Hassan Got Early Donation

Republicans Call for Further Investigation

Concord — A $25,000 contribution from a labor union’s political action committee to Gov. Maggie Hassan was the subject of a complaint filed Wednesday by the New Hampshire Republican Party with the state Attorney General.

Reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office in June show the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC gave $25,000 to Friends of Maggie Hassan on June 12, the same day Hassan officially filed to run for re-election. The Republican Party says this donation violates the state’s political contribution limits. But Hassan’s campaign and the IBEW say the contribution was legal because it was made before she was officially a candidate. Committee reports were due June 18, but candidate reports are not due until Aug. 2, so it’s unclear how much Hassan has raised at this point.

Hassan’s campaign office sent a letter to the Attoney General asking for expedited review, according to a news release.

Assistant Attorney General Steve LaBonte said the department will likely begin looking into the complaint immediately, but he doesn’t have a time frame for when it will be resolved. He declined to comment further on the complaint.

Contribution laws say candidates for office who do not accept a voluntary spending cap can take up to $5,000 from individuals during both the primary and general election and up to $1,000 from committees in both periods. Over the years, the Attorney General’s Office has acknowledged that New Hampshire’s campaign contribution laws are murky. This issue revolves around whether a candidate can accept unlimited contributions from committees before actually filing to become a candidate.

In a 2012 letter to the Secretary of State’s Office clarifying the contribution law, the Attorney General’s Office wrote, “political committees associated with a candidate may accept contributions that are not in excess of $5,000 until such time as the candidate files for office and declines to agree to voluntary campaign expenditure limits.”

The New Hampshire Republican Party points to that limit as it calls the contributions to Hassan illegal.

“The law and the opinion of the Attorney General is clear: candidates are held to a $5,000 limit in the period before they declare their candidacy. Governor Hassan’s alarming misinterpretation of the law shows that she doesn’t believe she has to adhere to any campaign contribution limits before she officially files her candidacy,” Republican Party spokeswoman Lauren Zelt said in a statement.

Records show Hassan received several other big donations June 12: Both the Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education and the United Food and Commercial Workers Active Ballot Club each gave her $10,000. Neither of those committees, nor the IBEW PAC, recorded any contributions, making it impossible to tell where the money for the donations to Hassan came from.

But Hassan’s campaign said state law doesn’t limit contributions from committee to committee and that, before officially filing, a candidate’s committee can collect as much money as it wants. Her campaign pointed to previous contributions to former governor John Lynch before he was officially a candidate. In 2006, for example, Lynch took $25,000 from a group called Heartland PAC on June 14, 2006, which was before he filed for re-election. In December 2005, he also received $5,000 from the group. It appears no one challenged those contributions in 2006.

But in 2010, when Lynch was up for re-election against Republican John Stephen, there was controversy over how much a candidate could legally collect from each PAC. Lynch thought the limit was $6,000, while Stephen thought it was $7,000, which included $5,000 in pre-candidate donations, $1,000 during the primary and $1,000 during the general. The Assistant Attorney General ruled that the intent of the law was for a $6,000 max but that candidates could raise $7,000 because Stephen was given misinformation. Both of those calculations rely on capping the allowable donations from PACs at $5,000 before becoming a candidate.

Hassan filed for re-election the same day of the recorded contribution from the IBEW.

“We are confident that all contributions are in line with past precedent under New Hampshire law and advice that campaigns and contributors have received from the Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of State’s office over the years,” campaign spokesman Aaron Jacobs said in a statement.