May 15, 2015 11:39 AM
NH1 News Political Report: May 14, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet
Congressman Frank Guinta’s re-election is in serious trouble.
There’s no way to sugarcoat the devastating judgment of a dysfunctional Federal Elections Commission that after long deliberation saw a slam dunk in the question over whether Guinta used his own money to loan his 2010 campaign more than $350,000.
They said no and he was compelled to agree to a $15,000 fine and to return $355,000 to his campaign account within the next year.
Guinta is promising by the end of this week to release records showing that he had deposited more than the loan amount of money into this account controlled by his parents.
But of course that alone won’t satisfy the facts. Guinta would have to reveal the entire records of the bank account to know for certain that there were sufficient assets strictly his own there at the time he made the loans.
And even if he accomplishes that, Guinta can’t walk back the many denials he has made over the years that the money was not held by his parents (the FEC settlement says it most certainly was).
What is at least as troubling for Guinta are the many statements made by prominent Republicans at the time in his defense.
Consider this one from current Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro; Guinta once served as Bradley’s congressional chief of staff although their relationship is not as warm now as it once was.
Bradley told Politico in August 2010 that ``absolutely’’ Guinta should drop out if he wasn’t truthful about the source of the loan.
"If there’s not a satisfactory explanation, I think it’s very damaging,’’ Bradley said at the time.
"How you forget something like that is just pretty hard to explain. The average person wouldn’t forget…if you were Warren Buffett, possibly.’’
The controversy is now in its fourth day and not a single GOP figure has come to rebut critics of Guinta on the topic.
As we’ve often observed, you can’t be somebody with nobody. Will Dan Innis step forward and again take on Guinta; his 40 percent showing in last September’s primary exceeded expectations.
Guinta’s ultimate nemesis, former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, has wisely been relatively silent since the controversy broke allowing the target to burn slowly until she pounces.
Is she up to a four-peat battle with Guinta? She’s beaten him during presidential years and lost to him in off-elections like last November.
If Shea-Porter decides not to go, Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester is the obvious choice.
Why would some of the most prominent conservative Republicans this far out sign on with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz?
$$$ could have something to do with it.
Cruz surprised political observers by raising $2 million the first week after his March announcement. Even more impressive was the $31 million that Cruz’s four super PACs have already raised.
Ideologically, former Sen. Bob Smith, ex-Speaker Bill O’Brien and Executive Councilor Dave Wheeler, R-Milford, all are in line with Cruz.
But has Cruz made financial commitments to any of them to win their support?
Smith is the one who could use it the most.
His US Senate primary campaign is in debt, owing vendors $23,400 as of the end of March.
The New Hampshire Political Report confirms at least four of Smith’s donors over the past three months also were Cruz givers.
Here’s a few examples:
- Ray Barrett Jr. of Midkiff, TX: Gave $300 to Smith, $1,250 to Cruz over the past two years.
- Rayline Binion of Fort Worth, TX: Gave $200 to Smith, $200 to Cruz.
Thanks to the state’s limp-wristed campaign finance disclosure laws, we won’t know until June 2016 whether Cruz directed any campaign cash either to O’Brien’s GOP leadership PAC or Wheeler’s re-election campaign.
Gov. Maggie Hassan hasn’t weighed in publicly yet but it’s almost a certainty she will reject a bill that states a school district or student cannot be penalized for its failure to have students take assessment tests (HB 603).
Critics maintain that student achievement on these tests must be monitored by state due to federal law and allowing any number of students not to take it will weaken the data.
The Senate passed the bill Thursday but well short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a Hassan veto. Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, joined with the 10 Democrats to oppose the bill that passed, 13-11.
A group of students and parents packed the outside of the Senate chamber to support the bill.
It’s not getting nasty but there’s quite a close battle for control of the AFL-CIO union.
Longtime President Mark McKenzie barely won, 4,230 to 4,209 but more than the winning margin is in dispute over the marking of ballots.
The runner up is Glenn Brackett who is business manager of the New Hampshire International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Brackett got plenty of positive publicity for his handling of the strike of Fairpoint Communications workers.
Brackett maintains that a total of 691 votes for him were disqualified because they were checked off rather than marked with an X.
This is not a typical election; meaning some individuals have votes that count for many more than a single ballot.
It was a curious choice for Senate budget writers as they made the renewable energy fund one of the first places in which to add money back into the state budget that wasn’t in the House plan.
The House budget had used the energy fund to prop up its spending plan and specifically to avoid making deep cuts to the state highway budget.
What’s curious about this is the current two-year state budget stole from this fund to balance the books.
So why would it be essential to finance the program this time?
Senate President Chuck Morse said he’s consistently opposed moves to raid dedicated funds.
This coming week is an important one as Senate budget writers intend to make some key decisions about spending priorities.
At the end of the week, they will ask Legislative Budget Assistant Jeff Pattison to give a tentative balance sheet so Senate budget writers know where they are.
This was a critical mistake made when the House Finance Committee put its plan together. Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weared, learned late in the game that the budget was not balanced and had to reopen the plan to make more cuts.
The Senate intends to learn from that mistake but it will also mean both those senators and likely LBA staff will be spending the Memorial Day weekend at the State House.
The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce turned to a familiar political figure to run its shop as President Chris Williams mounts his campaign for mayor.
Tracy Hatch served on the city’s school and aldermanic boards and her husband, Bill, once was a Republican nominee for Congress losing to Democratic incumbent Dick Swett.
She’s a proven fund-raiser and well-liked in the business community. Williams leaves big shoes to fill but she’s a quality pick.
Meanwhile, former Mayor Jim Donchess landed a very important endorsement for his 2015 run to replace retiring Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.
Former Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli is on board with Donchess and brings nearly two decades of legislative and state service to his campaign.
This race is also shaping up as the most competitive and most interesting to watch municipal contest.
Quote of the Week:
"All of it has to be reexamined and questioned. He hasn’t just been lying about the bank account, he’s been lying about everything. He will lose his seat over this.” - Former Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen condemning Congressman Guinta’s settlement with the Federal Elections Commission regarding the 2010 loans made to his campaign.