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Senate GOP says Youssef must explain

Last modified: 9/14/2012 12:00:00 AM
In a rare move, the Republican leadership of the state Senate told Republican Senate candidate Josh Youssef yesterday to publicly answer the allegations and questions surrounding his campaign because voters deserve it.

"These allegations are serious and deserve to be fully investigated," Senate President Peter Bragdon and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said in a statement yesterday, responding to Monitor questions about Youssef's clouded bid for the Senate.

"The voters in District 7 deserve to know all the facts from Mr. Youssef in the most transparent manner possible," the statement said. "It is Mr. Youssef's responsibility to assure the voters that he meets the character expectations they have of him."

In the last several days, Youssef, 36, of Laconia, has been accused of violating election laws by allegedly using the identities of Franklin's mayor and a Manchester attorney to advance his campaign, according to a complaint filed with the state attorney general's office.

The complaint, filed by attorney Ed Mosca, who represents Youssef's ex-wife in the former couple's divorce, makes two allegations against Youssef.

Mosca alleges Youssef is tied to deceitful campaign fliers sent to Franklin voters and to a phony blog using the name Ed Mosca that appeared days before this week's primary election. That blog, which suggested Mosca was supporting Youssef in his Senate race, disappeared yesterday, the day the Monitor reported Mosca had filed his complaint with the state.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Mavrogeorge said yesterday his office will still investigate the complaint even though the site is now down.

Youssef has also declined to answer questions about court records in his divorce case that say he failed to pay as much as $50,000 in federal income taxes over the last several years. Youssef has similarly declined to answer questions about a judge's April finding that he has been under-reporting his income to the court as the court tries to calculate his child support obligation.

A district court judge ruled in April that Youssef owes $17,000 in back child support to his 9-year-old son because he under-reported his assets, according to court records. Youssef is disputing that, according to court records.

Youssef did not respond to email and phone messages left yesterday after Bragdon and Bradley spoke to him. He was quoted on the website of the Laconia Daily Sun yesterday describing his campaign this way. "We worked very hard and ran an honest and clean campaign."

Youssef beat Republican challenger Bill Grimm of Franklin in Tuesday's primary. He faces Democrat Andrew Hosmer of Laconia in the general election. The district includes Franklin and Laconia and several towns just outside Concord.

Youssef supporters reached yesterday, including conservative political action groups such as NH Liberty Alliance and Cornerstone Action, said they continue to support Youssef.

Bradley and Bragdon don't share that enthusiasm.

Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, said he thought Youssef was "receptive" to his and Bragdon's request for more transparency. Bradley said he and Bragdon, a Milford Republican, did not ask Youssef to drop his candidacy. But Bradley said he has serious concerns about Youssef's approach to campaigning.

"It would be fair to say that I expect that these questions and allegations are answered fully and completely, and if he's unable to do so, I would expect him to remove himself from the ballot."

State law does not allow someone to drop out of a race after the filing period unless they move from their district, die or become physically unable to serve.

Party leaders - from either political party - are loathe to call out another member publicly, and Bradley was clearly uncomfortable doing so yesterday.

"I've only been majority leader for two years," he said. "I haven't dealt with this before and I hope I never have to deal with this again."

 Many requests


The Monitor has sought clarification multiple times from Youssef about court records indicating he owes the IRS at much as $50,000 in tax debt. The paper has also asked him to respond to a judge's finding that he is under-reporting his assets for child support payments. Youssef maintains that those are private matters in his divorce case.

Youssef, however, made select parts of his divorce case public this year when he filed a petition with the House Redress of Grievances Committee alleging the family courts had violated his rights, in part by granting him only supervised visits with his son for 18 months.

The Republican led House committee agreed with Youssef in an 8-2 vote along party lines and has recommended impeachment investigations of the judges in the case.

The Monitor has asked the family court in Laconia to unseal Youssef's financial affidavits filed in his divorce case. Youssef's attorney objected to the paper's request, filed in late August, and the court has scheduled a hearing on the matter for October.

The Monitor has also attempted to speak with Youssef about questions raised in the last several days about this campaigning.

Late last week, Franklin Republicans received Youssef campaign fliers that contained a hand-written note of support from "Ken." Those notes prompted more than a dozen people to approach Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield and ask him why he had switched his support from Youssef's challenger to Youssef.

Merrifield informed them he hadn't.

Youssef told the Monitor by email that he had a campaign volunteer named Ken and had no intention of suggesting Merrifield supported him. He declined to put the paper in touch with the volunteer.

According to Mosca's complaint with the state attorney general's office, Youssef's son, who was in the campaign office when the fliers were being addressed, saw Youssef's girlfriend signing the name "Ken" to the notes. Youssef's girlfriend has not returned a request for comment.

Also in his complaint, Mosca said he discovered Monday that someone had copied his personal blog and replaced the content with letters of support for Youssef. The two blogs looked identical, and both were called The Ed Mosca Blog.

The difference was that Mosca uses his real blog to expose what he alleges is Youssef's stonewalling in the child support case. The phony blog did not say it was owned or created by Youssef, who designs websites, but Mosca argued in his complaint to the state that it could be tied to Youssef by a trace of the website address.



Youssef maintains a campaign website containing the same letters of support that appeared on the phony Mosca blog before it was taken down. The supporters contacted yesterday are standing by Youssef.

The NH Liberty Alliance endorsed Youssef and gave him $100 for his campaign, according to campaign filings. Eileen Landies, the chairwoman of the alliance's board of directors, said the group supported Youssef because his answers on a questionnaire showed him to be liberty minded.

Landies said the group does not consider campaign season allegations or a candidate's personal background in making endorsements.

"The potential for mudsling during a political campaign is extremely high," Landies said. "We can only hope that the individuals who returned the surveys answered the questions honestly."

The New Hampshire chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus is also standing by its endorsement of Youssef.

"I'm not aware of any impropriety on the part of Josh Youssef as your message suggested," wrote the group's chairwoman Carolyn McKinney in response to a Monitor inquiry. "What I do know is that (Youssef) is an outstanding and outspoken voice for the cause of liberty in this state. The (Republican Liberty Caucus) was proud to actively support his campaign in the primary, and we will continue to support him in the general election."

Her statement continued, "Josh as a state senator will be a great asset to his district and to the State of New Hampshire."

Cornerstone Action, a conservative political action committee that opposes abortion rights and gay marriage, endorsed Youssef because he shares the group's views, said Shannon McGinley, the group's acting director in an email.

"I decline to comment on the methods Joshua Yousef is using on his campaign, since I am not aware of them," McGinley wrote. "I can tell you that Mr. Youssef met the requirements for inclusion on Cornerstone's Voter Guide, since he signed and dated Cornerstone's Families First Pledge," which supports "traditional families" and opposes abortion.

McGinely said Youssef will continue to "appear favorably" on Cornerstone's voter guide "because he has promised to support traditional values and the natural rights of families, and Cornerstone has no reason to doubt him."

McGinley went on to say that Youssef's divorce case and his petition to the House redress committee makes him an especially qualified Senate candidate. She cited the committee's conclusion that Youssef was wronged by the family courts.

"Mr. Yousef has personal experience with the natural rights of parents, and as I understand it, his parental rights were unduly taken away from him," she wrote. "I would think voters would want to support someone who has personal experience with the abuses of our family court system. It's pretty clear that Mr. Youssef would be more knowledgeable than other senators on the topic and in a better position to offer solutions to the problems that led to the abuses."

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)


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