DOVER, NH — The New Hampshire Democratic Party has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine following the state Attorney General Michael Delaney’s decision in a 2010 election law complaint matter.
The state claims the party violated the New Hampshire prerecorded political message statute, alleging it delivered prerecorded messages to voters that failed to sufficiently identify who was behind the calls.
These calls were delivered to residents on Sept. 13, 2010, the day before the state primary. They were paid for on April 26, 2011 to Broadcast Solutions.
According to the consent agreement signed between the state and the Democratic Party, the name of the person or organization paying for the delivery of the message, and the name of the fiscal agent, if applicable, is required by statute.
While the party has agreed to pay the fine, it maintains adequate identification was made in the call.
In a statement Tuesday, Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said, “We have never knowingly violated any campaign law; and made what the Attorney General felt was an error by not using the words ‘paid for by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.’ We believed that the script sufficiently identified who was making the call, but rather than spend additional party resources challenging the Attorney General’s position, we believed it was more important to put this to rest and get on with the business of electing Democrats.”
Attorney and former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan agreed.
“What the Attorney General said was wrong with the call is it didn’t sufficiently identify who made the call,” Sullivan said. “If you look at the call, it says, ‘This is Ray Buckley.’ We disagree whether it was actually a violation of the statute. There was no effort to hide; it was not an anonymous call. It was not an atypical call to be made during a campaign.”
The script of the call was as follows:
“This is State Democratic Chair Ray Buckley calling with the important news that current Republican Bill O’Brien has asked to join the Democratic Party’s ticket for the November elections.
If he succeeds tomorrow, we expect Bill O’Brien will embrace the Democratic Party’s platform, support President Obama, national health care reform and stand up for gay marriage, and protect a woman’s right to choose and our agenda to move New Hampshire and America forward.
Once again, we wanted you to know before you vote tomorrow that Bill O’Brien has asked to join the Democratic ticket and our progressive agenda. Thank you so much.”
Sullivan, who signed the consent agreement along with Assistant Attorney General Matthew Mavrogeorge, said the call wasn’t false information as O’Brien, who is now the House Republican speaker, had tried to get his name written in on the Democratic side of the ballot.
“It upset O’Brien that the Democratic Party made the call,” Sullivan said. “The Attorney General’s office looked at it, but there’s nothing mysterious here; nothing hidden or anonymous. This really is a disagreement about what the disclaimer should be for the source of the call.”
NHDP Press Secretary Harrell Kirstein said O’Brien didn’t achieve enough write-in votes to end up on the Democratic ticket.
In an interview with Foster’s on Tuesday, O’Brien reacted to the charge that he’d asked to be written in on the Democratic ticket by saying, “There are a number of instances where members of the state House of Representatives are nominated by both parties.”
O’Brien said the Democratic Party is not taking seriously its violation of the law, and said he plans to consult with his attorneys to consider any civil recourse in the matter.
“I want to ensure the Democratic Party New Hampshire realizes people of New Hampshire expect better,” he said.
House Republican Leader DJ Bettencourt called for Buckley’s resignation Tuesday, along with District 4 Rep. Frank Holden, R-Mont Vernon.
After suggesting Buckley and Sullivan owe O’Brien an apology, Bettencourt went on to say, “I also believe it is appropriate that Mr. Buckley resign from his post immediately because of this admitted violation of state law. This also raises serious questions as to whether there should be a further investigation into other illegal calls that may have been made against Republicans throughout the state during the last campaign.”
Sullivan waved off the call for Buckley’s resignation, noting that with the recent controversy surrounding Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball, the party is trying to distract from the situation.
“They’re trying to make this a much bigger, darker situation than it really is,” she said.
(c)2011 the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services