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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Congressional candidate fined for late report

Kevin Landrigan

Democratic congressional candidate Ann McLane Kuster, of Bow, has impressed both here and in Washington with her campaign fundraising for a likely 2012 rematch with Republican Congressman Charles Bass.

Her compliance with federal campaign finance laws hasn’t gone so well.

Our attention was drawn to a $5,610 item on Kuster’s quarterly finance report due with the Federal Election Commission last July 15.

The notation was “filing expense.’’

In fact, that was a fine, as in a Federal Election Commission penalty handed down for having failed to report 11th-hour donations to her 2010 campaign in a timely fashion.

Kuster broke records for a Democratic challenger in the 2nd Congressional District, easily out-raising Bass, the five-time former congressman who was trying to get his seat back.

She raised and spent $2.4 million, or twice more than what Bass had raised.

As Federal Election Commission investigators discovered, however, Kuster didn’t disclose donations to her campaign late in the race within 48 hours, which federal law requires.

A total of $46,200 that wasn’t quickly identified came into the Kuster camp.

The law is in place to cover that spread of time between the last Federal Election Commission report released to the public and the date of the election.

For that reason, it’s a time when special-interest groups and big-time donors typically weigh in either to push their favored candidate over the top or, on some occasions, to hedge their bets after having already given to the opponent.

Kuster campaign treasurer Paul Burkett noted that nearly a fourth of all checks to the candidate – 9,299 – came during the final two weeks of the race.

“During that hectic period, 22 of those were reported on time on December 2, 2010, on the standard post-election FEC form, but not the extra 48-hour form, as well,’’ Burkett said.

“The issue is resolved and the campaign is currently in full compliance with the FEC. We regret the error.’’

The post-election report is just that; it comes after the election, and the average of those donations not reported before the voters went to the polls was $2,100.

Through a spokesman, Bass declined comment.

Not in the money

Bass and 1st District Congressman Frank Guinta stood out in campaign financing lately, but not in a good way.

The pair finished in the National Hotline’s top 10 fundraising flops of this past quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

Bass had raised only half what Kuster did in the most recent three months, and Guinta’s $138,000 didn’t impress.

As we tweeted first last week, Bass also was one of only four House Republicans put in the cross hairs from the Democratic House Majority PAC.

The total $150,000 buy highlighted the choice of Bass as one of the “most corrupt’’ members of Congress.

Tracking numbers

There’s troubling news behind the polling numbers for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in New Hampshire.

This far out from the election, the most telling variable is the question of whether the country is on the right or the wrong track.

A wrong track finding higher than 50 percent spells trouble for any incumbent for any office.

For Obama, 70 percent of New Hampshire adults said the country was on the wrong track and 22 percent chose the right track in the latest poll the University of New Hampshire Survey Center did for WMUR-TV.

How bad is that? It’s the biggest negative number for Obama since he took office three years ago.

Among members of the president’s own party, only 38 percent of Democrats saw us on the right track, as did only 35 percent of those who said they voted for Obama in 2008 and only 34 percent of union households.

When was the last time the right track was as low as or lower than 22 percent in New Hampshire?

That would be September 2008 with 21 percent in the months leading up to Obama’s double-digit victory here over John McCain.

What’s all the more stunning is how different the views are toward the direction of the state under outgoing Gov. John Lynch.

The poll found 62 percent saw the state going in the right direction versus only 26 percent who thought it was on the wrong track.

Lynch’s job approval rating is back up to a ridiculous 70 percent in the poll, and as we all now know, Obama won’t get to run with the popular four-term incumbent next time.

A year is a lifetime in presidential politics, but the White House clearly has some work to do.

In the know

All that can best be said about the race for governor in 2012 is nobody knows, because nobody knows the would-be candidates.

Manchester Republican Ovide Lamontagne is the only announced hopeful, and last week, he added another 100 names to his steering committee.

But nearly half – 48 percent – of those polled by WMUR said they didn’t know enough about Lamontagne even though he’d run for the U.S. Senate last year.

The other potential Republican and Democratic candidates were even less familiar in the survey.

Only 8 percent had a favorable opinion about former Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan, an Exeter Democrat, 3 percent liked GOP conservative activist Kevin Smith and 12 percent were favorable toward former Attorney General Phil McLaughlin, a Laconia Democrat.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and 2010 Senate candidate Bill Binnie have some baggage to deal with should they seek the GOP nod.

