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Dave Solomon has been a reporter or editor for New England news organizations since 1977. He has served as executive editor of both the Portsmouth Herald and the Nashua Telegraph. He joined the reporting staff of the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2012.

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June 23. 2013 6:55PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: One NH mayor quits, another defends Bloomberg gun control group


 

MONDAY, JUNE 24: THE CONTROVERSY CONTINUES. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" continued to generate controversy in the Granite State Monday as one mayor disclosed she has quit the group and another continued to defend it.

In related developments:

- Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she resigned from "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" on May 10, shortly after joining the nationwide coalition, because it went beyond its stated principles of "keeping illegal guns out of dangerous hands."

Lozeau said she did not know when she joined the group that it would "unfairly attack" fellow Nashuan Sen. Kelly Ayotte in a $2 million barrage of ads after Ayotte opposed an amendment calling for universal background checks for gun purchases in April.

- Also, Dover Mayor Dean Trefethen, responding to a Republican right-to-know request, said that other than receiving an occasional email from the group on his city account, which he quickly deletes, he has never used city resources or staff in connection with his membership in "Mayors Against Illegal Guns."

Lozeau said she was out of the group long before last week's controversy erupted when "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" supporters rallying in Concord read the names of dead Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and other murders and criminals in a list of those killed by guns since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. The Mayors group later apologized for reading Tsarnaev's name.

The New Hampshire Journal website reported early Monday that Lozeau had been on the group's list of 950 mayors involved in the coalition in early May but that her name no longer appeared, leaving Dover's Trefethen as the only New Hampshire mayor in the coalition.

Lozeau told the New Hampshire Union Leader she joined the group after extensively researching it at the suggestion of a neighbor, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.

She said she felt, "How could anyone have too much heartburn about joining a group that's against illegal guns?"

But when she saw the group's first ad criticizing Ayotte, "I said, 'Wait a minute, I don't want to be part of something like that.' I told them, "You're mayors against illegal guns, you're not mayors for gun control.'

"I left the group immediately upon seeing the first ad. I don't think I even made three weeks," she said.

"I can't imagine there is any mayor in the United States who is not against illegal guns," Lozeau said. "There is no question that I and Nashua's law enforcement community are interested in keeping firearms from those not legally entitled to bear them.

"Nowhere within the literature of this group was there any indication that there would be campaigns against members of Congress, particularly around issues that were not related to illegal guns," said Lozeau. "I have known Sen. Ayotte for many years in many capacities, including her time as New Hampshire's Attorney General. Senator Ayotte is a thoughtful, effective, decisive and hardworking advocate for victims and law enforcement."

Last week, after controversy erupted at and following the Concord rally, state Republican chair Jennifer Horn demanded Dover Mayor Trefethen he quit "Mayors Against Illegal Guns."

Trefethen dismissed Horn's criticism last week as "the usual standard political attack." He characterized her latest criticism and right-to-know request as a case of "political and character assassination."

During the weekend, there were several reports that Bloomberg was using City of New York taxpayer funds for administering the gun control group's web sites.

Bloomberg aides told the Washington-based Politico web side that taxpayer funds are in fact used for the web site of the "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" coalition, which is registered by the New York City Department of Information and Technology in 2006, and, according to Politico, has "remained on official city web servers ever since."

But aides said a separate group "action fund," which has its own web site that can be reached through the coalition's site, is a 501(c)(4) advocacy group.

The "action fund" is the organization that has spent at least $14 million in Bloomberg's personal funds for gun control ads, including an estimated $2 million in New Hampshire to criticize Ayotte's vote against the Manchin-Toomey gun control amendment in the spring.

According to Politico, Bloomberg aides said the mayoral coalition fits within the legislative priorities of Bloomberg's administration and so using city resources for it is appropriate.

Horn sought from Trefethen "any written or electronic communications between you or city staff and staff or representatives from MAIG."

Horn wrote, "Dover taxpayers have a right to know if you are using any city resources to communicate with Mayors Against Illegal Guns or plan to promote any of their events in New Hampshire."

