NHDP alleges Havenstein campaign finance violations, seeks AG probe

CONCORD – The state Democratic Party is charging that Republican candidate for governor Walt Havenstein violated campaign finance law in his Aug. 20 report of receipts and expenditures and is asking the Attorney General’s Office to investigate.

 

 

The request by NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley comes after Gov. Maggie Hassan’s campaign returned $33,000 in campaign contributions received from political action committees associated with organized labor. Those contributions were received one day after campaign contribution limits went into effect.

 

 

A Havenstein campaign spokesman said, “The complaint is without foundation. The Democrats are desperately attempting to distract from the Hassan Loophole.”
The spokesman, Henry Goodwin, said the Havenstein report complies with the law.

 

 

The Democrats say that Havenstein began spending money on campaign activities before he registered a campaign committee; that he illegally accepted contributions from out-of-state PACs that were not registered with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office; and failed repeatedly to document required information about campaign contributors in his report. Click here to view Havenstein’s Aug. 20 report.

 

The out-of-state contributions in question were a $1,000 contribution from the Fund for American Opportunity, which is affiliated with former Michigan U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham, and a $2,000 contribution from Rogers for Congress, affiliated with Michigan U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers.

 

 

“Given failed CEO Walt Havenstein’s history of doublespeak, tax evasion, and scandals, no one should be surprised by his hypocrisy when it comes to campaign finance,” said NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley.

 

 

“Havenstein’s multiple violations of New Hampshire campaign finance law are just the latest example of his scandal-ridden failed leadership and lack of integrity. The only question now is: what will Havenstein say to try to avoid accountability this time?

 

 

“From pledging to repeal health coverage from 50,000 Granite Staters despite cashing in on contracts to implement the law as CEO, to his failure to stop a fraud scandal that cost taxpayers $500 million under his watch at SAIC, and now his multiple campaign finance violations, Havenstein has proved again and again that he can’t be trusted to look out for the priorities of the people of New Hampshire,” Buckley said.

 

Havenstein campaign spokesman Goodwin said, “The issue concerning voters is that Maggie Hassan has taken unlimited contributions from special interest groups through her loophole. She is supposedly a champion of campaign finance reform, but has left people with the impression that influence can be bought.”

 

The Havenstein campaign said it has requested information from all donors and will continue to collect it.

 

It said the contributions being questioned by the Democrats “are consistent with the Attorney General’s most recent rulings.”

As for the report listing expenditures by the campaign before the campaign committee was registered, the campaign said: “Walt spent some money out of his own pocket to explore a potential run, before there was a campaign. Once he decided to run, and formed his campaign committee, he reported these early expenditures.”

 

The campaign also pointed out that Hassan’s campaign has accepted “numerous contributions ‘numerous contributions from PACs that have not registered in New Hampshire for the 2014 elections. It also noted that the Attorney General’s Office, in its formal response to a complaint from the NHGOP about PAC donations made to Hassan’s campaign, stated that three PACs failed to file timely registrations. They were sent cease and desist letters, but Hassan was allowed to keep their contributions.

 

 

The full letter to the Attorney General is below and is available here:

 

August 26th, 2014

 

Dear Attorney General Foster:

 

I write to bring to your attention three serious potential violations of New Hampshire campaign finance law by Republican gubernatorial candidate Walter Havenstein and several of his major contributors, and ask that you launch an immediate investigation.

 

It appears, the Havenstein campaign violated New Hampshire campaign finance law by accepting improper PAC contributions; by spending $24,000 on campaign activities prior to registering with the Secretary of State’s office; and providing inadequate contributor information contrary to New Hampshire campaign finance law disclosure requirements.

 

Specifically, the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP) urges that the Attorney General’s Office find contributions by two, unregistered out-of-state Federal PACs to be in violation of RSA 664:4.The NHDP also requests that Mr. Havenstein’s campaign be ordered to comply with campaign finance disclosure requirements and for your office to find a violation on account of the strict prohibition on unregistered campaign spending, along with calling for an appropriate remedy to that violation.

