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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GOP candidate for governor ran firm while PAC gave $512K to Democrats

CONCORD – While Republican candidate for governor Walt Havenstein ran a Virginia-based defense contractor, its political action committee gave $512,000 to Democratic members of Congress including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, The Telegraph confirmed Monday.

Over those 2010 and 2012 election cycles, the Science International Applications Corp. PAC gave $619,600 to GOP incumbents including Sen. Kelly Ayotte and ex-NH Congressmen Charles Bass and Frank Guinta, all R-N.H. ...

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CONCORD – While Republican candidate for governor Walt Havenstein ran a Virginia-based defense contractor, its political action committee gave $512,000 to Democratic members of Congress including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, The Telegraph confirmed Monday.

Over those 2010 and 2012 election cycles, the Science International Applications Corp. PAC gave $619,600 to GOP incumbents including Sen. Kelly Ayotte and ex-NH Congressmen Charles Bass and Frank Guinta, all R-N.H.

The $5,000 to Shaheen came in 2012 more than two years before she stood for re-election this fall; Reid’s own election committee got $1,000 in 2010.

Through a spokesman, Havenstein stressed he was not on the PAC’s board of directors and had no role in deciding to whom the PAC would donate.

“SAIC had a separate PAC committee of which Walt was not a member,’’ said Henry Goodwin, press secretary of the Havenstein campaign.

“He had no involvement in how SAIC’s PAC spent money, and played no part in the decision making process as to which candidates it gave.’’

But Havenstein personally did contribute to that SAIC PAC in both 2009 and 2011.

Though Havenstein’s personal donations were small ($384 in 2009, $576 in 2011), there were fewer than 50 individual donors in 2010 and just over 100 in 2012.

The campaign of Havenstein’s Republican rival, Andrew Hemingway, said Havenstein can’t have it both ways.

Either by giving his own money Havenstein tacitly endorsed all these Democrats with the PAC’s donations or lacked the leadership skills necessary to hold the state’s corner office, Hemingway’s campaign said responding to this report.

“At the end of the day, Walt was CEO of SAIC PAC and it donated half a million dollars to Democrats. He gave to it both election
cycles and that’s an endorsement of their actions,’’ said Alicia Preston, Hemingway’s communications director.

Preston said Havenstein claiming no role in what the PAC was engaged is troubling as well.

“If you didn’t know what they were doing when you gave them money, that is not the kind of leadership we want holding the corner office,’’ Preston said.

A spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party said this controversy only adds to Havenstein’s political challenge in winning the Sept. 9 GOP primary and becoming governor.

“Havenstein’s record of failed leadership and mismanagement at SAIC continues to haunt him in New Hampshire and, along with his repeated gaffes and embarrassing videos, has given conservative activist Andrew Hemingway the opportunity to rally his Tea Party base and pull off an upset,’’ said Julie McCain, the party’s communications director.

“SAIC’s political contribution history under Havenstein will only add fuel to that fire.”

Asked if Havenstein disagreed with any donations the SAIC PAC made, his campaign said he did.

“Walt assumes that the decision-makers at SAIC’s PAC were guided by the policy interests of SAIC. As CEO, he supported any contributions that were made in accordance with those interests, even if he personally opposed some SAIC PAC-funded candidates, such as Harry Reid and Jeanne Shaheen,’’ said Goodwin, Havenstein’s spokesman.

Havenstein became CEO of SAIC on Sept. 1, 2009 and stepped down on March 1, 2012 placing his tenure right in the middle of both election cycles but not for the entirety of either one.

In 2010 when Democrats controlled Congress, the SAIC PAC split down the middle, giving 50 percent each to GOP and Democratic incumbents.

By 2012, the GOP was in control of the US House and the SAIC PAC dramatically shifted with 61 percent going to Republicans and only 39 percent to Democrats.

Preston said SAIC’s PAC clearly was engaged in the “pay to play’’ behavior of many groups trying to win influence on Capitol Hill.

“Absolutely it’s pay to play and that’s not the kind of legal influence peddling we want in our next governor,’’ Preston said.

The PAC of Havenstein’s previous employer, BAE Systems of Nashua, had a similar track record though it gave even more to Democratic incumbents during the period.

Through 2010 and 2012 elections the BAE Systems PAC gave $759,500 to Democrats in Congress and $787,000 to Republicans.

Meanwhile, on Monday Havenstein called on Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, to return donations from union PACS the state GOP charged were larger than allowed under state election law.

“Maggie Hassan is a good politician, which clearly extends to her ability to bend – and possibly break – the state’s campaign finance rules in order to raise money,’’ Havenstein said in a statement.

“However, if she truly supports campaign finance reform, as she has claimed in the past, she will act now to uphold the spirit of New Hampshire’s law and prevent undue influence from damaging our politics.”

Hassan and her campaign insist all the donations were legal.

The governor asked Attorney General Joe Foster, of Nashua, to act quickly on the state GOP’s complaint lodged against her for accepting the large, union-based, PAC checks before officially signing up for re-election.

“We are confident that all contributions are in line with past precedent under New Hampshire law and advice that campaigns and contributors have received from the attorney general’s office and the secretary of state’s office over the years,” said Marc Goldberg, Hassan’s campaign manager.

“There have been numerous past candidates going back nearly two decades who have accepted similar contributions based on that advice. We welcome the attorney general’s review.”

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