Money Access & Power | New Hampshire Public Radio

Money Access & Power

NHPR's State of Democracy team reports on the often unseen forces that shape New Hampshire's politics and public policy, including campaign fundraising, lobbying, voter access and other issues.

Michael Brindley/NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed bills to create a paid family leave program, to expand absentee voting and to provide relief for people who have trouble making housing payments due to COVID-19, continuing a string of vetoes that has already set a record for a New Hampshire governor.

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.

Casey McDermott / NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu has authorized spending millions on New Hampshire’s COVID-19 relief efforts in recent weeks, using powers he established through a state of emergency declaration two months ago. He’s done so without the oversight typically provided by lawmakers and the Executive Council.

NHPR file

A committee in the New Hampshire House is unanimously backing a bill to require lawmakers to recuse themselves when they have a “special interest” in a bill's outcome.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

An effort to more tightly regulate how New Hampshire politicians can spend their campaign money needs closer study, according to a House panel reviewing the proposed reforms.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New Hampshire lawmakers continue to wrestle with questions about where to draw the line between their work inside and outside the State House. 

NHPR

Gubernatorial candidate Dan Feltes is running ads on Facebook that claim “he isn't taking corporate PAC or LLC contributions, so the public can be sure their governor is working for them — not himself.”

That message is consistent with Feltes’ record in the state Senate, where he’s sponsored bills to outlaw corporate campaign donations and to limit political activities of limited liability corporations.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Seven Republican lawmakers were reprimanded on the floor of the New Hampshire House Thursday for not completing newly mandatory anti-harassment and discrimination training — but it didn’t happen without objection. 

NHPR Photo

Responding to a pair of high-profile ethics cases that highlighted the lack of clear restrictions on conflicts of interest at the State House, lawmakers are weighing how best to balance their role as citizen legislators with a desire to prevent politicians from exploiting public office for private gain.

Tom Roy | The NH Union Leader

Gov. Chris Sununu's reelection campaign raised almost half a million dollars over the past six months.

That haul was made easier by Sununu's veto of a bill earlier this year that sought to limit contributions from certain corporations. 

Lauren Chooljian / NHPR

A federal judge has denied a request from the American Civil Liberties Union and the state Democratic Party to block enforcement of a new New Hampshire residency law, but has asked the state Supreme Court to clear up several questions about how the law works.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The State House ethics rules could be updated soon with stricter guidance about when lawmakers need to sit out of votes because of outside conflicts of interest.

Michael Brindley/NHPR

The implications of New Hampshire’s new residency law for voting and vehicle licensing are still not fully clear, several months after it went into effect and several months before the state’s presidential primary election.

So much about the new residency law remains subject to interpretation, in fact, that a federal judge wants the New Hampshire Supreme Court to certify — or clarify — several questions about how the law works before he tries to assess its constitutionality.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A lawsuit over a controversial new residency law is back in court Thursday morning, this time to decide whether the state could be blocked from enforcing any link between voter registration and vehicle licensing through the 2020 presidential primary election.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

A State House ethics panel says a top House Democrat violated ethics guidelines by testifying and voting on several pieces of legislation that directly intersected with his position as the paid president of a statewide teachers union. 

Legislative Ethics Committee website

New Hampshire lags behind many other states when it comes to making information about lawmakers' financial interests accessible to the public. But its disclosure system is slated to soon move into the digital era — perhaps in time for lawmakers to file electronically for the 2020 legislative session.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

The Legislative Ethics Committee is still weighing how to proceed on a complaint involving one of the top-ranking Democrats at the New Hampshire State House, four months after it first began a “preliminary investigation” into the matter.

State offices that oversee elections and motor vehicle laws have declined to explain what implications, if any, New Hampshire’s new residency standards would have on licensing requirements. That’s despite growing confusion over whether the law could require voters to obtain in-state drivers licenses after casting a ballot.   

While the state has not said definitively that people who vote in New Hampshire would have to get a New Hampshire drivers license under the new law, there are ways to measure how many people could be affected if this turns out to be the case.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

New Hampshire is heading into a busy election season, with municipal contests in November, and the first-in-the-nation presidential primary not far behind. This is the first election season since a new law went into effect that redefined the state’s residency standards.

Supporters have said that the law would bring clarity to New Hampshire’s voting rules, but it’s facing a court challenge from the ACLU and the New Hampshire Democratic Party, who say it will discourage otherwise qualified people from voting.

Todd Bookman for NHPR

Almost all of the Democrats running for president will appear at the state party's convention in Manchester this weekend. But long before many of the candidates started showing up at conventions, cookouts and coffee shops, they’ve been steering money toward local Democratic committees and campaigns here in New Hampshire.

Ali Oshinskie / NHPR

A federal lawsuit challenging New Hampshire's new voter residency law will move forward toward a likely January 2020 trial, after state attorneys failed to convince a judge that it should be thrown out because it would not change any voting requirements. 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

They can be found shuffling across North State Street on days when the legislative calendar is packed with public hearings. You see them taking notes from the Senate balcony during floor votes, and chatting with lawmakers in the hallways throughout the capitol.

Lobbyists have long been part of the fabric of the New Hampshire State House, helping shape everything from the state budget to the finer points of agritourism policy. But their influence is often hard to measure.

It can be hard to keep track of the details on lobbying spending in New Hampshire. We want to help.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The Legislative Ethics Committee voted on Monday to pursue a preliminary investigation into a complaint against New Hampshire House Majority Leader Doug Ley, a Democrat from Jaffrey who also leads one of the state’s largest teachers unions.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

House Majority Leader Doug Ley is adamant that he hasn’t broken any ethics rules by engaging in legislative advocacy as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while serving in the Legislature.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

Last year, New Hampshire House leadership had trouble getting state representatives to even acknowledge the institution’s anti-harassment policies — let alone attend training on the issue

But on Wednesday, about 100 legislators – or a quarter of the 400-member House of Representatives – showed up for just such a training session developed by the Council of State Governments and designed specifically for members of the New Hampshire legislature.  

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire's Legislative Ethics Committee is reviewing a complaint against House Majority Leader Doug Ley, which alleges he violated ethics guidelines by testifying and voting on legislation that could affect the teachers union that employs him as its president.

New Hampshire Campaign Finance System

Candidates running for office in New Hampshire can run up a tab on all kinds of expenses: lawn signs, postage, snacks for fundraisers, radio ads, print ads, digital ads and more.

But some lawmakers lean on campaign donations to cover other, less obvious expenses that pile up on the campaign trail, or even while they’re in office: things like car repairs, dry cleaning bills and floral arrangements.

When faced with questions earlier this year about the thousands of dollars paid out from his inaugural committee to his sister and top political advisor, Gov. Chris Sununu’s team said those payments followed state and federal regulations, and “the organization’s bylaws and conflict of interest policy.”

But when NHPR asked to see those bylaws and conflict of interest policy, Sununu’s team declined.

Legislative Ethics Committee website

Back in February, New Hampshire’s Legislative Ethics Committee started its first, and thus far only, meeting of the year with cause for celebration: For the first time since anyone on the committee could remember, all 424 legislators submitted their mandatory financial disclosure forms on time.

But making a deadline is only one part of the equation when it comes to New Hampshire’s financial disclosure process. Making sure that paperwork is filled out correctly and completely — that’s quite another.

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