 

Mr. Havenstein’s campaign finance violations fall into three categories and each is summarized below:

 

1. Acceptance of Contributions from Unregistered Out-of-State PACs.

 

Mr. Havenstein’s campaign report states that he has benefitted from unlawful contributions made by Rogers for Congress – a Federal PAC apparently belonging to a Michigan Congressman, and an entity called Fund for American Opportunity, a Federal leadership PAC affiliated with former Michigan U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham. See Attachment 1 – Havenstein for Governor Statement of Receipts and Expenditures dated August 20, 2014 at pages 5, 13. Under New Hampshire law, both of these contributions by PACs that are not registered in New Hampshire are prohibited, and therefore the Attorney General should find these contributions in violation and issue a cease and desist order barring further unlawful contributions by these out-of-state PACs.

 

RSA 664:5 prohibits political committees from promoting candidates with expenditures and contributions unless they are registered with the Secretary of State under RSA 664:3, I. “Political committee” is defined as any two persons who are working to influence elections and the law is not limited just to New Hampshire persons or PACs. Out-of-state PACs must register if they are going to make contributions or expenditures here. Neither Rogers for Congress nor the Fund for American Opportunity have registered as required.

 

2. Unlawfully spending $24,000 Before Registering a Political Committee.

 

Mr. Havenstein violated the campaign finance laws of New Hampshire when his campaign began to spend money without registering his political committee. According to Mr. Havenstein’s report, the first installment of nearly $1.5 million of his own money which Mr. Havenstein has dumped into his campaign was made on March 1, 2014. See, Attachment 1 at page 7. Four days later, Mr. Havenstein’s campaign spent $24,000 for “strategic consulting.” See, Attachment 1 – Expenditures at page 1. According to the Havenstein for Governor registration at the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office, Mr. Havenstein’s political committee was not registered until April, almost a month after his campaign began spending tens of thousands of dollars on political activities in violation of the law.

 

Under RSA 664:3, political committees such as Mr. Havenstein’s “shall register with the secretary of state not later than 24 hours after receiving any contribution in excess of $500 or before making any expenditure in excess of $500, but in no event later than 14 days after formation of the committee.” While a contribution under New Hampshire law does not include spending a candidate’s personal wealth, political committees must register once they start expending any funds to influence an election — no matter the source of those funds.

 

The voters of New Hampshire have a right to know who is spending money to get elected to public office and when. Registration within 24 hours of spending is required so voters know almost immediately when a candidate begins to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a race. Mr. Havenstein’s covert campaign spending violates New Hampshire law.

 

3. Repeated Failure to Document Required Information on Campaign Contributors in Violation of New Hampshire’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Law.

 

Mr. Havenstein has violated New Hampshire campaign finance law by not disclosing the occupations or employers of dozens of his contributors or any information at all about the employment location of contributors who have made contributions of $100 or more. See, Exhibit 1. RSA 664:6 requires political committees to “file with the secretary of state an itemized statement, signed by its chairman and treasurer showing each of its receipts exceeding $25 with the full name and home post office address of the contributor in alphabetical order and the amount of the contribution, the date it was received, and the aggregate total for each election for each contributor of over $100.” For contributors who give more than $100, New Hampshire law also requires:

 

Any listing which exceeds an individual’s aggregate total of $100 for each election shall be accompanied by the contributor’s occupation including official job title, the name of the contributor’s employer, and the city or town of the contributor’s principal place of business, if any.

 

In the first five pages of his report alone, Mr. Havenstein fails to report employers or occupations and in most instances, both, of 45 contributions out of 135 that exceed the 100 dollar threshold for the more detailed reporting. This is just over a third. The numerous omissions go on for many pages. Mr. Havenstein should be ordered to immediately resubmit his report in compliance with New Hampshire law.

 

While admittedly even campaigns exercising due diligence will not be able to obtain on a timely basis the required disclosure information by the date of filing, the sheer scope of the Havenstein campaign’s omissions is indicative of massive neglect in following up with contributors and complying with the letter of the law. The disclosure requirements are not empty formalities. The requirements are intended to insure transparency by providing information on where contributors work and what they do. The statute requires specificity for a reason. Mr. Havenstein has shirked the disclosure requirements and he should be ordered to comply immediately so voters have a better picture of just who is funding Mr. Havenstein’s campaign.

 

The NHDP looks forward to your investigation and rulings.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Raymond Buckley

 

Chair, New Hampshire Democratic Party

 

CC: Havenstein for Governor

Author: John DiStaso

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