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.

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.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire lawmakers only get paid $100 a year — not exactly enough to feed a family — so it’s no surprise that many of them rely on other sources of income to get by.

As a result, state lawmakers end up dealing with all kinds of proposals that can directly impact their family finances, the taxes they pay, the companies where they work, or the boards on which they serve.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Local lobbying firms and major corporations make up most of the most recent donations to Governor Chris Sununu's inaugural fund, according to the committee’s latest fundraising report.

The Sununu Inaugural Committee raised more than $250,000 since the governor's re-election last November. More than $160,000 of that haul came from corporations and PACs.

justgrimes / Flickr Creative Commons

Battles over ballot access have been raging for decades at the New Hampshire State House, and this year is no exception.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Senate Democrats are leading an effort to change how complaints of harassment and discrimination involving lawmakers are addressed in the State House, by establishing a new human resources officer who would be responsible for investigating those allegations.

Ben Vihstadt

A law that passed the year he was elected made Chris Sununu the first New Hampshire governor required to disclose the activities of his inaugural committee. And to hear Sununu tell it, that committee - the Sununu Inaugural Celebration, Inc. - has more than delivered when it comes to transparency.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

Anti-harassment training has been offered at the State House for years — but it hasn't always been well-attended.

Facebook Ad Archive

The final weeks of last week’s midterm campaign saw a flurry of partisan activity: Last-minute Facebook ads touting Gov. Chris Sununu’s plan for paid family and medical leave. Fliers criticizing Republican lawmakers “who cozy up to big corporations and special interests.” Phone banks backed by a group called "Families First," encouraging voters to support Democrats on Election Day.

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

With just over two weeks to go until voters head to the polls, a judge has blocked the state from using new voter registration regulations that require voters to prove they live where they're trying to vote. Instead, the judge says the state needs to switch back to the registration forms used in 2016.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

If you glance up at the balcony in the New Hampshire Senate chamber on the day of any big vote, you’ll see a crowd of lobbyists sitting shoulder to shoulder, carefully watching the outcome on behalf of their clients.

And if you turn to the campaign finance filings for the New Hampshire Senate, you’ll see many of the same names represented in that balcony — both lobbyists and their clients — listed as campaign donors. In fact, lobbying interests are among the most reliable sources of political fundraising for New Hampshire lawmakers. 

Pages