Dave Solomon's Granite Status: Dueling FEC complaints filed in U.S. Senate Race
The race for a New Hampshire seat in the U.S. Senate is now the focus of two formal complaints before the Federal Election Commission.
The state Democratic Party on Thursday asked the agency to investigate whether former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown violated election law by failing to file campaign spending reports in a timely fashion.
The NHDP action comes three days after the state Republican Committee filed a formal complaint of its own, charging the campaign of incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen with illegally coordinating advertising by outside political action committees.
In their brief filed on Thursday, Democrats cite an April 27 interview on WMUR with Brown, in which the candidate said he decided to run on Valentine’s Day.
“That should have triggered FEC disclosure and reporting requirements,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, named as plaintiff in the complaint.
Brown announced on March 14 that he was forming an exploratory committee and formally announced in Portsmouth on April 10.
His first filing of campaign spending reports with the FEC shows no expenditures prior to March 31, despite what the complaint calls “a litany of exploratory and campaign activities.”
FEC rules allow potential candidates to “test the waters,” without being subjected to reporting requirements, but the exception does not apply once the individual has decided to become a candidate.
The case hinges on whether Brown’s Valentine’s Day conversation with his wife constitutes a decision to run in the legal sense.
“Scott Brown decided to become a candidate for Senate on Valentine’s Day, and that should have triggered FEC filing requirements and deadlines that he clearly did not meet. We’re asking the FEC for a thorough and swift investigation,” said Buckley. “For five weeks after he decided to become a candidate, Scott Brown refused to admit it, misleading the people of New Hampshire, ducking the law, and using his spot on Fox News to attack Jeanne Shaheen.”
New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn accused the NHDP of filing the complaint at the request of the Shaheen campaign as a diversion from the GOP filing earlier in the week.
“In response to the being called out for illegal coordination with Senator Harry Reid’s Super PAC, embattled Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is directing her State Democrat Party to file a frivolous complaint to distract from her suspicious behavior,” Horn said in a statement.
NHDP spokesperson Julie McClain said the complaint was an independent act of the state committee, with no direction from the Shaheen campaign.
From independent, to Democrat, to Republican
J.P. Marzullo, a former Deering selectman and incumbent vice chairman of the N.H. Republican Committee, says he's no career politician as he campaigns in the Republican primary for the District 8 Senate seat being vacated by six-term Sen. Bob Odell of Lempster.
But he did show some political skill in explaining why he voted as a Democrat in the state primaries of 2006 and 2008, especially since he has tried to position himself as more conservative than the moderate Odell.
Marzullo acknowledged on a radio talk show last week that he pulled Democratic ballots in those two years after a caller said he was dissatisfied with Republicans and planned to register as an independent.
"I told him to be careful," Marzullo said.
And he ought to know. As he explained to the caller, people registered as independent in New Hampshire can request the ballot of either party in the September primary, but must reregister as an independent after the election. Otherwise, they will remain registered as a Democrat or Republican, depending on which ballot they took in the primary.
"I was an independent," Marzullo said in a telephone interview. "I wasn't even a registered Republican until 2009."
Marzullo said he went to the polls as an independent in the September 2006 primary and asked for a Democratic ballot to support Gov. John Lynch in his reelection bid.
"I didn't know Jim Coburn (Lynch's Republican opponent at the time). Having just moved here from Maryland, the only person I knew in state politics was John Lynch, and he seemed like a pretty decent guy. I wanted to vote and didn't want to take a Republican ballot because I didn't know anyone on it."
Fast forward to 2008 and things were very different. Marzullo had been elected selectman and was becoming active in Republican politics, partly over his concern about health care policy. (His wife, Donna, now plays a prominent role in anti-Obamacare TV ads.)
In the primary that September, he asked for a Republican ballot.
"They told me I was registered as a Democrat," Marzullo recalls, because he never reregistered as a Republican after his 2006 vote.
Marzullo says he took the Democratic ballot, wrote in the names of Republican candidates, and then made sure to come back to register as a Republican.
"I had a huge sign in my front yard for McCain and Palin," he said.
