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Friday, December 13, 2013

Group’s conservative funding questioned

CONCORD – A left-leaning interest group charged that the Concord-based, Josiah Bartlett Center was secretly bankrolled by national conservatives and promoting a national corporate agenda.

Granite State Progress, with the Center for Media and the Democracy, issued a voluminous report alleging Josiah Bartlett was in league with the conservative Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council to pursue their directed, legislative goals. ...

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CONCORD – A left-leaning interest group charged that the Concord-based, Josiah Bartlett Center was secretly bankrolled by national conservatives and promoting a national corporate agenda.

Granite State Progress, with the Center for Media and the Democracy, issued a voluminous report alleging Josiah Bartlett was in league with the conservative Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council to pursue their directed, legislative goals.

“Granite Staters need to know how these groups misrepresent themselves and their agenda, and how much influence they maintain over lawmakers,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress.

“We will continue to shine a bright light on ALEC, front groups like the Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog, and the lawmakers who are doing their dirty work rather than acting in the best interests of our state.”

NH Watchdog is an Internet-based, conservative research blog started by Grant Bosse, a former researcher and “reporter” with Josiah Bartlett.

Last week, The Telegraph first reported Bosse left what had become a part-time position with Josiah Bartlett to become policy director for the Republican Caucus of the New Hampshire State Senate. Josiah Bartlett Center President Charles Arlinghaus said the group has never hid its conservative, pro-free market credentials and acts on projects only at the direction of its in-state board of directors.

“When two conservatives agree on something, it doesn’t make it a conspiracy,” Arlinghaus said during a telephone interview.

Bill Duncan with New Hampshire Advancing Education had led the fight against a Josiah Bartlett project, successfully convincing the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 to create education tax credits for business owners to support scholarships for students at religious or other private schools.

A lower court struck down as unconstitutional the tax credits for religious schools but left intact scholarships for sectarian, private or home school programs.

“The Josiah Bartlett Center has a nice-sounding, local name, but the fact that they go to such great lengths to hide their connections to groups like ALEC or funders like the Koch brothers while advocating for the very policy agenda supplied by those groups and funders should raise the eyebrows of anyone,” Duncan said.

Arlinghaus said he’s sure some of his group’s campaigns were what ALEC would pursue nationally but they were not working together.

“This is typical. The right thinks that George Soros funds everything on the left and the left thinks the Koch Brothers funds everything on the right,” Arlinghaus said. “I’m sure there are a lot of similarities to what ALEC does and what we do. I’d like to think what we do in New Hampshire was different.”

The report cites statements from Arlinghaus and Bosse in which they deny the group gets any financial support from the Koch Brothers.

But they unearthed some financial details of their donors that included the Donors Capital Fund with nearly $500,000 in grants since 2009 that at times made up 56 percent of Josiah Bartlett’s financing.

The Koch Brothers have financially supported the Donors Capital Fund.

“They are working on a national conservative agenda not a local, New Hampshire-based agenda,” charged Rebekah Wilce, project director for the Center for Media and Democracy during a conference call with reporters.

Arlinghaus said he was unaware of where the Donors Capital Fund got its support but likened it to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“If the Koch Brothers did support it, we wouldn’t know that and we wouldn’t care,” Arlinghaus said.

“Our donors by and large are conservatives philosophically. That may come as a great shock to Granite State Progress but it’s nothing we’ve hidden or should be a surprise to anyone who’s paid attention,” Arlinghaus added.

Earlier this month, Arlinghaus said the group had its most lucrative, in-state fundraiser ever at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord starring humorist P.J. O’Rourke.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).