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GOP bikini contest?

Last modified: 6/27/2010 12:00:00 AM
It was advertised as The Cigar Agency's 'HOTTEST party ever.' Smoke cigars by the pool, and enjoy a 'bikini hula hoop contest.'

The event? A July 11 campaign fundraiser for Republican gubernatorial candidate John Stephen at the Holiday Inn in Nashua. There were plans for a barbecue and full bar. And, according to an e-mailed ad, 'The bikini contest is professional, classy and is approved both by us and the venue.'

'Be there or you'll be stuck watching the You Tube version . . .' it continued.

Or not.

According to Stephen spokesman Greg Moore, the bikini contest was the brainchild of 'an overzealous host,' namely Victor Vitale, owner of The Cigar Agency. 'The owner decided to find a way to spice it up by adding this,' Moore said. 'He did not consult with the campaign.'

Though the event is listed on Stephen's website, there are no references to bikinis.

'There was no intention from the campaign's perspective to include a bikini-clad hula hoop contest,' Moore said. 'John made absolutely clear that this bikini contest will be canceled or the event will be canceled.'

Vitale said he throws a party for his customers every year, and after attending a Stephen fundraiser, Vitale asked the campaign if he could use his party to support Stephen. The campaign agreed, and Vitale added the bikini hula hoop without telling them. 'I thought it would be a fun addition to the party,' Vitale said. 'For me, it's a pool, and people wear the appropriate attire to the pool.'

Vitale sent an e-mail invitation to his own e-mail list - which was picked up by NHPoliticalReport.

The invitation drew immediate condemnation from Democrats. 'It's completely outrageous that John Stephen would ask women to participate in a bikini contest to raise money for his campaign,' said state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Portsmouth Democrat, in a statement.

'It looks like an ad for an X-rated website,' added state Sen. Bette Lasky, a Nashua Democrat. 'If this is the year of the Republican woman, this is an odd way to put it forth.'

Vitale said he will cancel the bikini hula-hooping. 'Obviously, it's not kosher,' he said. Vitale said this will be the first political fundraiser he has ever hosted.

Obviously.

Porcupine candidate

Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate, makes no bones about it: 'I have smoked pot.'

Johnson has also drunk alcohol. In his experience, he said in an interview, marijuana is the safer of the two.

Johnson was in New Hampshire this weekend promoting his Our America initiative and speaking at the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster. The goal of the initiative is to

'enlighten the population about civil liberties, free enterprise, limited government and traditional American values,' according to its mission statement.

Regulating marijuana is one area where Johnson believes the federal government should butt out. 'Ninety percent of drug problems are related to prohibition, not use,' he said. If the country taxes and controls marijuana, Johnson said he believes drug use will decline, particularly among children, and so will drug-related violence. 'They tried Prohibition, and it made a lot of individuals criminals who continued to drink,' Johnson said.

In general, Johnson said, the federal government must do a cost-benefit analysis of any spending - and then slash spending.

For example, Johnson would re-examine whether the U.S. needs a military presence in Japan, South Korea or Europe. He never supported the Iraq war and wants to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible.

'I don't know if we benefit any country in the world if we're bankrupt,' he said.

The Department of Education, he said, would be 'at the top of the list for being abolished,' since federal aid can actually cost states money because of the strings attached.

To make entitlement programs sustainable, Johnson said he would raise the retirement age for Social Security and institute means testing so only people below a certain income level would get help. He would also institute means testing for Medicare, and would cap the amount of money given to states for Medicaid.

Johnson dislikes Arizona's strict immigration law, because he believes the government should take less of a role in securing the borders. Rather, immigrants should be able to get work visas from employers - then pay taxes. 'Employers should determine the need for workers,' Johnson said. 'If there are not jobs, they won't hang around.'

This is Johnson's third trip to New Hampshire, because he believes that the first-in-the-nation primary state 'has the ability to change the rest of the country.'

Conflict of interest?

The legislative committee investigating the state's response to the alleged Financial Resources Mortgage fraud last week talked about potential conflicts of interest involving a Boston law firm hired by the attorney general's office to analyze state securities laws.

The firm, Nutter McClennan & Fish, previously represented the Pennichuck Corp. in a dispute with the state Bureau of Securities Regulation.

The Pennichuck dispute was settled in 2004, but just how nasty it got is obvious from a March 2004 letter from Securities Director Mark Connolly to Michael Krebs, the attorney who attended the FRM hearing.

Connolly wrote: 'It appears our working relationship with your firm has been on a steady decline over the past month and that our negotiations regarding resolving the Pennichuck Corp. case have deteriorated to the point where a dialogue may no longer serve a useful purpose.' The letter quoted the attorneys as saying the Securities Bureau had 'acted in bad faith' and saying, 'I can't wait to get you in court.'

Krebs said at the hearing that the case was settled with no lingering resentment.