The Senate candidate is apparently not alone when it comes to confusion over the state's primary voting regulations.
"I asked the supervisor of the checklist how often this happens," he said, "and she said for new people who vote, it happens 95 percent of the time."
Marzullo faces opposition for the Republican nomination in District 8 from Jerry Little of Weare, who formally announced on Wednesday.
A former president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association and a former press secretary to Gov. John H. Sununu, Little has served as Weare town moderator.
"I'm running because I want to pay it forward," he said.
Little was a journalist in the 1980s, working on radio and for WMUR. According to his campaign manager, he was a registered independent while working for the Fourth Estate, but has been active in Republican politics since 1987.
The winner of the Little-Marzullo primary will most likely face the only declared Democratic candidate, first-term state Rep. Linda Tanner, who announced her candidacy on Monday.
Tanner, who has been representing Plainfield, Croydon, Grantham, Newport, Unity, Springfield and Sunapee in the House, was an educator at Kearsarge Regional High School for 35 years. In retirement she became an adjunct professor at Colby-Sawyer College in New London.
Senate District 8 includes Newport, Grantham, Sunapee, Croydon, Unity, Springfield, New London, Goshen, Newbury, Sutton, Bradford, Lempster, Acworth, Langdon, Marlow, Washington, Hillsborough, Windsor, Stoddard, Antrim, Deering, Bennington, Francestown and Weare.
Keeping up the fight
On the day casino gambling was about to go down to defeat once again in the N.H. House of Representatives, Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway unveiled his own idea about how to expand gambling in the state without hurting the charities that rely on it.
Hemingway's proposal, outlined at a news conference Wednesday in the Legislative Office Building, would expand charitable gambling by allowing 150 slot machines at the state's approved eight sites, such as Rockingham Park, Seabrook Park and the River Card Room in Milford.
For years, these charitable casinos have been allowed to operate table games like poker, craps, black jack, and roulette, but have not been allowed to install slot machines.
State law allows such gambling on behalf of designated charities, with 35 percent of the "net revenue" (after expenses) going to the charity, 10 percent to the state and 55 percent to the operators.
Hemingway said that approach netted $4.8 million for charities last year, and $1.3 million for the state.
He proposes the state double-down on charitable gambling by going big on slot machines.
In addition to adding 150 slots at the eight sites, he would allow the same eight locations to obtain state permits for up to 50 additional slots each to be hosted "in other facilities as approved by municipalities."
"These numbers may grow and change over a period of years, but this should be used as a beta test for the concept to make sure revenues and charitable donations are a benefit," he said.
Hemingway said there is a significant level of overhead in running table games, so he would retain the existing revenue split. But when it comes to slot machines, he is suggesting a split that includes a piece for the host municipality, with 35 percent to charity; 25 percent to the state; 2 percent to the municipality; and 38 percent to the operators.
According to Hemingway's estimates, this approach could net $30 million for charity, $22 million for the state and $1.7 million to host municipalities every year.
More endorsements for Innis
Dan Innis, Republican candidate for Congress in the First District, has released another list of endorsements with some prominent names. The Portsmouth businessman and UNH administrator is in a primary fight with former Congressman Frank Guinta to take on incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter in the fall.
Our campaign is gaining momentum and attracting both political veterans and many first time grassroots activists,” said Innis, in listing the following supporters; Brad Blais, Rye; Cynthia Collins, Newmarket; Deborah Collins, Milton; Wendy Collins, Rye; Linda Frawley, Belmont; State Rep. Curtis Grace, Brentwood; Michael Jabar, Rye; Nicholas Jabar, Rye; Wendy Stanley Jones, Greenland; Sheri Keniston, Portsmouth; NancyKindler, Epping; Warren Kindler, Epping; Jane Langley, Rye; Ed Lecius, Merrimack; Katherine McDonnell, Stratham; Harold Parker, Wolfeboro; Pat Rueppel, Hooksett; Kathy Schneiderat, Manchester; Jeffrey St. Cyr, Alton; Betty Tamposi, New Castle; Barbara White, Wolfeboro.