Ayotte disclosure 7 months overdue

Last modified: 12/16/2010 12:00:00 AM
Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte filed a personal financial disclosure form yesterday, seven months after it was due.

The late disclosure was filed after the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics posted an item on its Open Secrets blog questioning why the mandatory filing was missing.

Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said Ayotte, a Republican, was not aware that she needed to file the form. 'She has now completed the additional form and submitted it to the Senate,' Grappone said.

Ayotte will likely face a $200 penalty for the late filing.

According to federal law, candidates and members of Congress must file annual financial disclosure reports, making public their income, assets and liabilities. Candidates must file for the first time generally within 30 days of becoming a candidate, and by May 15 of every subsequent year that the person remains a candidate or public official.

Ayotte launched her candidacy in July 2009 and filed a disclosure form in November 2009, which she amended with minor changes two months later. That disclosure form covered all of 2008 through the time the report was filed in 2009.

Ayotte's next form, which should have covered all of 2009, was due in May 2010 but was never filed. Grappone said that was because Ayotte did not earn any more income that year, beyond what she already reported. (Ayotte resigned from her job as state attorney general to run for Senate.)

'Having received no additional income, we were unaware that she needed to file an additional form,' Grappone said. Senate rules require a candidate to file, regardless of income.

The lapse caught the attention of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money in politics, when researchers were doing an update on the personal finances of members of Congress.

'Despite many phone calls to her office, her campaign staff and the Senate itself, we still have no concrete answers from any of them as to why it is unavailable,' Dave Levinthal, OpenSecrets blog editor for the Center for Responsive Politics, said yesterday.

In addition to being a legal requirement, Levinthal said the financial disclosure is important for members of Congress who may have stakes in companies that have interests in Congress or get government contracts.

'It's pretty critical information for constituents,' Levinthal said. 'You can see types of investments that could possibly be a conflict of interest in a person's ability to conduct their job as a public representative.'

The financial disclosure form submitted yesterday, which Ayotte's office provided to the Monitor, showed little change from her previous form.

In 2009, Ayotte earned $83,000 for working part of the year as attorney general. Her husband, Joe Daley, owned a landscaping and snowplowing business, valued between $100,000 and $250,000.

Ayotte has a bank account containing between $100,000 and $250,000 and benefits from the New Hampshire retirement system worth between $50,000 and $100,000. She or her husband have several investment accounts, mostly worth less than $15,000.

Candidates are asked to check a box for each asset with a range of values, so exact numbers are unknown. The only change from her previous filing is that Daley appears to have paid off several loans on trucks and equipment.

Other than Ayotte, all of New Hampshire's members of Congress had previously filed updated disclosure forms - which have faced public scrutiny. Republican Rep.-elect Charlie Bass disclosed that he had between $1 million and $5 million worth of stock in New England Wood Pellet, where he is also a manager. The company's president is related to Bass, and questions were raised during Bass's campaign about whether he used his influence as a congressman to help the company, which he then bought stock in.

Republican Rep. Frank Guinta reported a previously undisclosed bank account worth between $250,000 and $500,000 - raising questions during his campaign about the source of money that he loaned his campaign.

Complaints were filed about his disclosure forms during the campaign, but an attorney for the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct told Guinta this week that his forms 'are in substantial compliance' with ethics rules and have been approved by the committee.

Shaheen's most recent form mostly shows assets belonging to her husband, including rental real estate and stock investments.

(Shira Schoenberg can be reached at 369-3319 or sschoenberg@cmonitor.com.)

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