NH SoS fights back against corrupt legislation

From: Nancy Tobi <nancy_dot_tobi_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Mon Jun 25 2007 - 19:56:09 CDT

I am so proud of our Secretary Gardner, that I just had to share this op-ed
he wrote in defense of our NH democracy:

Secretary of State Gardner: Keep our election integrity intact FOR


This Wednesday, the Legislature will take up two bills that will damage our
democracy and constitutional right to have free and fair elections. The
effect will be to diminish the basic rights of voters and allow the power of
money to run rampant in this state in the same way it did at the beginning
of the last century when it consumed the political process.

Although New Hampshire is known for being a beacon of democracy, this is
about to change if two bills become law.

Senate Bill 91 would remove the prohibition of corporations making
contributions to candidates, committees, and parties directly from the
corporate treasury. This overturns a long-standing state policy dating back
to 1911 when legislation was signed into law by then Governor Robert Bass of
Peterborough to reform the way political campaigns were financed. With that
law, President Theodore Roosevelt and the progressive era reformers had won
another grassroots victory.

That prohibition is still written in our law today 96 years later, but in
1999 a court ruled that statute was unconstitutional because it was overly
broad. As long as the statute prohibited corporations from using political
action committees with segregated accounts, the law could not be enforced by
the attorney general.

This year, State Representative Jim Splaine of Portsmouth has tried to do
what several other legislators have attempted since 1999 -- to prohibit
corporations, partnerships, and labor unions from contributing from their
treasuries, but to allow them to create political committees to fulfill
their constitutional right to participate in electoral politics. His bill
would require disclosure by those committees to show where the money came
from, whom they contribute to, and how much. Voters deserve that

A Legislative "conference committee" last week took a different approach,
which would eliminate all prohibitions on donations from the treasuries of
corporations, partnerships, and unions, with no disclosure by them required.
This would open the floodgates for corporations all across the country that
would now be able to give directly from their corporate treasuries to New
Hampshire candidates for state and county office.

Since most states do not allow direct corporate contributions, and federal
law does not allow this either for federal candidates, New Hampshire would
become a haven for big money and the scandals that it has led to in the
past. The way to prevent this is simple: defeat the committee of conference
report on SB 91 and keep our prohibition on corporate contributions intact.
It can be fixed during the next several months before the next election by
other legislation being sponsored by Rep. Splaine that does an excellent job
at providing proper campaign finance disclosure.

The second bill, House Bill 429 creates a situation where voters casting
write-in votes for some candidates will not have their vote counted. This
might be hard to believe, but it's true. We must never forget the sacrifice
so many have made to keep us free to vote for whomever we want and have that
vote counted. This bill would allow political party leaders who might not
even live in the town or city to be represented to disregard the will of the
voters and insert a new candidate's name.

The essential question in this policy debate is simple: Who should decide
who is nominated for public office, the voters or political party officials?

The strong tradition of primaries with nomination by voters, not party
leaders, was an essential democratic reform introduced for state nominations
in 1909 to give power to the citizens and lessen the influence of the
railroad interests that then controlled the state.

In 1913, state representative Stephen Bullock from Richmond successfully led
the fight to allow voters, rather than political party leaders, to pick the
delegates to select our Presidential nominees.

These were all important reforms that strengthened the rights of voters to
ensure that their voices were heard and their votes counted. Let's not go
back to the days when powerful interests negated the rights of voters.

New Hampshire's proud traditions have been built on a granite foundation of
transparency and openness in government and insuring that the votes of our
citizens determine the outcome of elections. These two bills would move New
Hampshire in a new direction, eroding these fundamental principles and
values. For our future, the Governor and Legislature should not let that

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Received on Sat Jun 30 23:17:04 2007

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