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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.)

Legacy Comments11

Thanks for all your work on this issue, John. The goal should be to get all private money out of elections. Let local voters vote for local candidates without any influence from outside sources. Why should people in another state have any influence over who we elect as governor? Aren't we smart enough to figure that out for ourselves?

All the low information democrat voter needs is to see a (d) next to a name - FACTS put into evidence - A U.S. District Court judge has rejected a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — filled when the Department of Justice barred the city of Kinston, N.C. from holding nonpartisan elections — reasoning that lack of access to party affiliation would discriminate against minority voters who otherwise wouldn’t know how to find Democratic candidates on a ballot.

Excellent column, Mr. Rauh. Any senator or rep who votes against this bill should be asked: "What do you have to hide?". The money spent to influence elections should be 100% transparent. Period.

Translation.,, democrats don't want anyone running negative ads against them..and won't this run counter to the citizens united court case..,??... settled law and all that????

GWTW, are you for undisclosed, unlimited campaign contributions? How does that contribute to a democracy? Don't you want to know who's bankrolling our candidates--Republican or Democrat?

What does current law say about it????

There are plenty of places on the internet where you can view individual contributions as well as corporate contributions. I know who bankrolls what and on the Democrat side, it is mainly unions who want to get something for free and keep the gravy train going. On the Republican side it is pretty much companies who are being strangulated by some regulations which are onerous.

The answers to your questions Gen_X_er are, 1) yes. 2) it doesn't. 3) no.

Wrong on almost every point. First, historically, it has been incumbents of both parties who want to limit campaign spending because they have an inherently superior position when elections come about. And both parties decry negative ads even while they run them. Next, the answer to your question about Citizens United is no. Citizens United was about whether corporations, unions and others could use their own money to finance political advertisements. It had nothing to do at all with disclosure of who spent what on which candidates. In fact, in its ruling, the Court presumed that such disclosure would happen. Citizens United is not what many, including you, think it is. And as for campaign finance being settled law, there is another case heading to the Supreme Court this year on the same topic, so it's far from settled.

Of course, Democrats have been money laundering fro a very long time but I wanted to bring up another point. To make elections fair, we ought to do two things which would require the Constitution to be amended. I would love to see all press outlets offering equal reporting on both candidates without opinion. Sort of a two viewpoint kind of coverage and take the opinion out of the reporting and interviewing. Next, I would like to see a system where we still have an electoral college but reduce the weight of the states with huge cities where the minority is disenfranchised by sheerr numbers of people flocking together with the same political view. What a New Yorker feels is fair and moral might not be what 90% of North Dakotans think. Don't forget that many Democrats hold on to their seats by building dependency and through union money laundering.

This letter is ridiculous. It is written by a Republican that is seeing his party losing because it doesn't appeal to minorities or woman and is trying to think of a way where a red and white state like No. Dakota would have as much influence as a blue New York or California with 10 times the population. As to unbiased press outlets being fair lets start with Fox news which has more influence than all the other cable channels combined.

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