John DiStaso's Granite Status: Exclusive: Shaheen acknowledges missing key filibuster meeting for campaign fundraiser
FRIDAY, JULY 19: FUNDRAISER ACKNOWLEDGED. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen acknowledged Friday she was at a fund-raiser for her reelection campaign last Monday night when the Senate met in a key, rare closed-door session to air out its differences on filibuster reform.
But a spokesman said her views on the filibuster rules reform, the subject discussed at the meeting, are well-known.
In a statement, released exclusively to the Granite Status and UnionLeader.com, Shaheen spokesman Shripal Shah said:
"Senator Shaheen had a fundraiser on Monday and notified Senate leadership in advance that she would miss the meeting."
Shah continued, "That meeting was designed to allow senators to express their opinions on filibuster reform, and Senator Shaheen's position is well known by her colleagues on this issue. In the past she has signed multiple letters supporting filibuster reform, wrote and distributed an article on the subject, and has attended dozens of meetings and has had numerous discussions with senators from both parties over the years on this issue. She is pleased that a bipartisan agreement was reached to end the current impasse."
Shah said the fund-raiser was in New York City and was for her reelection campaign committee, Friends of Jeanne Shaheen.
Shah pointed out that according to the web site Govtrack.us, Shaheen has missed only 19 of 1,362 roll call votes, which is better than 98 percent, since she entered the Senate in 2009.
According to reports from Washington, Shaheen was among only two senators to miss the meeting. The other was Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
Until today, Shaheen's office had said only that she had a scheduling conflict and that the Senate leadership was made aware of it in advance.
The meeting was held as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to change Senate rules to require only majority votes for some presidential nominees, which would have eliminated the filibuster as an effective minority tool to question, examine or hold up nominations. That threatened rules change, called the "nuclear option," was not invoked as an agreement was reached Tuesday on pending nominees.
Shaheen this week called for filibuster "rules reform" in a campaign email to supporters.
A quorum call was taken before the meeting began and no formal vote was taken at the meeting.
The state Republican Party has formally requested Shaheen's calendar from Monday.
Friday afternoon, NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn said:
"It is a disgrace that it took Senator Jeanne Shaheen nearly a week to admit that she skipped a historic Senate summit to raise money with lobbyists and liberal special interests. The Senator clearly wanted to hide this news from her constituents and she would not have provided an explanation unless we demanded that she be honest about her absence."
Horn said, "This incident reminds voters that Jeanne Shaheen is an ineffective and unaccomplished Senator who would rather raise campaign dollars than serve New Hampshire. Shaheen has gone to Washington, lost touch with New Hampshire values and proven that she does not deserve to be reelected in 2014."
State Democratic Party Harold Kirstein, responded, "The NHGOP's continued clown car attacks and pathetic stunts aren't fooling anyone. The Republican State Committee is bouncing checks, their chairwoman owes nearly $100,000 in back taxes, and next week they are hosting a fund-raisier with a convicted federal criminal. New Hampshire Republicans -- starting with their Chair -- should take some individual responsibility and get their fiscal house in order before engaging in any more circus antics."
Author/activist James O'Keefe, who will speak to a New Hampshire House Republican political action committee, pleaded guilty in 2010 to misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses. The incident involved Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's office.
(Our earlier reports on Shaheen and the filibuster issue follow.)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 17: FOR "FILIBUSTER REFORM." Sen. Jeanne Shaheen voiced a more definitive, hard-line stance in favor of filibuster reform today (Wednesday) than she did Tuesday.
Tuesday, Shaheen told UnionLeader.com and other media that she was pleased with a deal that was reached among Democratic and Republican senators to allow some of President Barack Obama's nominees to be confirmed without a change in Senate rules, which had been threatened by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
She said Tuesday that if the compromise fails to prevent "further obstruction on executive branch nominations," then she "would consider (filibuster) rules reform."
Wednesday afternoon, however, Shaheen's campaign organization, Friends of Jeanne Shaheen, emailed supporters a letter signed by Shaheen in which she says, "I support filibuster reform."
The letter links to an online petition, "Support Filibuster Reform" sponsored by Shaheen's committee and committees for fellow Senate Democrats Sens. Mark Begich, Heidi Heitkamp and Tom Udall.
"A long overdue agreement has been reached so that we can confirm some of President Obama's nominees, one of whom waited in limbo for 730 days," Shaheen writes in her email.
"Even with these confirmations, we still need to reach a solution to prevent the kind of gridlock and filibuster abuse that brought us to this point.
"I support filibuster reform because you deserve better. It doesn't matter if the president is a Democrat or a Republican, he or she deserves to have qualified nominees confirmed. That's true of President Obama, whether Republicans like it or not.
