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Editorial: Problems of money and perception

Gov. Maggie Hassan

Gov. Maggie Hassan

The idea that an elected official can be bought and sold in America amounts to a threat against the very nature of democracy. That is where the anxiety of the electorate resides when it comes to political fundraising.

In that sense, the debate over campaign finance reform often comes down to perception. Voters want assurances that their elected officials operate above the influence of money, and this is accomplished by clear laws and accurate, public accounting.

When legal clarity regarding fund-raising is absent, however, the way a candidate or official interprets the law becomes important to voters.

That is the slippery slope upon which Gov. Maggie Hassan finds herself since the New Hampshire Republican Party challenged three contributions – two for $10,000 and one for $25,000 – from labor organizations to the Friends of Maggie Hassan political action committee.

The Hassan campaign accepted all three donations June 12, the same day Hassan filed to run for re-election. Republicans say that violated state campaign laws.

In New Hampshire, campaigns are allowed to accept up to $5,000 from a single donor during the period before a candidate files to run for office.

But the rules for PACs are less clear. The key question is whether a PAC is free to give as much money as it wants to another PAC even when that PAC is tied to a candidate.

In simpler terms, the Hassan campaign is arguing that because Friends of Maggie Hassan existed as a pre-declaration PAC and not a candidate committee, the state’s limit on contributions did not apply. State Republicans don’t agree, and they’re citing a letter from then-Attorney General Michael Delaney to Secretary of State William Gardner in 2012 that stated: “Contributions to, and expenditures and reporting by, political committees on behalf of people who are not yet declared candidates are also governed by RSA 664:4 (the state law outlining prohibited political contributions).”

So now the matter is in the hands of lawyers. But regardless of the decision arrived at by the attorney general’s office, Hassan has a perception problem on her hands. A campaign’s broad interpretation of campaign finance laws is akin to a child hearing only what he or she wants to hear, and the political damage can be significant.

Take, for example, the fact that the $25,000 donation to the Friends of Maggie Hassan on June 12 came from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a group that happens to support the Northern Pass project.

With that tidbit, it’s possible that concerns about influence could enter the picture, and suddenly $25,000 has bought the campaign nothing but legal problems, anxiety for supporters and fuel for opponents who can spin the Hassan campaign’s interpretation of law into something much more sinister.

Lawyers are often celebrated for their ability to find loopholes, but voters are better served when campaigns put their effort into searching for the law’s intent.

Legacy Comments9

There is a solution to all of this campaign finance money and divide between what is free speech and what is not. It is pretty simple: 1) Allow candidates to spend only a set amount on campaigns. 2) Truth in advertising-Do not allow ads that do not state facts versus things like "was critical in supporting". If they did not lead the charge or personally accomplish something, it can't be mentioned in an ad. 3) Do not allow negative ads 4) Debates should be based on "what is your view" with no personal attack on others allowed. Back and forth as to why they feel the way they do. 5) Require the press to be neutral in their coverage allowing equal time without bias 6) Limit terms to 6 years, 3 House terms, 1 Senate terms....allow more people to serve Let the people decide and vote based on "facts" and the approach to government they want versus empty promises, playing to special interest groups and promising them the world, etc. I know that this is unrealistic but one could hope.

Unions and corporations both try to buy influence. It's up to candidates to decline when such an obvious connection as that between IBEW and Northern Pass exists. If any of the IBEW contribution comes from Northeast Utilities, it's both birds with one stone.

Give the money back.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that outside groups can pour HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars into New Hampshire politics without a whisper of protest, yet when local unions contribute to their local Democratic allies there is great big noisy fuss over a seeming technicality? Isn't this a little bit like saving the burning dog house while the house and barn go up in flames? If influence peddling is really your concern, I suggest you look at what super PACS are able to do as a result of Citizens United. That's where the real corruption is.

problem is that the PACs record of supporting the winners blows your entire premises out of the water. For instance the Crossroads PAC - name the candidates they supported that actually got elected - democrats live in the narrative world - never in the world of FACTS

Which premise is that? This one -- it's only wrong for ultra wealthy individuals to infest the political process with gazillions of dollars if all their candidates win? This is not a partisan issue. Don't try to make it that. Enormous sums of money have corrupted our politics -- doesn't matter which party it comes from. Once some candidates have that kind of money, all of them have to have it or they cant' compete.

let me see if I can help here..Small Government..limited Government. Thats what you should want...the problem is government is huge and controls far too much..sounds to me like you are wasting too much time on the symptom of a much larger problem

And I bet you think the small person has no sway and yet you are probably a member of AARP or the Sierra Club. Do you own a window - then the national fenestration council represents your interests in DC - Do you own a bike ? - Do you drink water - they to have people pushing your interests - Liberals...... sheeeesh

Challenge to Lucky48 - Name 1 piece of legislation where you can prove Big money bought the 218 House votes and the 60 senators and the president s signature - You cant and wont you will just push your fact less narrative. Until you can prove that you are just spouting a narrative without any facts or proof. Your narrative is as crazy as someone walking across the USA

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