Hassan For Governor - LobbyNH: Did Lamontagne mislead voters about his tobacco lobbying?

In case you missed it, below is a story from The Lobby NH about Ovide Lamontagne's misleading statements about history as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry:


Did Lamontagne mislead voters about his tobacco lobbying?

Democratic candidate for governor Maggie Hassan's campaign accused Republican rival Ovide Lamontagne Wednesday of deliberately misleading voters about his role as a tobacco lobbyist.

The furor came in the wake of Lamontagne's comments during a debate the two had before the law enforcement community at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College Sunday night.

The Democratic Governors Association through its NH Freedom Fund political action committee aired negative ads for nearly a month branding Lamontagne as a lobbyist for Big Tobacco.

"By the way, contrary to what you have heard on the television ads, the negative ads, I am not a lobbyist,'' Lamontagne declared at the debate. "Maggie has never seen me, in the six years she was in Concord, with a yellow or an orange badge.''

Lamontagne is managing partner of the Manchester law firm of Devine and Millimet that has one of the biggest lobbying practices at the State House.

Over a 12-year period but not lately, the Republican nominee has infrequently lobbied on an individual basis for Devine clients.

His most recent appearance, however, came on March 8, 2006, when he testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee against a proposed tax on cigarette manufacturers.

In 2006, Hassan was in the State Senate during her first of three, two-year terms. She did not sit on the Senate committee that heard Lamontange's testimony.

"So even Ovide's campaign admits he was a lobbyist, begging the question: why did Ovide Lamontagne stand up before law enforcement officials and try to deliberately mislead them,'' Hassan campaign spokesman Marc Goldberg asked rhetorically.

Goldberg claimed the incident reveals a pattern of deception.

"Ovide has repeatedly tried to hide his true extreme agenda - including rejecting federal funds for public schools, opposing guaranteed statewide kindergarten, opting the state out of Medicare, and restricting a woman's right to make her own health care decisions - and this is just another glaring example,'' Goldberg charged.

Lamontagne campaign spokesman Tom Cronin said Lamontagne was telling the truth because Hassan didn't actually see him do any lobbying.

"Ovide's statement's are correct. He is not a lobbyist, and Maggie never saw him in Concord with an orange badge,'' Cronin responded in a statement. "The voters of New Hampshire should be most concerned about Senator Hassan's years as a Concord insider lobbying for 99 new or increased taxes or fees and an unsustainable 24% increase in state spending.''

In March 2006, Lamontange was representing Liggett Vector, makers of Eve, USA and other cigarette brands.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Robert Clegg, a Hudson Republican, proposed the tax as a way to get all tobacco makers to contribute to cover some of the state taxpayer costs for health care that come from smokers.

Liggett Vector was not one of the major tobacco makers in the US that signed onto the Master Tobacco Settlement in 1998, which has since paid the state about $40 million a year.

In 1998, Lamontagne represented in court tobacco maker Phillip Morris and helped bring an end to a state lawsuit against the tobacco industry, resulting in the master settlement.

Two weeks after Lamontagne's testimony against the tax, the Senate voted to set the bill aside where it died at the end of 2006 without further discussion.

Lamontagne spokesman Cronin maintained Lamontagne registered as a lobbyist even though the law was not clear he had to.

"Though Ovide was advised he did not necessarily need to register as he was simply providing expert testimony, he decided out of an abundance of caution to do so,'' Cronin said.

In May 2006, state records confirm that Lamontagne withdrew his representation of Liggett Vector brands, a move that does occur for those who come to the State House to lobby on a single issue that is ultimately resolved.

Lamontagne's Republican primary opponent, Kevin Smith of Litchfield, had worked for several months lobbying for the National Organization for Marriage in support of a bill to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law.

After the House rejected that bill last spring, Smith withdrew as a lobbyist for NOM weeks before he declared his GOP candidacy for governor.