But apparently the discussion worried some executive councilors. The attorney general this week asked the Executive Council to draft a letter requesting him to select a lawyer to represent the council in its attempts to remove Banking Commissioner Peter Hildreth for his role in failing to catch the alleged FRM Ponzi scheme.

Councilor Ray Burton, a Bath Republican, then quoted a Monitor article about the law firm's potential conflicts.

'It's time we had some outside group or a few people taking an overall look at how things are being administered in this government,' Burton said.

The budget-fix bill passed during the special legislative session authorizes the legislative committee and Administrative Services commissioner to hire a consultant to review the way the state regulates securities and financial services.

The consultant will be picked through a competitive bid, with a scoring process. Councilor Debora Pignatelli, a Nashua Democrat, said she wanted to ensure that the consultant had nothing to do with writing previous reports, or with the entities being investigated.

Burton added, 'No conflicts. I don't want to even have hints of them.'

Investors who lost money have written to the state asking for an independent investigation. Lynch said he would tell them about the independent consultant. In addition, the FBI, SEC and legislative committee are investigating.

'We have enough reviews going on that are sufficient,' Lynch said. Lynch said he understands the calls for another investigation, but added, 'We can have a dozen investigations and they won't get their money back.'

Budget worry

The U.S. Senate has rejected a pared-down proposal to increase the amount of money states would get for Medicaid reimbursements. Republican senators had said the enhanced FMAP money, as the reimbursement is called, would cost too much. Under the stimulus act, Congress increased the reimbursement rates by 6.2 percent through December 2010. Originally, Congress talked about continuing the increase for six months. The most recent plan would increase the rates by 3.2 percent for three months, then 1.2 percent for three months. An amendment may still be reintroduced with the pared-down proposal.

New Hampshire has budgeted $48 million of extended FMAP money - a hole that would have to be filled if the extension isn't passed at all. If the pared-down proposal goes through, the state would lose $19 million.

Gov. John Lynch said he is continuing to talk to the Obama administration and the congressional delegation. 'Forty-seven governors - Republican and Democrat - have stood in support of this legislation to extend health care and employment benefits,' said Lynch spokesman Colin Manning. 'It's time for the obstruction to end, and for this legislation to pass.'

Massachusetts, by the way, created its budget without relying on enhanced FMAP money.

Legislative investigation?

The Legislative Ethics Committee, which investigates potential rule violations by House members, cannot reveal whether it has received a complaint against an individual until after a preliminary review. So we don't know if House Majority Floor Leader Dan Eaton will be investigated for conduct regarding a liquor enforcement action in Keene - conduct laid out in the attorney general's petition to remove Liquor Commissioner Mark Bodi.

Here's what Ethics Committee Chairman Martin Gross could say: He will be scheduling a meeting in July to consider whatever business the committee may have. The committee previously met in May and February.

Governors associations

The Washington-based Democratic Governors Association is getting involved in Lynch's re-election. The DGA's New Hampshire PAC has raised $203,000 in New Hampshire and spent $71,000 so far - all funneled directly to the state Democratic Party. Under state law, New Hampshire PACs can transfer unlimited amounts of money between one another. The DGA PAC rolled over $113,000 from its 2008 committee and raised the rest of the money from out-of-state companies, industry groups, law firms, engineering firms and lobbyists.

'Both sides are going to have groups invested in the upcoming election,' said Democratic Party Executive Director Mike Brunelle. 'I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary.'

The Washington-based Republican Governors Association raised $45,000 - also from out-of-state companies - and spent $39,000. Of that, $17,900 went to a media buy for an ad criticizing Lynch. Another $21,000 went to survey research.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Stephen has raised $664,000 for his race, and spent just $63,000. Lynch has not filed yet.

Sanborn PAC

State senate candidate Andy Sanborn has started a PAC to help small businesses. So far, he has received $1,600. The biggest expense? That was $1,200 to Sanborn as a reimbursement for printing and office expenses.

Campaign tidbits

Democratic 2nd District congressional candidate Ann McLane Kuster announced that former U.S. rear admiral John Hutson and former U.S. ambassador Terry Shumaker will serve as senior advisors on international and military policy issues. Hutson is the dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center. A longtime Republican, he switched parties to endorse President Obama. Shumaker, a former U.S. Army captain and U.S. ambassador, was a longtime supporter of President Bill Clinton, who appointed him to the National Commission for Employment Policy. Shumaker is a former director of NEA-NH.

• NH Politics with John Burt, a public access TV show, is holding a Republican gubernatorial debate with candidates Stephen, Karen Testerman and Jack Kimball on July 1 in Manchester. Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek will moderate.

• Republican Senate candidate Jim Bender signed a pledge that he will work to repeal the federal estate tax.

• Republican 2nd District congressional candidate Jennifer Horn was featured on Sarah Palin's radio show.

• Republican 2nd District congressional candidate Charlie Bass has received support from six sheriffs, including Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard.


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