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Feb 12, 2016 11:27 AM

First on NH1 News: Hassan counter-offers on pledge, NHGOP claims Hassan campaign of giving green light to outside groups

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – The New Hampshire GOP is accusing Gov. Maggie Hassan’s U.S. Senate campaign of posting material of the governor on YouTube to allow pro-Democratic outside groups to use in TV ads.

The accusation Friday by the NHGOP comes one day after Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte made a pitch to dramatically limit outside spending in her re-election battle against Hassan, which is shaping up to be one of the most high profile and expensive Senate battles in the country.

Friday developments occurred fast and furious. First, Hassan’s campaign responded to Ayotte’s offer, saying the governor is signing a “Strengthened New Hampshire Peoples Pledge” which would limit each campaign to a $15 million spending cap.

“Granite Staters know that it’s not just the outside spending, but the amount of spending on campaigns that should be reined in. We would be happy to meet with you or your campaign to discuss this proposal further and find a way to move forward on this pledge together,” said Hassan in a statement.

“This campaign should be about how we can keep New Hampshire moving in the right direction by bringing people together to help hard-working Granite Staters get ahead and stay ahead. I hope that you will join me and that we can lead the way with this groundbreaking agreement to curb campaign spending,” she continued.

Ayotte quickly responded.

"No one should be fooled by Governor Hassan's proposal which has nothing to do with the real issue, which is undisclosed third party special interest spending. This move is politician speak for 'I do not want to sign the People’s Pledge.' Governor Hassan's decision to totally change the intent of the People’s Pledge is an attempt to kill it," wrote Ayotte in a statement.

Minutes later the Hassan campaign fired back.

“It’s extremely disappointing that Senator Ayotte has indicated that she has no intention of signing the strengthened New Hampshire’s People Pledge, wrote Hassan campaign manager Marc Goldberg.

“Take it or leave it offers and an unwillingness to even have discussions may be how they do things in Washington – which is why Washington is so badly broken – but it’s not how we do things in New Hampshire," he added.

About an hour before the back and forth between Ayotte and Hassan, the NHGOP pointed to a video posted Sunday titled “Maggie Hassan: Working Across New Hampshire.”

“Governor Hassan obviously posted this footage on her campaign YouTube page for liberal special interest groups to use in third party ads. The governor has been caught red handed signaling dark money SuperPACs to begin flooding New Hampshire's airwaves to prop up her struggling United States Senate campaign,” said NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn, in a statement obtained by NH1 News.

“The Governor can’t have it both ways by publicly attacking outside political groups while quietly welcoming their support,” Horn added.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party quickly responded.

"The NHGOP should turn their accusations a little closer to home and find out how Karl Rove’s shady outside spending group got their hands on b-roll footage of Kelly Ayotte, footage that already aired on TV to the tune of 1.2 million dollars," NHDP press secretary Melissa Miller told NH1 News.

Ironically hours after Ayotte's initial announcement on the pledge, an outside group supporting her re-election spent nearly $200,000 on her behalf, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Ayotte’s campaign set the entire episode in motion with the senator’s announcement Thursday morning.

“We owe it to the people of New Hampshire to have an honest discussion of our respective records and stand behind the ads run on our behalf,” the first term Republican senator wrote. “But excessive spending by third party special interest groups threatens to drown out New Hampshire voices in our race and undermine the meaningful debate that our citizens expect and deserve.”

"We can change the status quo and take a stand to say that this race should be about New Hampshire. That’s why today I’m asking you to agree to a race between the two of us by pledging to keep third party special interest spending out of this race and keep the focus on New Hampshire priorities,” Ayotte continued.

Speaking to NH1 News minutes after the senator’s announcement, Ayotte campaign finance chairman Steve Duprey said “if you take one lesson away from Tuesday’s presidential primary where Bernie Sanders won without a super PAC and Donald Trump wouldn’t take contributions and had no super PAC, it’s that voters in New Hampshire don’t like that kind of money, don’t like that outside influence, don’t like those outside special interests and super PACs playing in New Hampshire.”

“I don’t know of any other incumbent who’s started and initiated this kind of pledge,” Duprey continued.

The “peoples pledge” is based on the 2012 agreement between then Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. It would require either candidate that benefits from third-party spending to folk over 50% of the cost of that ad buy to a charity of the opponent’s choosing.

Goldberg told NH1 News “Gov. Hassan has long been a proponent for campaign finance reform. She opposes the Supreme Court Citizens United decision and believes that overturning it is essential to our Democracy."

Goldberg then criticized Ayotte, who’s greatly benefited from outside money so far this election cycle, with a bunch of pro-GOP outside groups spending big bucks on ads targeting Hassan.

“I would also say it’s a bit out of character coming from Sen. Ayotte, who has benefited from over $5 million in outside money already in ads for her and opposing the governor already this cycle. She has opposed campaign finance reform and she supports the Citizens United decision, not to mention she’s voted with the Koch Brothers 90% of the time,” Goldberg added.

Hours earlier, the Hassan campaign released a memo to reporters that charged that Ayotte “puts corporate special interests such as the Koch Brothers and her party’s leadership before New Hampshire.”

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