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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fox News probe heats up Senate race

Kevin Landrigan

There was no doubt that when Fox News decided to do a special Friday night on Obamacare in New Hampshire, the partisan fur would fly.

The promotion for the piece hosted by anchor Bret Baier promised to prove its investigation would show that despite Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s stated openness to change in the Affordable Care Act that she has had a strong hand in health care reform had been in place “for decades.” ...

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There was no doubt that when Fox News decided to do a special Friday night on Obamacare in New Hampshire, the partisan fur would fly.

The promotion for the piece hosted by anchor Bret Baier promised to prove its investigation would show that despite Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s stated openness to change in the Affordable Care Act that she has had a strong hand in health care reform had been in place “for decades.”

This is hardly news at this point, namely that when it was Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, she secured a mandate that insurers base their health insurance premiums on a “community rating” that prevented unlimited underwriting based on age or demographic area.

As a direct result of that reform, virtually all the smaller, marginal insurers in the state fled New Hampshire, reducing what had been 21 companies registered with the state down to, at the time, the big three – Anthem, Cigna and Healthsource.

Fast-forward 15 years and Anthem is the sole, dominant private insurer in the state, with Harvard Community Health Plan still holding onto a solid foothold in the southern tier.

Shaheen went through two elections with this issue on her back – one loss in 2002, one win in 2008.

Meanwhile, in case people have forgotten, the fiscally conservative Americans for Prosperity placed a glossy, six-figure TV ad buy attacking Shaheen for “limiting choice” for consumers just as Obamacare’s exchange cut 10 participating hospitals out from its network including Southern New Hampshire Medical Center of Nashua.

“A lesbian opts out of Obamacare, questioning why she should pay for reproductive care she doesn’t want or need. A grandmother loses her doctor, and takes on the government. An entrepreneur worries about layoffs, and a young doctor retires rather than dealing with Obamacare,” the Fox promo stated.

“But a young unwed mother of two champions the subsidized benefits of the law. These are some of the stories we tell from the first year of Obamacare in a state that boasts about its independent spirit – Live Free or Die – and is a microcosm of the troubled roll out of the health care law, highly relevant to the national experience.”

Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown was an invited guest on the program, friendly confines since he earned more than $125,000 as a Fox News contributor before declaring his candidacy last spring.

State Democrats let the liberal, Media Matters pan the program as an attempt to resurrect Brown’s credibility on an issue he’s hammered Shaheen over since the campaign began.

“Why the focus on New Hampshire? According to the network, in part because the state is “where this year’s election will be key to determining which party controls the Senate,” Media Matters reported.

“This appears to be the first time Fox has run a special focused on a single state since at least 2012.”

The left-leaning media watcher notes Brown has called for repeal of Obamacare. But Media Matters maintains that Brown’s state laboratory solution alternative “sound an awful lot like” Romneycare that Brown voted for in Massachusetts.

“But the network has invested a lot in Brown’s candidacy, and the special’s timing and focus suggest a desperate attempt to save Brown from himself,” Media Matters concluded.

Playing nice

The bipartisan era of good feeling felt at the close of the 2014 legislation session seems a distant memory.

In the public eye, House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, and Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, played nice for the most part.

Relations had gotten frayed by session’s end that as the election approached so much there was an armistice reached when both sides studiously tried to avoid conference committee negotiations on bills for fear they’d all become hostages to the warfare that went on behind the scenes.

You know there’s very little communication now when the two can’t even agree on when to bring lawmakers back to take up Gov. Maggie Hassan’s four vetoes.

Norelli jumped first, setting the House date for Wednesday, Sept. 17, eight days after the primary.

Morse has yet to announce his intentions but The Sunday Telegraph has confirmed senators have been surveyed on whether they could be free Monday, Sept. 15 instead.

Differing dates become potentially a political nightmare. What if the House votes to override one of Hassan’s vetoes (not likely by the way)? If so, this would require the Senate at some point to come back again although that could be after the Nov. 4 election.

The Legislature for 2015-16 won’t be sworn in until December.

Taxpayer resources

Republican State Chairwoman Jennifer Horn of Nashua was on the offensive yet again against Gov. Hassan, filing a Right-to-Know Law request on all staff and taxpayer resources used to produce Hassan’s first TV commercial filmed in the governor’s office.

“Granite Staters expect their governor to use his or her time in the corner office to do the people’s business, not political businesses,” Horn wrote.

“You decision to shoot a partisan campaign ad in your official office adds to the ethical concerns that have already been generated by your illegal fund raising scandal. Accepting tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and deciding to blur the line between your official duties and campaign activities raises serious questions about your integrity.”

Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley decided this was the last straw and fired off his own missive reminding that Horn owes $92,185 in unpaid, federal taxes from 2008-09 and faced her own campaign finance issues while running for Congress in 2010.

Horn had accused GOP rival of Bob Clegg of raising too much from lobbyists when federal elections confirmed she’d taken twice what Clegg had.

“Nobody could possibly take Jennifer Horn or any member of the New Hampshire Republican Party seriously when it comes to their manufactured ethical outrage,” said Buckley.

“Between not paying her taxes and her questionable campaign finance actions, Horn’s credibility on ethical questions is even worse than her record of winning elections.”

Watch for the temperature to rise between Horn and Buckley even higher in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Hassan and the last five governors before her at some point in their re-election careers used canned film footage from the governor’s office.

By day’s end Friday, Hassan Legal Counsel Lucy Hodder answered Horn that no staff time or taxpayer resources were used to film office footage on Saturday, July 26, for the commercial.

Hodder also pointed out the governor’s office is exempt from the Right-to-Know as is the Legislature, by the way.

Further, Hodder pointed out that staff working for both are exempt from the state law that makes it a criminal misdemeanor for public employees to do electioneering while on the taxpayer’s dime.

Here’s the link to that carve out for staff of New Hampshire’s elected officials: http://www.gencourt.

Campaign finance

Here’s what is most puzzling about Governor Hassan’s campaign finance moves in June?

It’s not that she couldn’t control all her donors to get their checks to her in time or that she chose to push the election law envelope and take large donations from union-based political action committees?

What’s most mystifying is why Hassan would deliberately choose the option that had her keeping secret how much her re-election campaign took in and spent until Aug. 23 and not June 18.

By declaring Maggie 14 a candidate committee, she got to keep the numbers in the dark and release them the same day we find out how much Republicans Walt Havenstein and Andrew Hemingway have brought in.

That’s curious.

Both of the governors before her, John Lynch and Craig Benson, chose to keep their campaigns as PACs and release all the detail in June.


Because they were the incumbents, they knew they would likely have a financial lead over their challengers and releasing all that information early only put their foes on the defense.

Few believe that either Havenstein or Hemingway’s outside donations will approach what Hassan had already brought in by that time.

She’s the incumbent, she’s got the big lead in the polls so why not bring the hammer down by showing she’s got the big money and they don’t?

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