CONCORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan’s campaign committee was legally able to accept unlimited political action committee contributions just before she formally filed the necessary paperwork to officially become a candidate and yet still not file a receipts and expenditures report on the deadline for non-candidate political committees, according to a high-ranking official in the Attorney General’s Office.
That’s because, Associate Attorney General Richard Head told the New Hampshire Journal Wednesday, when Hassan changed the name of her committee the day she filed, the Attorney General’s Office also viewed it as a self-designation that at that point, it was a political committee of a candidate and so was no longer required to file a receipts and expenditures report by a June 18 deadline.
Two years ago, the Maggie ’12 campaign committee accepted big donations above the limits outlined for candidate committees because it was not a political committee of a candidate. But it complied with the requirement to file a June 2012 report and did so.
It filed no June report this year.
Yet, Head said there was no reporting violation because he and his colleagues in the Attorney General’s Office who worked on a state Republican Party complaint against the Hassan campaign committee determined that when Hassan changed the name of the committee from “Friends of Maggie Hassan” to “Maggie ’14” in a letter to Secretary of State William Gardner on the day she filed for office, she also designated the committee as the political committee of a candidate. Click here for the name-change letter.
Head said that as a result, the newly renamed – and re-designated – Maggie ’14 was not required to file a financial report, as other non-candidate committees were, by the June 18 deadline.
That means that “Friends of Maggie Hassan” was able to take contributions in excess of the limits for candidate committee before she filed for governor because it was “not a political committee of a candidate,” as stated in its registration form of Dec. 20, 2012. It did take three $10,000 contributions from PACs associated with state employees, commercial food workers and plumbers and steamfitters. (It had to return $24,000 of a $25,000 electrical workers union PAC donation that it received the day after she filed.)
But the committee was then not required to file a report by June 18, because, Head said, on June 12, when it changed its name from “Friends of Maggie Hassan” to “Maggie ’14,” it designated itself a political committee of a candidate, which does not have to file a receipts and expenditures report until Aug. 20.
In that letter she says the name was changed, but said “Maggie ’14 will continue as my candidate committee.” That statement appears to be at odds with the initial registration of the committee as “not a political committee of a candidate.” Click here.
That registration form states that a $50 fee “must accompany this registration if it is not a political committee of a candidate.” The form shows, in hand-writing, a check number and “$50.”
Still, said Head, “it’s a self-reporting designation. We took her self-report as contained in her letter changing the name saying that Maggie ’14 is a political committee of a candidate.”
Head said officials in the Attorney General’s Office “had the same conversation” as was discussed in an interview Wednesday “regarding what do we describe this as, and came to the conclusion that it’s a self-designated determination, and it was described in that way (by Hassan in the June 12 name-change letter) and we accepted it.”
The Attorney General’s Office apparently gave the June 12 name-change letter more weight than Hassan’s own attorney.
In his response to the NHGOP’s initial complaint, attorney Jay Surdukowski made it clear that the name-change letter had no “substantive import” other than the fact that “the campaign simply updated the name of its committee for the current election season.”