Also Asks AG Foster to Officially Recuse Himself from Hassan Campaign Donation Probe
Concord - The New Hampshire Republican State Committee today asked Attorney General Joe Foster to issue an official opinion on reporting requirements for political action committees. Governor Maggie Hassan refused to meet a June 18, 2014 PAC report filing deadline with her other registered PAC. As a candidate for governor, Hassan met this requirement when she filed a PAC report on June 20th, 2012 - five days after she filed to run on June 15th 2012.
Additionally, the NHGOP asked Foster to formally recuse himself from an ongoing probe into Governor Hassan's illegal campaign donations because of conflicts of interest. Foster served on Hassan's 2012 campaign finance committee and also accepted donations during his state senate campaigns from some of the same unions that made illegal contributions to Hassan.
In an interview with New Hampshire Journal yesterday, Foster said he would "probably" recuse himself, but had not made a final decision.
The full letter is below:
August 13, 2014
Attorney General Joseph Foster
New Hampshire Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301
Dear Attorney General Foster,
On behalf of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, I am writing to respectfully request that your office provide an official opinion on the reporting requirements for political PACs. The New Hampshire Journal recently reported that Governor Maggie Hassan's political action committee failed to file a report on June 18, 2014 even though her PAC filed a report at a similar deadline on June 20th 2012. I am also following up on my request from last week that you recuse yourself from the New Hampshire Department of Justice's investigation into potentially illegal contributions made by the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union to Governor Hassan's campaign.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice ruled that Governor Hassan could keep several donations that exceeded contribution limits because of a loophole that allowed unlimited PAC to PAC transfers before a candidate officially files paperwork to run for office. As you noted, "Friends of Maggie Hassan" was filed as a PAC and was allowed to follow different rules than if it were filed as a candidate committee. This PAC was later converted to "Maggie 14," a candidate committee on June 12, 2014 when the governor filed to run for re-election.
However, Governor Hassan failed to file a required close out PAC report on "Friends of Maggie Hassan's" financial activity by the June 18th deadline required for all PACs. PACs tied to elected officials from both parties who filed for re-election and became candidates filed reports on June 18th include "Friends of Jeb Bradley for State Senate," "Bette Lasky for State Senate," "Friends of Maureen Mooney," "Supporters of Molly Kelly," and many more. The Nashua Telegraph also notes that past governors including John Lynch and Craig Benson who had PACs before officially filing for re-election submitted reports by the June deadline. Even Maggie Hassan's first gubernatorial campaign, which was initially a PAC before converting to a candidate committee when she filed on June 15, 2012, submitted a report by the June 20, 2012 deadline.
When asked about why Governor Hassan did not submit her required PAC report, Associate Attorney General Richard Head told the New Hampshire Journal that Hassan 'self-designated' her PAC as a political committee tied to her candidacy as a result of a letter changing the name of the committee filed with the Secretary of State on June 12, 2014. However documents filed with the Secretary of State indicate that 'Friends of Maggie Hassan's' chairperson checked a box and paid a $50 fee that "must accompany this registration if it is not a political committee of a candidate," when the committee was formed. This directly contradicts Associate Attorney General Head's explanation that Hassan had determined that 'Friends of Maggie Hassan' was a 'self-designated' political committee of a candidate.
Associate Attorney General Head seems to base his opinion on the significance of the comments made in the Hassan campaign's name change letter. But in response to our initial complaint about Hassan's donations, Hassan Campaign attorney Jay Surdukowski made it clear that the name-change letter had no "substantive import" other than the fact that "the campaign simply updated the name of its committee for the current election season."
Given this information, the informal opinion that Associate Attorney General Head gave to the New Hampshire Journal doesn't make any sense. If 'Friends of Maggie Hassan' was a PAC that could take unlimited transfers, and by its own admission was 'not a political candidate of a committee," it should have filed a report on June 18, 2014 with every other PAC. Then-candidate Hassan clearly understood this requirement when he filed a PAC report in June of 2012. She also filed PAC reports in June during her previous campaigns for state senate.
Given the confusion, I ask that the Department of Justice review this information and provide an official opinion. I would also like to request under RSA 91-A that you provide me with the entire case file from the Department of Justice's investigation of the complaint that we filed on July 16, 2014 regarding Governor Hassan's illegal PAC contributions. Associate Attorney General Head indicates that the issue of PAC reports was discussed over the course of this investigation.
Additionally, I would like to check in on the status of the complaint I filed last week on more potentially illegal union PAC donations that Governor Hassan received in 2012 and 2014. As you know, Hassan has already returned $33,000 in illegal contributions.
I am specially requesting that you provide me with an official determination on your role in this investigation. I have asked that you recuse yourself from this probe given that you served on then-candidate Hassan's finance committee in 2012 when one of the questionable donations was made. I was encouraged to see that you told the New Hampshire Journal that you would "probably" recuse yourself to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
If there is any further doubt that you should recuse yourself, it has come to my attention that during your previous career as a state senator you frequently accepted political donations from Big Labor. This includes contributions from AFL-CIO New Hampshire President Mark Mackenzie (2004) and union PACs including the Granite State Teamsters PAC (2002 and 2004), and the International Union of Painters and Allies Trades PAC (2004). Even more troubling, you also accepted donations from the IBEW Local 490 Cope Fund (2004) and Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 131 PAC (2004) - two PACs that are directly tied to the same unions that are mentioned in our complaint. Clearly, your close political ties to Big Labor present another alarming conflict of interest that should help you make the obvious decision to step aside.
I ask that you officially declare that you are recusing yourself from this investigation so that the Department of Justice can expedite our request. With less than 100 days before the election it is critical that this important matter is investigated immediately.
New Hampshire Republican State Committee