Gatsas was above water at 18 percent favorable to 14 percent unfavorable, while TV station owner Binnie was not: 13 percent favorable to 17 percent unfavorable.

The attitude toward New Hampshire’s two GOP congressmen improved a bit, but more were unfavorable to Bass, at 36 percent, than those who liked him, at 29 percent.

Both groups split 30 percent apiece for Guinta.

New Hampshire’s two senators remain in solid shape, with Democrat Jeanne Shaheen viewed more favorably than she has ever been since April 2008, when she was by then long out of elective politics.

The margin was about 2-1 favorable for Shaheen and Republican Kelly Ayotte, and that’s a split any incumbent on Capitol Hill would take these days.

You can’t be serious

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann in New Hampshire, it does.

WMUR first reported Bachmann’s New Hampshire campaign staff quit en masse at the end of the week, upset at the Minnesota congresswoman’s failure to take the first-in-the-nation primary state seriously.

Bachmann only just came back to the state two weeks ago after a four-month absence from the New Hampshire campaign trail.

She hosted three public events over two days, got onto her campaign bus and declared, “I’ll be back, New Hampshire.’’

“It certainly underscores the impression that New Hampshire isn’t a priority for her. She’s totally written us off,” former Republican state legislator Fran Wendelboe said.

Even Bachmann supporters had said publicly prior to this that unless she paid enough attention here, her campaign wasn’t likely to get off the ground.

Bachmann has focused most of her attention on Iowa after a straw poll victory last August. Now it would appear all her eggs are in that basket.

Look at how Bachmann plummeted in the polls over just the last three months.

In July, her favorability rating among likely GOP primary voters here was 29 percent.

Earlier this month, it was negative 18 percent.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry sustained a similar upside-down dip in his favorability rating here since July: down 26 percentage points.

No backup plan

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s press spokesman in New Hampshire has set sail.

Matt Simon said he continues to believe Johnson is the best candidate and wishes his former boss well, but has decided to depart.

Simon declined to speak publicly, but Johnson supporters have been frustrated by the schizophrenic strategy that exists at the national campaign level.

On one hand, Johnson has spent more campaign days here than any other candidate, his six-day bike tour of the state recently bringing that number to 60.

But the campaign has had no investment to back up the candidate’s retail politicking – no direct mail, no organized door-to-door knocking, no paid advertising.

Johnson has managed to get onto the stage for two of the debates, but hasn’t been able to move the needle here or in other key early states.

Matter of trust

The mortar started firing at week’s end toward Lynch’s latest education finance amendment.

National Education Association-New Hampshire President Rhonda Wesolowski said the current GOP-led Legislature can’t be trusted to be given all the reins over future education finance decisions.

“The current New Hampshire Legislature has demonstrated what we fear future legislatures would do given the provisions of this amendment: namely, shift the costs rightly borne by the state onto local towns and school districts,’’ she said in a statement.

“When this happens, children and taxpayers suffer.’’

Lynch’s amendment did little to resolve a dispute that has simmered for months.

All sides agree an amendment is needed to enshrine the right to target aid to needier school districts and erase the requirement that all communities must get some base level of support.

But House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, wants the Legislature to have “full discretion’’ on education finance; Lynch believes the state needs in any amendment to acknowledge its responsibility’ under the Constitution.

Can you spell s-t-a-l-e-m-a-t-e?

Cost of filing

Contrary to widespread belief, the taxpayers did not pay for all the costs of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the state Thursday.

The Republican National Committee and rival GOP presidential campaigns criticized the Obama-Biden campaign for making taxpayers foot the cost to fly Biden on Air Force Two to Manchester to file candidacy papers putting them on the New Hampshire ballot.

RNC officials charge the White House came up with Biden’s visit and speech to Plymouth State University expressly to avoid having the re-election campaign foot the costs.

A White House administration official confirmed, however, the expense of bringing Biden to Concord to come to Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office, wasn’t on the government’s dime.

“The vice president’s travel costs are allocated as required by law and regulation so that the government pays the cost of travel for official events and the Democratic National Committee or a political campaign pays the cost of travel for political events,’’ the Obama administration official said.

There you have it.

Biden made his fourth visit to the state since 2009; the president hasn’t been here for nearly 18 months.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@KLandrigan) and The Telegraph’s interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.