"The Senate's role is 'advise and consent,' not obstruct and delay," wrote Shaheen.
"This is all being debated now. Right away, will you add your voice to my call for filibuster reform? We need to make sure Democrats in the Senate support reform," Shaheen wrote.
A spokesman for a conservative group quickly criticized the Shaheen email, noting that she missed a key Senate meeting on filibuster reform on Monday night, and on Wednesday emailed backers on the same issue (see item below).
Derek Dufresne of Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire, said Shaheen's "refusal to elaborate on why she missed a mandatory meeting and vote on changes that would alter the rule structure of the U.S. Senate is inexcusable.
"However, the fact that she would use the meeting and quorum vote that she never attended as a means to collect information from her supporters to benefit her own re-election campaign is indefensible," Dufresne said.
"What is even more insulting is that in her email, she says 'you deserve a Washington that works for you.' That's outrageous considering the email is coming from a senator who can't show up to do her job even when the vote is mandatory. Senator Shaheen must tell Granite Staters why she missed the vote – and then she should apologize for using a missed vote to help get herself re-elected," said Dufresne.
There was no vote taken at the closed door meeting, but there was a quorum call.
A Shaheen spokesman had no comment on the criticism, but New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said, "New Hampshire Republicans are once again making up distortions to suit their own skewed view of reality. Their partisan attacks are desperate and littered with falsehoods.",
(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 17. WHERE WERE YOU? The state Republican Party chairwoman has written a letter to Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asking for her schedule earlier this week, when she was one of two senators to miss a closed-door meeting of the full U.S. Senate on the contentious filibuster issue.
A deal was eventually worked out and the so-called "nuclear option" threatened by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was averted. Shaheen's spokesman has said she had a "scheduling conflict" that the Senate leadership was aware of, but did not detail the reason she missed the meeting.
The state Democratic Party labeled as a "another petty stunt" a Wednesday morning letter from NHGOP chairman Jennifer Horn to Shaheen, which the GOP said was faxed to her Washington office.
Shaheen's spokesman declined to comment on the Horn letter or say whether it will be answered and whether the request will be granted.
The GOP request was filed under the Freedom of Information Act, but since the law applies only to executive branch agencies and not to Congress, Shaheen is not required to produce the requested information.
However, the law does not prohibit her from voluntarily doing so.
In the letter, Horn asks Shaheen to "provide me with all calendar information from your office regarding your schedule from July 14 to July 16, 2013. I am particularly interested in your schedule for the night of July 15, 2013 when you failed to appear for a mandatory quorum vote and failed to participate in a critical, bipartisan caucus meeting on Senate filibuster changes. This requests includes, but is not limited to, any written or electronic correspondence from your office that may determine your whereabouts during the time that you were supposed to be representing New Hampshire at this important meeting."
Horn continued, "The Hill (7/15/13) reports that 97 of your 99 Senate colleagues returned to Washington in time for a mandatory 'live' quorum vote and to participate in a rare, joint caucus meeting on making dramatic changes to the filibuster rules for approving presidential appointees. According to the National Journal, (7/15/13) 'live' quorum votes are mandatory and Senators can be arrested and brought to the Senate floor if they are absent."
Horn wrote that "for some reason you have remained suspiciously silent, dodged questions from the media and refused to discuss why you skipped this important event. Your spokesman has only said that Senate Democrat leadership was aware of your absence prior to (the) meeting. But if you can tell Harry Reid why you were unable to do your job, you should be able to share the same excuse with your constituents."
Horn noted that in May, Shaheen wrote a letter to President Barack Obama calling on him to increase government transparency.
Horn noted that the letter said, "Transparency is a foundational principle of our democracy. The American public has a right to access official records in order to provide appropriate oversight of their elected officials. Secrecy in our government should be limited, and used only when absolutely necessary to protect our national interest."
Wrote Horn: "In order to avoid looking like a hypocrite, you should hold yourself to the same standard and honor our request for your official schedule. The people of New Hampshire have a right to know why you failed to execute the required duties of your elected office.
"Clearly, you have not been honest about this matter, and your silence suggests that you have something to hide," Horn wrote.
New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said, "This is yet another petty stunt from the NHGOP and their attacks are growing increasingly desperate. It's ridiculous to question Jeanne Shaheen's work ethic and Jennifer Horn knows it. Her time would be better spent paying off her neglected tax bill and getting their fiscal house in order after bouncing state party checks."
Horn said, "The fact that Senator Shaheen and her minions can't respond to a simple question about her official schedule with an honest answer proves tht she is trying to keep something from her constituents. Her refusal to be up front and transparent about why she failed to show up to do her job raises very serious questions that an elected official like Jeanne Shaheen is required to answer."