NH Senate considers reporting requirement for critics
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(CONCORD) Criticizing members of the New Hampshire Legislature would trigger stiff new reporting requirements, but praising incumbents or attacking their opponents would be free from state oversight, under an amendment to be considered tomorrow by the New Hampshire Senate.
The Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee unanimously approved an amendment to HB 1704 that changes campaign finance limits for New Hampshire candidates, and adds a new section requiring groups that criticize sitting Senators and Representatives to register with the state within 24 hours.
Reports of Spending on Information Critical of General Court Members. Any political
committee whose spending on distribution of information critical of a member of the general court
who has not filed for office, in aggregate, exceeds $500 shall file an itemized statement with the
secretary of state not later than 24 hours after such spending, and thereafter each time a further
$500 is spent.
New Hampshire currently requires candidates and political committees to file campaign donation and expense reports, but only in the summer and fall of an election year. Independent political communications not expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate are not covered. The new section would impose much stiffer reporting requirements on anyone critical of members of the State House or Senate, but would not require any disclosure from groups praising incumbents, criticizing political challengers, or attacking the Governor or Executive Council. The amendment would also impose penalties on those who fail to report their expenditures within 24 hours of up to 25% of the amount of spent criticizing incumbents.
Senate President Peter Bragdon expects the Senate to nix the critics reporting provision when the bill comes to the floor tomorrow.
“The committee amendment is a compilation of numerous voices, all with good intentions of improving campaign finance disclosure,” Bragdon tells NH Watchdog. “Unfortunately, as can sometimes happen when significant changes are brought forward late in the session, several concerns have arisen surrounding the unintended consequences of some portions – specifically Section 12. As a result, I fully expect Section 12 will be removed from the final version.”
The amendment also increases the maximum political contribution from $5,000 to $7,000 for candidates taking New Hampshire’s voluntary spending cap, and from $1,000 to $3,500 for candidates who chose not to take the cap, and increases the spending cap to $1,000,000 in both the primary and general elections for statewide office. The House bill raises the contribution limit to $5,000 for all candidates. New Hampshire’s spending cap system has been gutted by a series of legal challenges, and few major party candidates have chosen to campaign under the spending cap in the last decade.
The House bill and the Senate amendment would also require candidates to begin reporting political expenses much earlier. Currently, no one is an official candidate for state office until the Filing Period in June, leaving incumbents free to raise and spend campaign cash without reporting it for 19 of their 24-month terms.
The Senate amendment also expands political reporting requirements to cover non-profit groups organized under Section 501(c) (4), (5), and (6) of the Internal Revenue Code, forcing political advocacy groups to report their donors in the same manner as political parties. In 2010, Senator Maggie Hassen, now a Democratic candidate for Governor, proposed sweeping registration requirements for political speech. Her bill cleared the New Hampshire Senate, but was rejected by the House.
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NH Senate may put limits on critics « Watchdog News
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