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At least one hundred cars line the lawn of the Glen Ellis Campground, just north of North Conway.
It’s a beautiful late summer day, and prominent Republican politicians and lobbyists, are here to rub shoulders with friends and family of House Speaker Gene Chandler.
They are all here for the Speaker’s annual Old Fashioned Corn Roast Gala fundraiser.
Playing the role of host, Chandler says the food is a big seller.
Sfx: the sizzle of burgers
2:01 we have hotdogs, hamburgers, sausages, chowder, cakes, popcorn, corn, mostly, steamed and roasted, yep. Good time.
But Chandler says his corn gala isn’t just about sizzling sausage, and mouthwatering corn.
2:15 we raise a little money from time to time. (how much do you raise?) oh, you never know. We only ask ten dollars a ticket. ..It’s a Friends of Gene Chandler Committee, puts this on every year. Works out pretty well.
The price for a ticket may only be ten dollars a head.
But then there are the checks.
The people who wrote the checks read like a Who’s Who of political contributors.
There’s the Tobacco Company RJ Reynolds, the Auto Dealers PAC, the Home Builders PAC, the New Hampshire Medical Society, the New Hampshire Hospital Association, and Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
That’s according to Gene Chandler himself.
But until this broadcast, no donors from any Corn Roast have been publicly reported.
Seven years ago, a group of supporters formed the Friends of Gene Chandler Committee to help Chandler with expenses of being a lawmaker.
Committee Fiscal agent State Representative Henry Mock says the contributions don’t need to be reported, because the Committee isn’t a political one.
1:56 a Friends Committee is not a political PAC, it’s different. A Friends Committtee, who receives those funds may use those funds for any expense he wants to use them for. He can pay his property tax, he can put tires on his car, he can make payments on his truck, he can buy gasoline, living expenses. That’s the difference between a PAC and a Friends Committee. He can not use that money for re-election.
There is no dispute over the facts.
PACs, lobbyists and people with business before the state give money to the most powerful man in the House of Representatives, and that money is for his personal use.
That, says Chandler, is the law.
2:04 mostly they were used for car expenses, I am not going to say, probably at some point, I’m not even sure, I don’t know if I made a mortgage payment on my house or not with it, but mostly, certainly the overwhelming majority was car expenses, maybe insurance on the vehicle. Gas. The biggest part was gas, and laundry cleaning, that type of thing. Other people have ot decide whether that is appropriate or not, but it’s what the law says you can do.
Chandler provided New Hampshire Public Radio with a preliminary list of this year’s donors.
It totaled about 19,400 dollars.
He says he will release lists of additional donors, from previous events tomorrow/today.
Chandler says after seven years of holding these fundraisers, the reason he’s releasing his files is because New Hampshire Public Radio raised the issue.
:03 I have no excuses other than it was my understanding that this committee didn’t have to file. That I believe is incorrect. And it’s my own fault for not checking further. So that’s it….I am going to do whatever I can do correct the situation. I’m sorry it happened. It was a misunderstanding and the fault always rests with the top, that’s all I can say.
After examining the financial disclosure laws, he says he believes the law requires him to report these contributions.
It appears the Secretary of State’s Office has come to the same conclusion.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon.
4:53 if an elected official is has some type of event to raise for his campaign, that is reportable under the campaign finance laws. If an official has an event that helps cover the costs of serving in Concord, that is independent of the campaign, that money would be reportable under the gifts law.
These so-called Friends Committees are common knowledge.
But no one at the state level tracks them.
Deputy Speaker Mike Whalley says as far as he’s seen, there’s no need yet to change current law.
3:33 … I have been aware of Friends Committees for 8-10 years and if there were any evidecen of any abuse, or someone imagined that there might be some abuse of this, it would be appropriate for a bill to be introduced, and legislation to review, if we should do something about it.
But Republican State Representative Sandy Keans says officials collecting money for daily living expenses is a problem that needs to be resolved.
12:18 just having a fundraiser for living expenses, and you need those living expenses covered b/c you are an elected official really throws the whole electoral process into a tizzy. Maybe it would be appropriate for the speaker to come forward now and promote a constitutional amendment that would increase legislators pay from $200 dollars a session, to $2000 dollars a session, and maybe we could avoid some of this. b/c you could legitimately get paid for transportation and staying over night, that sort of thing.
The current law says that candidates receiving any gift or contribution above $50 must report it.
But the law is silent on expenditures.
In other words, under law Speaker Chandler must report who gave him money.
Just not how he spent it.
He concedes, the issue may require some inspection.
:45 that is what the law says, and until you change it, that’s what we are governed by. The question of whether we should be governed by it, is open for discussion and probably will be…so I think that is a question that needs to be looked at and answered.
But a more fundamental question, he says may be whether an elected official should be allowed to receive money for personal purposes in the first place.
For NHPR News, I’m DG.
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