Horn wrote to Trefethen, "As the only public official in the Granite State who has signed on with MAIG, you have enthusiastically supported their efforts to infringe on the rights of law abiding gun owners. You have shamefully refused to denounce this group's decision to promote misinformation and honor thugs, cop killers and terrorists as 'victims' of gun violence."

Late Monday, Trefethen replied to Horn, "I have no records regarding MAIG. I have not had any written or electronic communications between myself and any city staff. I have not even had any verbal communications between myself and any city staff member concerning MAIG.

"I occasionally receive email from the organization to my city email address. I currently do not have any on the city email server as I usually delete them shortly after receiving them. When they call me by telephone, they call my personal cell which I personally pay for."

Other than the occasional use of the city email system, "there have been no other city resources of any kind used by me in connection with MAIG," the mayor wrote.


"It would be a violation of the Dover city charter for me to direct any city employee to do anything for me, a restriction I am well aware of and do no violate," he wrote.

Trefethen said it is "most disappointing that Horn made accusations "without knowing anything about" him.

"I have to wonder if the fact that two former NH GOP chairmen who live in Dover and are actively working to support another person for Mayor in the upcoming November election has anything to do with all of this," Trefethen wrote.

Horn countered, "It is unfortunate that you continue to stand by this out-of-state, extremist organization and refuse to denounce its shameful conduct."

Horn, congratulating Lozeau for leaving the group, said, "This organization was founded with the noble purpose of stopping illegal guns, but has morphed into an extremist group that has honored murderers and tried to infringe on the rights of law abiding gun owners."

Also during the weekend, the mayor of Rockford, Ill., Larry Morrissey, announced that he was dropping out of Mayors' coalition because its focus had expanded beyond "illegal guns" and was now also focusing on "law-abiding citizens."


(The full June 24 Granite Status follows.)
FUND-RAISING TIME. June 30 is the end of a key fund-raising quarter for federal candidates.

Reports of U.S. House members and challengers are due at the Federal Election Commission, and with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate for senators and wannabes.

Democrat incumbent Jeanne Shaheen has been pushing fund-raising hard, though she has no announced GOP opponent.

Her latest effort keyed on last Tuesday's House vote to ban most abortions after 20 weeks. The vote was 228-196, mostly along party lines. It is expected to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Shaheen's email called the vote "a direct assault on women's health, on doctors and on 'Roe V. Wade,'" asking for campaign help to "stop this dangerous bill in its tracks."

At the March 31 end of the first quarter, she had raised a total of $2.6 million since her 2008 election and had $1.46 million on hand.

Fellow Democrat Annie Kuster jumped on the abortion vote as well.

Her campaign's Friday email says she is "facing the first crucial test of our campaign since radical former (New Hampshire House) Speaker Bill O'Brien officially declared that he was running against us."

For the record, O'Brien has announced an exploratory committee, not an official campaign; but you get the idea.

The intent is to use O'Brien as a fund-raising tool for Kuster, who as of March 31 had raised $344,000 since her 2012 election. She had $282,000 on hand.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte isn't up for reelection until 2016, but she is also trying to raise money in anticipation of a major battle, possibly from a woman named Maggie Hassan.

From her Friday email:

"As you know, I've become the left's favorite target since voting against their gun control legislation earlier this spring.

"New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his radical allies have spent over $2 million attacking my character and distorting my record. And I'm counting on our June 30 fundraising report to show they have not succeeded in damaging my reputation."

A big quarter would make a statement in response to the Bloomberg blitz.

Ayotte says that "Bloomberg and the left will use our June 30 report to determine whether or not to invest even more money into smearing my record. They'll interpret anything less than stellar numbers as proof their assault campaign is working and they'll quickly go live with more ads."

And she and her campaign probably know they'll have a "stellar" quarter, or she wouldn't have publicly set the bar so high.

Ayotte's committee had raised $887,000 since being elected in 2010 and had $831,000 on hand as of first-quarter filing.

State Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley Tweeted, "Wow. @KellyAyotte appears to be a lot more scared for her 2016 potential reelection than imagined. Maybe she should vote NH values."

