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John DiStaso's Granite Status: In DC, Bass meets with McConnell, other key Republicans, as he weighs US Senate run

October 30. 2013 12:12PM

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 30: BASS BACK IN DC. Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass was back in Washington today, continuing to weigh the possibility of a run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Bass, a Republican former seven-term U.S. House member, told the Granite Status tonight he met with key GOP senators, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee and served with Bass in the U.S. House.

Bass said he discussed "my political options" with those and other GOP senators.

"I thought the discussions went well but I'm not in a position to talk about any decision I've made, because I haven't made one," he said.

Bass first told in early September that he was seriously considering running for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor who is actively building a reelection campaign and raising money.

Bass said he will continue talking with his family and "people around the state," and intends to make a decision "within a few weeks."

"I have other options," he said, citing his "new business venture," the wholesale lumber firm Woodbrowser, which he said was started about six weeks ago.

"This is one of a number of different options for me," he said, "and obviously this is a big decision.

"Obviously, everybody (in Washington) was very positive," he said, "but the issue is bigger than that for me.

"I've got to make a decision in the next few weeks," he said. "I have no particular timetable. I'm trying to make an informed decision that will be in the best interest of my party and my state and my county, as well as my own personal future.

"If I do it, it has to be a 150 percent commitment, so it's a big decision," Bass said.

Bass said he was trying to keep "a low profile" but was spotted in Washington by a reporter from the DC-based The Hill, who broke the news of the Bass visit on Twitter.

The latest Bass development visit drew criticism from the state Democratic Party.

"It would be news if a life-long Republican insider like Bass wasn't trying to find a route back inside the beltway," said NHDP spokesman Harrell Kirstein, contending that Bass, while in the House, voted to cut veterans benefits and Medicare.

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman are so far the only major announced Republican candidates for the Senate seat.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has not ruled out the possibility of establishing residence in the state and running. He continues this week to make appearances in the state and to draw criticism from the Shaheen campaign. (See items below).

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 30: ANOTHER STOP, ANOTHER EMAIL. Another day and another email from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's campaign focused on former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

For the second consecutive day, the Shaheen camp is trying to raise money off of the possibility that Brown may run for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire.

Today's email mentions his visit on Saturday to Strafford County, where he is scheduled to campaign for Fred Leonard, who is running for mayor of Rochester, and Matt Spencer, who is running for reelection as mayor of Somersworth, and to appear at a fundraiser for the Strafford County GOP in Dover.

What the campaign didn't know was that Brown has still another appearance scheduled for Saturday: This one in Amherst.

Amherst GOP vice chair Bill Modis and Brown himself confirmed that Brown will appear at a morning event for the Amherst Republican Committee at Joey's Diner.

"Would not read too much into it," Brown emailed us. "I'm going all over the country helping good people or groups that ask."

The Shaheen campaign's latest Brown-focused email says, "With Brown back on the political trail, his allies are already eyeing our race. The Tea Party and Wall Street billionaires see defeating Jeanne as key to capturing the Senate. The Koch brothers gave Brown the legal maximum in 2012. We can't underestimate how much they'll donate this time."

Tuesday, Shaheen's camp issued a similar fundraising email based on the news that Brown has set up a New Hampshire version of his "The People's Seat" PAC in order to contribute to New Hampshire candidates. The treasurer of the New Hampshire PAC is Brown's sister, Lee Ann Riley, who lives in Portsmouth.

Brown responded to the Shaheen emails with an email of his own to the Granite Status, "I find her plea laughable. Do the people of New Hampshire really believe her misleading rhetoric?

"She can't raise money off her own accomplishments and record, so she tries to mislead and scare people by demonizing me. It is probably time she explains to the people of New Hampshire and the country why she was the deciding vote for Obamacare, which is 'a trainwreck,' why she has not voted to delay its implementation -- instead hurting middle class families with higher healthcare costs, and why she pushed the IRS to target conservative groups.

"I could go on," Brown wrote, "but it is not worth it. Go Sox!!"

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

TUESDAY, OCT. 29: SHAHEEN: 'BROWN IS SERIOUS.' News that former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has set up a New Hampshire version of his "The People's Seat" political action committee (see item below) has spurred Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's camp to yet another fund-raising plea.

"Scott Brown is serious," Democrat Shaheen writes of the Republican in a campaign email sent to supporters today.

She writes that with stops in Nashua Monday night and Strafford County this coming weekend, Brown is embarking on "yet another campaign tour of our state."

Brown, who has a vacation home in Rye and whose family members live in New Hampshire, has not ruled out the possibility of establishing residence in the state and seeking the Senate seat held by Shaheen.

Brown told us on Monday he set up the PAC in New Hampshire so he can "write checks" in support of New Hampshire candidates for office.

His federal PAC lists only $187,000 in cash on hand, but Shaheen writes that he "is sending us a $187,000 signal that he's ready to run against us. Will you be there to help me fight back?"

Shaheen's campaign listed $2.7 million in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter, Sept. 30.

Shaheen has used Brown in several fund-raising email this year.

Earlier this month, Brown responded by saying, ""It's misleading to donors. It's trying to find a bogeyman to raise money off of. But whatever. I get it.

