HB 1704, DOA - But Redeemable!

Representative Shaun Doherty, a taxpayer friend in the House, sponsored a bill called #1704 which was morphed into something with the potential to open up small 501 (c) 4 non-profits like CNHT to endless litigation or other trouble with our political opponents.

I hear it has been “laid on the table,” as in, what you would do to a corpse in the morgue.

Great news!!

But now that the can of worms issue of non-profit organizations/campaign donations has been opened – let’s make sure we make lemonade out of lemons. I just maxed out my cliché quotient.

A part of the amending of RSA 655:17-c was to increase the limits on reporting by political committees.

OK, I get that.

The Coalition of NH Taxpayers does not support candidates as an organization but individual Directors are certainly allowed that opportunity.

“Measures” as defined in the amended HB1704 - now that is a different issue.

Our group may put a lot of effort behind a certain measure that affects taxpayers and voters. Voter fraud comes to mind.

I know this bill was aimed at statewide offices but it does bring up an issue near and dear to most taxpayers regarding electioneering.

Let us take a look.

Here is part of what legislators who tampered with Shaun Doherty’s original bill, or those writing such language for them, seemed to want:

3 Definitions; Expenditure. Amend RSA 664:2, IX to read as follows:

IX. “Expenditure” shall mean the disbursement of money or thing of value or the making of a legally binding commitment to make such a disbursement in the future for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election or election of any candidate or candidates or the success or defeat of a measure or measures. It does not include the candidate’s filing fee or his or her expenses for personal travel and subsistence.

4 Definitions; Independent Expenditures. Amend RSA 664:2, XI to read as follows:

XI. “Independent expenditures” means expenditures by a person, political committee, or other entity expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or candidates or the success or defeat of a measure or measures which are made without cooperation or consultation with any candidate, or any authorized committee or agent of such candidate, and which are not made in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate, or any authorized committee or agent of such candidate. As used in this paragraph, “clearly identified” means that the name of the candidate involved appears; a photograph or drawing of the candidate appears; or the identity of the candidate is apparent by unambiguous reference.

5 New Paragraph; Definitions; Electioneering Communication. Amend RSA 664:2 by inserting after paragraph XVII the following new paragraph:

XVIII. “Electioneering communication” means any broadcast, publication, mailer, or cable or satellite communication that fulfills each of the following conditions:

(a) The communication refers to a clearly identified candidate for state office or measure without a call to action.

(b) The communication is publicly distributed within 60 days prior to a general election or 30 days prior to a primary election for the office a candidate is seeking.

(c) The communication is targeted to the relevant electorate.

 

Now that 1704 is dead on the slab why not have this same language tweaked a bit to target a real problem with “independent political expenditures.”

How about in next legislative session our taxpayer friendly elected officials in Concord use this same language to put the brakes on School Superintendants who electioneer through the use of parent emails they have for emergency use at our public schools?

If you say you want clean state elections why not start with clean municipal elections???

Superintendants who use parent emails and school flyers in an unlawful last minute effort to pass building bonds (a measure) or a school budget (another measure) would be making a political expenditure for a clearly defined measure, within 60 days, to a very targeted, relevant electorate.

That same school super would also be, a person, expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified a measure or measures which are made without cooperation or consultation with any candidate, or any authorized committee.

Here is my humble suggestion.

Amend RSA 659:44 to include the ever present, politically active school superintendent.

664:5 Prohibited Political Expenditures. – No expenditure or use of a contribution, tangible or intangible, shall be made for the purpose of promoting the success or defeat of any political party, measure or candidate:

    I. By a political committee, except the political committee of a political party, unless the political committee meets the requirements of RSA 664:3, I.

    II. By a political committee which is organized to support a candidate in any election, or to such candidate or the candidate's fiscal agent unless the committee secures and files the written consent of the candidate or the candidate's fiscal agent with the secretary of state in accordance with RSA 664:3, III.

    III. By any person, candidate or political committee, for political advertising in a newspaper, periodical, or on a radio or television broadcast, or on a billboard, if at a rate more or less than the applicable rates to be filed with the secretary of state.

    IV, V. [Repealed.]

Now who among our legislators in Concord wants to take on a sorely needed piece of legislation now that HB 1704 is dead?