Sen. Kelly Ayotte talks with NH1 News on February 12

Feb 13, 2016 3:59 PM

Steinhauser: In NH1 News interview, Ayotte says Hassan's stalling on Peoples Pledge

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – Sen. Kelly Ayotte says that her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, doesn’t really want to keep third party money out of their high profile Senate battle.

In a one-on-one interview at the NH1 News studios, the Republican senator who’s running for re-election this year said “I don’t think she really wants to keep it out of the race or she would certainly sign the existing ‘Peoples Pledge’ that has been used and has worked.”

Watch: Ayotte talks 1-on-1 with NH1 News

The 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 (from Super PACs, 501c4 groups, and other outside organizations) to folk over 50% of the cost of that ad buy to a charity of the opponent’s choosing.

Ayotte announced her move on Thursday to dramatically limit outside spending in her race against Hassan, which is shaping up to be one of the most high profile and expensive Senate battles in the country.

Hassan’s campaign responded to Ayotte’s offer on Friday, saying the governor signed 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,” Hassan said 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.

Watch: Presidential primary impacts Senate race

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," Ayotte in a statement in a statement.

Asked by NH1 News if she feels Hassan’s counter proposal was a stalling tactic, Ayotte said “I think so. Because the real issue is undisclosed third party spending. We’ve seen tens of millions of those dollars spent just coming out of our presidential primary. That’s what the ‘People’s Pledge’ is about. I sent her the Peoples Pledge that I signed.”

“If she’s serious about keeping this outside money out, and this third party groups out of this race, she’ll sign the ‘Peoples Pledge,” Ayotte added. “If she wants to keep this money out of the race, and this is something she’s railed about since she got in the race against me, we have something that works. We don’t need to lawyer this to death so that one side or the other tries to get an advantage. This is an even handed pledge that works.”

The Hassan campaign disagrees.

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

A day earlier Goldberg told NH1 News that Ayotte “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.”

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.

And New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley called Ayotte inflexible.

“I think this is very typical of Kelly Ayotte. It’s her way or the highway, never willing to compromise, never willing to work with other people. And that’s really in stark contrast to what Gov. Hassan will bring to the U.S. Senate seat,” Buckley told NH1 News.

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