Republicans call for investigation into $25,000 contribution to Hassan
Correction: This story has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to a 2010 decision from the Attorney General about contributions in the gubernatorial campaign. This story originally stated the decision related to how much money candidate John Stephen accepted from PACs. The decision, however, related to contributions from individuals. It said campaigns can accept up to $5,000 from individuals during the period before they declare and up to $1,000 in the general election. It made no ruling on contributions from PACs to candidates.
A $25,000 contribution from a labor union’s political action committee to Gov. Maggie Hassan is the subject of a complaint filed yesterday by the New Hampshire Republican Party with the state attorney general.
Reports filed with the secretary of state’s office in June show the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC gave $25,000 to Friends of Maggie Hassan on June 12, the same day Hassan officially filed to run for re-election. The Republican Party says this donation violates the state’s political contribution limits. But Hassan’s campaign and the IBEW say the contribution was legal because it was made before she was officially a candidate. Committee reports were due June 18, but candidate reports are not due until Aug. 2, so it’s unclear how much Hassan has raised at this point.
Assistant Attorney General Steve LaBonte said the department will likely begin looking into the complaint immediately, but he doesn’t have a time frame for when it will be resolved. He declined to comment further on the complaint.
Contribution laws say candidates for office who do not accept a voluntary spending cap can take up to $5,000 from individuals during both the primary and general election and up to $1,000 from committees in both periods. Over the years, the attorney general’s office has acknowledged that New Hampshire’s campaign contribution laws are murky. This issue revolves around whether a candidate can accept unlimited contributions from committees before actually filing to become a candidate.
In a 2012 letter to the secretary of state’s office clarifying the contribution law, the attorney general’s office wrote, “political committees associated with a candidate may accept contributions that are not in excess of $5,000 until such time as the candidate files for office and declines to agree to voluntary campaign expenditure limits.”
The New Hampshire Republican Party points to that limit as it calls the contributions to Hassan illegal.
“The law and the opinion of the Attorney General is clear: candidates are held to a $5,000 limit in the period before they declare their candidacy. Governor Hassan’s alarming misinterpretation of the law shows that she doesn’t believe she has to adhere to any campaign contribution limits before she officially files her candidacy,” Republican Party spokeswoman Lauren Zelt said in a statement.
Records show Hassan received several other big donations June 12: Both the Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education and the United Food and Commercial Workers Active Ballot Club each gave her $10,000. Neither of those committees, nor the IBEW PAC, recorded any contributions, making it impossible to tell where the money for the donations to Hassan came from.
But Hassan’s campaign said state law doesn’t limit contributions from committee to committee and that, before officially filing, a candidate’s committee can collect as much money as it wants. Her campaign pointed to previous contributions to former governor John Lynch before he was officially a candidate. In 2006, for example, Lynch took $25,000 from a group called Heartland PAC on June 14, 2006, which was before he filed for re-election. In December 2005, he also received $5,000 from the group. It appears no one challenged those contributions in 2006.
Hassan filed for re-election the same day of the recorded contribution from the IBEW.
“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 spokesman Aaron Jacobs said in a statement.
A local spokesperson for the IBEW said the group is also confident the donation was within the law.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)