Governor's Decision To Use State House Office In Political Ad Raises Ethical Questions
Concord - The New Hampshire Republican State Committee today filed a Right-To-Know request regarding Governor Maggie Hassan's corner office campaign ad shoot.
This week, Hassan released her first ad for her re-election campaign. The entire ad was shot in Hassan's taxpayer-funded, State House office in Concord. State law prohibits public employees from using government property for "electioneering."
The full request is below:
The Honorable Maggie Hassan
Governor of New Hampshire
107 North Main Street
Concord, New Hampshire03301
Dear Governor Hassan,
This is a request under the New Hampshire Right To Know Law (RSA 91-A.)
On behalf of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee I am writing to formally request that you provide me with all records from your office regarding your recent political ad shoot in your State House office. This request includes, but is not limited to schedule information to determine when the ad was shot, documentation regarding any state employees who may have worked on this shoot and any emails or communications from your staff about this political ad.
Under New Hampshire law (RSA 659:44-A) public employees are prohibited from electioneering "while in the performance of his or her official duties or use government property, including, but not limited to, telephones, facsimile machines, vehicles, and computers, for electioneering." Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor crime. Participating in the production of a partisan political ad in the governor's office would certainly fit the definition of "electioneering."
Your ethically questionable decision to use the sacred confines of the corner office as a political prop in your first partisan campaign is extremely troubling. It also raises questions about what other types of political activities you are conducting in the governor's State House suite.
If members of your taxpayer-funded staff helped set up this ad shoot, it would be a violation of state law. It's likely that your official staff had a hand in the production of this ad given that many of your former campaign aids hold patronage positions in the governor's office. This includes your 2012 campaign consultant Pamela Walsh, who now draws a publicly funded paycheck as your chief of staff.
The use of official offices in political ads has generated significant controversy and serious ethical questions in recent years. Congressional ethics rules forbid the use of federal office space for political and campaign activity, meaning that congressmen and senators are barred from shooting campaign ads in their district offices or in the United States Capitol.
In 2012, President Obama was sharply criticized by government watchdog groups for using the West Wing of the White House in a series of campaign ads. ABC News reported at the time that Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, said it "an unwise politicization of the highest office in the land."
"I find it a bit disturbing that he would do it in the West Wing office," McGehee said. "Filming in a West Wing office - it may not be precedent-setting but that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do."
Granite Staters expecttheir governor to use his or her time in the corner office to do the people's business, not political businesses. You decision to shoot a partisan campaign ad in your official office adds to the ethical concerns that havealready been generated by your illegal fundraising scandal. Accepting tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and deciding to blur the line between your official duties and campaign activities raises serious questions about your integrity.
Pursuant to the guiding statutes, please respond to this request within five (5) days of receipt. If you deny any part of this request, or this entire request, please cite eachspecific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of appeal procedures available to me under the law.
Thank your for your attention to this important matter.
New Hampshire Republican State Committee