"I will say that the more she pokes me in the eye, the more fired up I get," he said at the time.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

MONDAY, OCT. 28. BROWN'S INTEREST IN NH CONTINUES. Why indeed did former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown file a New Hampshire version of his "The People's Seat" political action committee with our Secretary of State's office?

Brown says only he did it so he can "write checks" presumably to candidates for state offices.

The Concord Monitor first reported Sunday that a state version of the Brown PAC was filed on Oct. 11, again raising speculation about Brown possibly moving to his vacation home in Rye and running against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for the U.S. Senate.

The PAC's filing states that its purpose is. "To back strong, dedicated candidates and continue efforts to bring reform to government."

Brown, in an email, wrote us, "As you know NH law requires the filing in order for me to write checks. That is the reason. Sb"

Brown does not need a New Hampshire PAC to fund his own campaign here, should he have one, but only to support candidates for state offices, such as governor.

Still, Brown's continued interest in New Hampshire is --- well -- interesting.

His federal PAC had $187,000 on hand as of Sept. 30, according to his filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Brown has made seven apperances at New Hampshire Republican events since the spring and is schedule to return on Saturday, Nov. 2, to campaign for Fred Leonard, who is running for mayor of Rochester, and Matt Spencer, who is running for reelection as mayor of Somersworth, and to appear at a fundraiser for the Strafford County GOP in Dover.

(An earlier Granite Status report follows.)

MONDAY, OCT. 28: AYOTTE AND ENDA. As the Capitol Hill debate over the Affordable Care Act rages, below the radar, a concerted effort is under way nationally and locally by some Republicans and many Democrats for passage of a federal law to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and "gender identity."

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is expected to be up for a vote in the U.S. Senate later this fall. (Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote before Thanksgiving.)

Sixty votes will be needed for passage.

Advocates say they're nearing that number and that one of the key undecided votes is New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whose spokesman said she is reviewing the bill.

So, as you might expect, lobbying is well underway.

The Human Rights Campaign advocacy group says the bill extends federal employment protections against discrimination currently provided based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability to sexual orientation and "gender identity."

It would prohibit the use of "an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions."

The bill does not apply to businesses with fewer than 15 employees or to religious organizations, the HRC says.

New Hampshire has had a law on the books since 1997 barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment as well as in housing and service in public places such as hotels and restaurants.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who signed that measure into law as governor, is now an ENDA co-sponsor.

According to the HRC, 21 states have anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation, while 29 do not and in 17 states, those laws further apply to transgender people.

New Hampshire's law protects against discrimination based only on sexual orientation. A bill prohibiting discrimination based on "gender identity or expression," dubbed the "bathroom bill" by opponents, was killed in 2009.

The federal law would add a ban on discrimination based on "gender identity" in all states, including New Hampshire. And that, according to some proponents, makes it more difficult to pass.

Longtime Republican activist Matt Mayberry and New Hampshire College Republicans President Jake Wagner, who are gay, two weeks ago went to Washington to talk to Ayotte as part of a "National Lobby Day" for the bill.

They were flown there by Americans for Workplace Opportunity, an advocacy group headed by major Republican donor, top ENDA and same-sex marriage advocate and hedge fund magnate Paul Singer. Their chief assignment: talk to Ayotte.

"We told her that if she supports this, we're going to support her on it," Mayberry said. "She won't be out there all alone."

Mayberry and other proponents acknowledge that even if the bill passes the Senate, it will be a far taller order in the House. But he said Senate passage with a vote from a conservative Republican such as Ayotte "would send a signal."

Singer and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who revealed his homosexuality in 2010, were identified in a recent Washington Post story as leading "the behind-the-scenes effort" for Senate passage.

In New Hampshire, B-Fresh Consulting, headed by Republicans Tyler Deaton and Sarah Stewart, is leading local pro-ENDA efforts on behalf of Singer's national group.

Deaton used to be the chief spokesman for the former pro-same-sex marriage group, Standing Up for New Hampshire Families.

Both state members of the Republican National Committee, Steve Duprey and Juliana Bergeron, have written opinion pieces supporting ENDA.

Opposition locally has been less active than the proponents, but Cornerstone Policy Research (and its political arm, Cornerstone Action) has made its position known.

The groups' executive director Ashley Pratte, could not be reached for an interview Friday, but said in an email:

"If our country accepts ENDA as federal law not only would it be unenforceable, it will spur litigation that in turn could be used to intimidate people of faith in companies that can't afford lawsuits. This legislation would create thousands more lawsuits and as a result would have a negative impact on small businesses across the country if passed.

The Family Research Council is a major national opponent.

In a Washington Post story last week, the council's Peter Sprigg said, "Regardless of how much money (Singer and his allies) bring to the table, it is not to the advantage of Republican officeholders politically to support his agenda. Particularly in Republican primaries, the Republican Party is still strongly socially conservative. These are core convictions that people have."

He called the bill a "direct attack against the moral convictions of social conservatives."

On the Democratic side, Organizing For America, the advocacy group succeeded the Obama campaign, this week emailed New Hampshire supporters in the state asking them to call Ayotte and ask for her support.

And one of the leading advocates is New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, who is also a Democratic National Committee vice chair and describes himself as the highest ranking openly gay member of the DNC.

"New Hampshire's protection has been on the books since 1997 and it would certainly work well for the rest of the country," he said.


John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News.

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