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N.H. AG investigating Americans for Prosperity nonprofit status during campaign season

  • Greg Moore, New Hampshire state director for Americans for Prosperity, speaks in favor of “The New Hampshire Right to Work Act” during a Senate Commerce Committee public hearing at the State House in Concord on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file



Monitor staff
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office is investigating the nonprofit status of Americans for Prosperity after a group of Republican representatives accused the conservative activist group of improperly wading into state elections.

In a June 25 letter, seven Republican House members raised concerns over a series of mailers sent by the organization that appeared to target specific lawmakers over their voting records. Many of the flyers center around a 2017 “right-to-work” bill, which would have prevented private and public sector unions from imposing automatic union dues on employees.

That bill, Senate Bill 11, died in the House, 200-177, with 33 Republicans joining Democrats in opposition – in a blow to both Gov. Chris Sununu and Americans for Prosperity, who championed it.

Under New Hampshire law, any organization that “that promotes the success or defeat of a candidate or candidates” is deemed a political committee and expected to register with the secretary of state. In their letter, the seven representatives included example mailers that feature their names, arguing that the ads are intended to encourage their defeat.

One flyer reads, on one side: “Why is your representative restricting worker freedoms?” On the other, it singles out Rep. Matthew Scruton, R-Rochester. “Rep. Matthew Scruton voted against giving Granite State workers our right-to-work!” it adds boldly.

Another provides a contrast. “Governor Sununu supports worker rights in the Granite State,” says one side. The other: “But what has Rep. Philip Bean done for us?”

None of the mail advertisements, which the House members attached to the end of their letter, include a direct mention of the election; they simply implore voters to call each representative and “demand that he supports right-to-work.”

But the seven members, who include Scruton and Bean, say that the implication is nonetheless strong. And they say that it violates provisions of RSA 664, which lays out requirements for political committee registration.

“We believe that these paid advertisements are politically targeted attacks against individuals in office and/or candidates and violate the 401(c)(4) requirements for a social welfare organization doing business in NH,” the letter reads. “We believe that AFP is misusing their non-profit 401(c)(4) social welfare status by engaging in targeted political attack advertisements against many NH state representatives and/or candidates that have opposed AFP endorsed bills, including ‘Right to Work.’ ”

Greg Moore, New Hampshire state director for Americans for Prosperity, was not immediately available to comment.

In an email Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Broadhead confirmed that the office received the letter and is investigating the matter. He declined to comment further.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)