My Turn: Who invested in that election? (And what did they want from the winner?)
In her bid to become New Hampshire governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan raised more than $1.9 million from more than 7,500 individual donors. But Hassan’s victory was greatly helped by a small number of independent political groups that spent more than $11 million to support her candidacy and influence the outcome of the election.
Hassan’s Republican opponent, Ovide Lamontagne, who also raised about $1.9 million from individual donors, received a lot of outside help too. The Live Free PAC, for instance, spent almost $8 million on advertising attacking Hassan.
By the time the votes were counted, outside groups including American Crossroads, NH Citizens for a Stronger Economy, Americans for Prosperity, and Women Vote! had invested almost $20 million in New Hampshire’s 2012 governor’s race, dwarfing the amount spent by the candidates and their parties.
Money from groups like these also poured into races for the New Hampshire Senate and Executive Council.
It’s painfully obvious that a handful of independent groups have a huge vested interest in who sits in New Hampshire’s State House. So who’s behind these groups? And what do they want from New Hampshire’s government?
The frightening truth is that we don’t know who is behind these blatant attempts to influence the outcome of our elections. This is because corporations, super PACs, unions and other organizations are able to make unlimited independent expenditures to influence elections without disclosing where the money they are spending is coming from. This lack of transparency in campaign spending is something we can fix, and fix right now.
A bill being debated in the New Hampshire Senate calls for full disclosure of all election spending. Senate Bill 120 is a well-researched, well-conceived solution to the intolerable situation we’re in. It is in the best interest of every New Hampshire citizen that every senator embraces the disclosure and transparency provided by this bill. It gives no political party an advantage, treating corporations, trade unions and other organizations equally. It is good for Republicans, and it is good for Democrats. Most important, it is good for the people of our state.
And it’s in the interest of each of our senators as well. Any one of them seeking re-election faces the possibility of being blindsided by a well-funded, anonymous campaign challenging his or her record or integrity.
And there might be another important benefit of SB 120. We’ve witnessed too many dedicated public servants leaving office because the atmosphere has become stifling and toxic. If campaigning for office continues to be so heavily affected by anonymous influences running negative advertising, we fear even more incumbents will choose not to run, thus potentially depriving us of quality leadership in challenging times. SB 120 just might encourage more of our finest leaders to seek public office and work to make New Hampshire an even better place to live work and raise a family.
As my dear friend Warren Rudman wrote about the lack of transparency just a few months before his death, “No thinking person can deny that the current situation is unacceptable and intolerable.”
I urge all senators to engage in a bipartisan effort to enact this legislation that is so essential to strengthening the integrity of our political process. Full disclosure, as proposed in SB 120, is a prudent and important first step in restoring some sanity and accountability to the way we choose who represents us.
(John Rauh of New Castle is a former Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate and founder and chairman of Americans for Campaign Reform.)