Democratic candidates for governor spar over campaign contributions

  • Molly Kelly

  • Steve Marchand

For the Monitor
Friday, May 18, 2018

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand on Friday announced that his campaign will return the corporate contributions it’s accepted.

“We seek to practice what we preach in terms of fundamentally transforming the way campaigns are funded in New Hampshire,” the former Portsmouth mayor said, indicating he will return $13,000 in corporate contributions he’s received since launching his second straight campaign for governor.

Former state Sen. Molly Kelly of Harrisville, who joined Marchand in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last month, urged him to give back the money.

“Kelly is the only candidate in this race – not Chris Sununu and not Steve Marchand – who has not accepted a penny of corporate contributions,” her campaign said.

Last week, Marchand announced a plan that would give incentives to candidates running for governor, the Executive Council and the state Senate to raise money from small-dollar in-state donors rather than from wealthy out-of-state contributors, lobbyists, corporations and political-action committees.

Soon after that announcement Marchand said that he wouldn’t take corporate contributions “going forward.”

On Friday, Marchand reiterated that pledge, but went a step further.

“Although less than one-quarter of 1 percent of our contributors were classified as corporate, we have contacted all six people and let them know we are returning their contribution,” he said.

He also touted that more than 90 percent of his contributors are from within New Hampshire and that the average contribution received was under $80.

For the second time in recent days, Marchand also invited Kelly to join him in taking the People’s Pledge.

The pledge to limit third party spending in an election gained attention in 2012 when it was agreed to by Massachusetts incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.

Both Brown and Warren agreed that if an outside group aired TV ads using independent expenditures, the candidate who benefited from that spending would contribute an amount equal to half the cost to charity.

There were attempts to implement the pledge in New Hampshire’s 2014 and 2016 U.S. Senate campaigns but no agreements were reached between the candidates.

Kelly’s campaign told the Monitor on Friday they’ve received no direct communication from the Marchand campaign regarding the People’s Pledge.

Marchand’s announcement came hours before he was to hold a town hall on campaign finance reform at New England College’s downtown Concord location on North Main Street.

His proposal would set up a public campaign finance system that would provide matching state funds to gubernatorial candidates who don’t accept PAC or lobbyist contributions and who raise $250,000 in small donations ranging from $5 to $100. Ninety percent of those contributions would have to be raised from within New Hampshire.

Marchand and Kelly face off in the September Democratic gubernatorial primary, with the winner taking on Sununu in November’s general election. Sununu is the state’s first Republican governor in a dozen years.