel in California in mid-June, the same time the Kochs held a summit there.

“Marilinda was invited to a portion of the event and had a wonderful opportunity to speak to some of the nation’s greatest business and philanthropic leaders. These folks know how to create jobs and nothing is more important to the citizens of New Hampshire than creating jobs,” her campaign manager Tom Szold said in an email.

As for the brothers’ support of Garcia’s candidacy, Szold said the following: “Marilinda is proud of her diverse donor base, which continues growing in New Hampshire and around the country as more people see that she is the only candidate who can beat Ann Kuster.”

Crossroads calls

American Crossroads is reportedly making calls in New Hampshire.

Caroline French, a Democratic activist from Dover, told the Monitor she received a push poll call early last week with questions about Shaheen. The caller identified herself as working for TargetPoint Consulting Inc., and at the end of the call said she was calling on behalf of American Crossroads, a super PAC formed by Karl Rove.

Push polls are calls that sound like surveys but are actually a means of spreading negative information about a candidate. Push polls that don’t identify who is sponsoring the call are illegal in New Hampshire. French said the caller asked her questions about Shaheen, including whether she knew Shaheen voted with President Obama often. The poll also asked about Shaheen and health care, French said.

Another Dover resident, Donna Sgrignuoli, said she also received a push poll about Shaheen this week but hung up before hearing who the call came from. Sgrignuoli said the caller asked her to answer questions on a scale of 1 to 100 based on how angry it made her. The first question asked whether she was angry that Billy Shaheen worked with a company that accepted stimulus money. That question refers to a Boston Globe news report earlier this year that Billy Shaheen was an adviser for a company that researched breast cancer technology and received some stimulus money while Shaheen was a senator.

Sgrignuoli said she was told she would need to wait until the end of the call to hear who it was from, but that she hung up after two questions.

When asked whether American Crossroads was conducting push polls here, spokesman Paul Lindsay said, “We understand New Hampshire law and are in full compliance.”

Hassan defends donations

Gov. Maggie Hassan’s re-election campaign filed an extensive response with the state attorney general’s office regarding allegations it violated campaign finance laws by taking a $25,000 check from a labor union’s PAC. The campaign also asked the attorney general to expedite a review of the complaint from the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Concord attorney Jay Surdukowski, legal counsel for Hassan’s campaign, filed the lengthy response. He argues that precedent shows other candidates have accepted contributions larger than $5,000 from PACs before officially filing for re-election. He also points to law that shows there are no limits on how much one political action committee can give to another. The basis of the campaign’s argument is that a candidate committee can accept unlimited donations until the candidate officially files for re-election and declines to abide by voluntary spending caps.

If Hassan’s reading of the law is correct, it seems to give a major advantage to incumbents, who keep their committees registered after they win elections. Challengers, however, usually don’t decide to run until much closer to the election, giving them a smaller window to create a PAC that can take unlimited cash.

Walt Havenstein, a Republican candidate challenging Hassan, echoed the state party’s calls for an investigation into the donations.

“Campaign finance laws are established for a reason – to ensure that no one person or entity has any extraordinary influence over an elected official. It seems pretty clear by these donations, that Governor Hassan was willing to bend, if not break, the rules when it comes to her biggest supporters,” Havenstein said in a statement.

Andrew Hemingway, another Republican candidate for governor, has not spoken out on the issue.

Wait, what oil?

In another bad headline for Hassan this week, Business NH Magazine found that New Hampshire’s export growth in 2013 is much lower than the 22 percent the state boasts when you take out exports of crude oil, which New Hampshire neither produces nor refines. Based on federal calculations, New Hampshire ranked No. 1 in export growth in 2013.

But the magazine’s investigation found the growth was only 0.7 percent when oil wasn’t included. Oil included in New Hampshire’s exports merely passes through the state.

In comments to the magazine, Hassan’s office stood by the numbers.

“All exports that move through New Hampshire demonstrate the state’s critical position as an economic hub and represent meaningful economic activity, as reflected by the federal formula for export growth that is the same for every state,” Hassan’s office spokesman William Hinkle told reporter Erika Cohen.

Both Havenstein and Hemingway, however, used the report to paint Hassan as untruthful, especially in light of her recent trade mission to Turkey. Despite a travel freeze, Hassan and business representatives still went on the trip (it was paid for before the freeze) and said it was crucial for continuing New Hampshire’s economic growth and positive export numbers.

“It is very worrying that the Governor would rely on such an obviously misleading statistic. The idea that New Hampshire suddenly became a major exporter of oil is ridiculous. Is the Governor also going to claim that she created thousands of new oil jobs as well?” Havenstein said in a statement.

“She should be held accountable and she needs to explain why she felt it was okay to cook the statistic books,” Hemingway said.

The statistic came from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Commerce, not Hassan’s office or any state agency.

Campaign notes

∎ Julie Brown, the co-chairwoman of the “Women for Brown” coalition, told a Guardian US reporter last week that she thinks Brown should change his stance on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. Brown has said he supports the court’s decision because it protects religious freedom. The Guardian piece is getting well-deserved attention, mostly for a tidbit about Brown hiding in a restaurant bathroom to avoid answering questions about Hobby Lobby. But the significance of Julie Brown’s comments shouldn’t be overlooked.

∎  A new piece from the data gurus over at FiveThirtyEight shows Hassan has nearly a 100 percent chance of winning re-election and ranks at the very top of the list of states that are safe for Democrats running for the governor’s office this year. WMUR also reported that in a recent meeting of the Republican Governors Association, New Hampshire didn’t make the list of most competitive race, even though Chairman Chris Christie was just here for Havenstein last month. Couple these two things together, and you can bet the Hassan folks are happy.

∎ When former state senator Jim Lawrence jumped in the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District in June, the big question was whether he’d shake up the race. Based on fundraising numbers, he hasn’t. Although Lawrence had just a few weeks to raise money, he brought in only $5,000 in donations. Garcia and Gary Lambert are basically ignoring him as they continue to fight it out with each other. If Lawrence wants to be a contender in this race, he’ll have to make a big play soon.

∎ U.S. Senate candidate Bob Smith has booked the Rochester Fairgrounds for a fundraising event in August featuring the band Confederate Railroad, who’s hit songs have some questionable lyrics about women. According to the Conway Daily Sun , Smith also tried to get Ted Nugent and the Duck Dynasty cast to appear. The Duck Dynasty folks wanted $90,000, which is nearly half of what Smith raised last quarter.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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