In N.H. Governor's Race, Campaign Cash Flows From Unions, Corporations And Small Donors | New Hampshire Public Radio

In N.H. Governor's Race, Campaign Cash Flows From Unions, Corporations And Small Donors

Jun 18, 2020

Gov. Chris Sununu has raised more money than either of his two Democratic challengers, and has more cash left in his campaign account than those two candidates combined.

But State Sen. Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky are both touting their latest fundraising numbers, filed this week with the Secretary of State, as record-breaking in their own ways.

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Feltes reported raising $916,000 from nearly 5,000 contributors since his campaign began last September. His campaign calls that a record for a “non-incumbent, non-self-funding gubernatorial candidate.”

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky reported raising $468,000 since joining the race. His campaign claims its 8,332 individual contributions represents “a record-breaking number.” Neither claim could be independently verified as most past years’ campaign fundraising records are archived in non-searchable filings.

Both Democrats are rejecting corporate donations, a stark contrast to Sununu, whose campaigns have long been fueled by contributions from an array of corporate entities. In his latest filing, Sununu reported raising $1,034,000 to date, with roughly $730,000 in the bank.

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The filing shows that Sununu remains popular with energy companies, like NextGen Energy Seabrook LLC ($7,000) and Eversource ($5,000), and insurers like the American Property and Casualty Insurance Associates ($7,000) and GEICO ($5,000).

Sununu’s fundraising is also getting a boost from The Presidential Coalition LLC ($1,000), an entity founded by David Bossie, who also leads the conservative group Citizens United.  

Limited liability corporations, or LLCs, have also been a key piece of Sununu’s fundraising in all his campaigns for governor. State law allows donors to skirt individual finance limits by funneling donations through multiple LLCs. Ending this loophole has been a priority for Feltes, who three times filed bills in the Legislature to outlaw the practice. 

Feltes’s latest filing shows he returned $8,350 in contributions in February from business entities and LLCs. The Feltes campaign had initially accepted those contributions, including several from corporations tied to the campaign’s treasurer. But a campaign spokesperson said it was refunded to better reflect Feltes’ efforts to limit the influence of corporate money in politics.

Continued support for incumbent from LLCs

Sununu’s latest filing shows he received $50,000 - in eight contributions of $6,250 each - from LLCs tied to Needham, Mass.-based developer Waterstone Properties.

Sununu also collected a check from Granite Recovery LLC ($7,000), while accepting a separate check ($7,000) from Granite Recovery CEO Eric Spofford. 

Sununu collected another $7,000 from the Collingsworth Company LLC, which is controlled by former New Hampshire governor Craig Benson, who also donated $1,000 to Sununu personally.

Sununu also reported a $1,000 contribution from Dr. Mark Pundt, president of urgent care provider Convenient MD, a company the Sununu administration has tapped to perform COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Sununu also granted Convenient MD a $1.3 million in aid from his emergency healthcare fund earlier this year. 

But while Feltes and Volinsky both reject corporate contributions, their campaigns have their own go-to donors.

Feltes has collected $53,000 from labor unions, including the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades ($10,000), the AFL-CIO ($5,000), the Granite State Teamsters ($5,000), and the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 131 ($8,500).

Current lawmakers giving to Feltes include Lebanon Rep. Susan Almy ($4240), Hanover state Sen. Martha Hennessey ($1725), Easton Rep. Sue Ford ($410), and Somersworth Rep. Gerri Cannon ($91).

Feltes has also collected plenty from people with long times to state public policy, including Lew Feldstein, former president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation ($2,650); Ned Helms, former director the New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy and Practice ($1,700); and former Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick ($700).

Feltes has so far received $3,000 from Karen Hicks, a political strategist who’s done advocacy work on one of his Feltes’s signature issues: enacting a state paid family leave program.

Feltes is also accepting donations sourced from what his campaign calls “people powered-PACs,” political action committees driven by small donors, like the End Citizens United Non-Federal PAC ($10,000), or by membership, like the New Hampshire Realtors Association PAC ($2,000).

These PAC donations, and Feltes’s support from prolific New Hampshire Democratic donors like Debbie Butler of Concord ($7,000), Dr. Geoffrey Clark of Portsmouth ($7,000) and Stonyfield Yogurt founder Gary Hirshberg ($7,000), have helped Feltes establish a more than 4-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over Volinsky: $480,000 to $110,000.

Support from legal, education communities

Volinsky has so far loaned his campaign $26,500. He has few big donors, though he has collected $7,000 from Portsmouth State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark. But his filing reveals some core areas of support.

One is people involved in the state’s battles over education funding reform.

Volinsky was lead plaintiff attorney more than two decades ago for the Claremont lawsuit that challenged the state’s reliance on local taxes to fund public schools, and he collected donations from attorney Jim Allmendinger ($700), who also worked on that case.

Former Londonderry school superintendent Nate Greenberg ($361), whose district successfully sued the state over school funding in 2005, is another donor. So is former state education commissioner Virginia Barry ($500); former deputy commissioner Paul Leather ($468); Nicole Plourde ($150) who heads Berlin’s school board; and Carl Ladd ($600), executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association.

Backers of broad-based taxes are also donating to Volinsky.

Former state senator Clifton Below, who pushed for an income tax while serving in the Legislature, gave $500. Former GOP lawmaker Liz Hager, who also sponsored income tax bills, contributed the same amount. Jackie Cilley, who based her 2012 bid for governor on not pledging to veto a new broad-based tax, also contributed to Volinsky’s campaign ($250).

Members of the state’s legal community are also another core source of Volinsky’s support. He collected $1,700 from lawyers at the Manchester firm BersteinShur, where he works. He’s also taken money from criminal defense specialists, like Richard Guerriero ($250), and former state attorney general Peter Heed ($100),

Key backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for whom Volinsky served as state legal counsel in 2016, also show up in Volinsky’s filing. Ben and Jerry’s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield each donated $1,000, as did several staunch local Sanders backers like former state senator Burt Cohen ($325).

Volinsky also collected a $200 donation from the former congresswoman Carol Shea Porter.