THE BOOK DELIVERY. In more than one venue last week, Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" group used the names of dead Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, California killer Christopher Dorner and other criminals killed by police.

Those names were read at the Concord "No More Names" rally and were also in a book containing a list of people "murdered with guns in the six months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary," according to the group's cover letter, later distributed to reporters by Ayotte spokesman Liz Johnson.

"This list seriously undermines the out-of-state group's claim that reading Tsarnaev's name was a simple mistake," Johnson wrote.

The Bloomberg group used an online list being compiled daily by Slate.com as its source, but as Johnson pointed out, Slate editor Dan Kois wrote, "The interactive (list) is not a list of 'victims' of gun violence — in fact, the interactive never uses that word."

Johnson points out that Kois wrote, "The list also includes other wrongdoers killed by law enforcement, people who committed suicide, people who died in accidents and people killed by criminals."

Another name on the so-called "murdered-with-guns" list delivered to Ayotte is Michael Larocque, who was shot and killed in Manchester on June 9.

Police said Larocque was the perpetrator in a home invasion and was shot and killed after kicking open the door of a Lake Avenue home. The investigation continues.

"We knew that Bloomberg's group was nasty," wrote Johnson. "Now we know it's not credible."

JENNIFER AND THE MAYOR. State Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn and Dover Mayor Dean Trefethen had a nasty exchange Friday over the "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" controversy.

Trefethen is listed as the only New Hampshire mayor on the coalition.

After the naming of killers and the bombing suspect, Horn wrote to Trefethen asking him to resign from the group. Otherwise, she said, "you will show your constituents that you approve of the shameful and outrageous behavior of this organization."

Trefethen declined, saying Horn's email was "the usual standard political attack." Horn, he said, should be outraged at an out-of-state group attacking Shaheen on Obamacare.

"When I see the standards applied equally, then I will take your email seriously," the mayor wrote.

Horn replied that it is "extremely disappointing that you refuse to denounce this extremist organization's shameful conduct. You made the decision to join this group and lend your name to their out-of-state smear campaign. As an active member of Mayors Against Gun Violence, you own their dishonest statements and should admit that what they did was clearly wrong.''



AYOTTE SIGNS ON. After Ayotte announced that she was backing the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill, she was criticized by conservatives whose complaints included that the bill did not go far enough to strengthen border security.

Ayotte said at the time she was open to considering amendments; last week she signed on as a cosponsor of a one such on border security.

Sponsored by Senate Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, it would withhold green cards from those seeking to pursue lawful permanent resident status until "specific security steps are met," according to Ayotte's office.

The steps include an additional 20,000 border patrol agents, completion of at least 700 miles of fencing, and "full implementation of E-Verify."

The amendment also requires deportation proceedings for at least 90 percent of those who have overstayed their visas, Ayotte's office said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he hopes to have a vote on the bill before the July 4 recess.

QUITE A LINEUP. Shaheen last week hosted more than 150 members of the New Hampshire business community at her third annual "New Hampshire Business Day Luncheon" in Washington.

Addressing the group were Ayotte, Judd Gregg, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA; Secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan; Richard Cordray, director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

The only out-of-state elected official to address the Granite Staters was Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who had been in the state for a Republican Party fund-raiser a few days earlier and is often mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential contender.

NEW CLIENT FOR RIGHTON. Conservative consulting group RightOnStrategies co-founder Mike Biundo has picked up a major client in Iowa, where he guided Rick Santorum to a narrow win in the first-in-the-nation caucus.

Biundo and RightOn will be the general consultant for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis, who was a major Santorum backer.

Clovis, a radio talk show host and college professor, is described as a long shot to win the nomination for a seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin.

But Santorum was a long-shot in Iowa, too, before he won.

TRACKING JIM. Republican former state Sen. Jim Rubens, who is exploring a run against Shaheen next year, says he was "tracked" and had his talk recorded by Democratic operatives at recent appearances in Nashua and Milford.

Although the hosts asked the trackers to leave, Rubens says, "I've got no problem being recorded."

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at jdistaso@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jdistaso.


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