Ayotte: 'Deeply Disappointed' In Guinta, He Needs To Resign

May 27, 2015

Credit Cheryl Senter / NHPR

Sen. Kelly Ayotte continues to call for 1st District Congressman Frank Guinta to resign.

In an interview with NHPR's Morning Edition, Ayotte said if Guinta stays in office, the attention will continue to be on the Federal Election Commission's finding that he accepted more than $300,000 in illegal campaign donations from his parents in 2010. 

The FEC has been investigating Guinta since that time. Despite unresolved questions about where the money came from, Ayotte endorsed Guinta for re-election last year and contributed financially to his campaign.

"Well, obviously, I’m deeply disappointed as I think are many people who supported him," Ayotte told Morning Edition. "The FEC has obviously found that the contributions were against the law. I take that very seriously and I’m disappointed in the whole matter."

The interview with Ayotte was part of Morning Edition's occasional check-ins with members of New Hampshire's Congressional delegation. You can read the transcript of her interview with Rick Ganley below.

Let’s start with the controversy surrounding Congressman Frank Guinta, who admitted earlier this month to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations from his parents.

It’s been a week since you said resigning would be the right step for Guinta, but there’s no sign he’s planning to do that. If he stays in office, what are the implications for the New Hampshire Republican Party?

Well, obviously this is his decision. I believe the right thing to do for him would be to step aside so that we can make sure that the focus is on serving the people of New Hampshire and not the findings of the FEC. And when it comes to things like this, I think it’s important to put the public trust first before any party concerns on this issue.

Republicans seem to be keeping their distance from Guinta since news of the FEC deal broke. Do you think he can still be an effective lawmaker in Washington?

To me, one of the concerns I had about these outstanding allegations from the FEC and the findings of the FEC, actually, and the nature of them was that it does deflect the focus on the service to the people of New Hampshire. That’s where, as public officials, our focus needs to be. The public trust is very important when it comes to matters of serving.

Despite the ongoing FEC investigation into those campaign contributions, you endorsed Guinta’s reelection last year and contributed financially to his campaign. Given there were unanswered questions about the money at the time, do you regret that support?

Well, obviously, I’m deeply disappointed as I think are many people who supported him. The FEC has obviously found that the contributions were against the law. I take that very seriously and I’m disappointed in the whole matter.

Let’s move on to some issues you’re working on in Washington.

You hosted a forum yesterday with Senator Jeanne Shaheen to help clear up confusion about the newly-implemented Veterans Choice Card Program.

You’ve expressed concern about the rollout. Where do things stand for New Hampshire veterans on being able to access this program?

What we’ve seen from the VA is that veterans aren’t fully informed of their rights if they choose to seek a private provider so they don’t have to wait or if that service is unavailable at the VA. It’s really their choice. Having the forum was so important because it was a discussion between VA officials, veterans, and we had some of our local health care providers and hospitals there to tell their story and what services they have available for veterans.

The veterans of New Hampshire need to know that Sen. Shaheen and I are working to get this right for them so they can have the choice of what provider they want to go to and make sure they get the health care they so deserve after having served our country.

You’ve been a supporter of renewing the Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire in about a month, but there are conservative groups and high-ranking Republicans, including majority leader Mitch McConnell, arguing against reauthorization.

Opponents argue the program is rampant with cronyism and that it doesn’t actually create jobs. Are those criticisms valid?

I’d like some of these opponents to come out and talk to some of these employers in New Hampshire. It’s supported 36 New Hampshire businesses over the last seven years, and that’s just direct financing that our New Hampshire businesses have been able to get to support exports and New Hampshire jobs. But also a lot of the suppliers and companies that work for other larger companies that are able to get financing. So this creates real jobs in New Hampshire. And if the question was on a federal program, the default rate for the Ex-Im Bank is lower than commercial loans. It returns billions of dollars to the treasury.

You joined Sen. Shaheen in voting in favor of so-called fast track trade authority for the president. This is a measure supported by President Obama, but actually opposed by many Democrats, who say ties the hands of Congress on trade deals.

Why is fast-track authority the right move?

It’s the right move because again it’s about New Hampshire jobs and creating more opportunities. We have seen in New Hampshire great opportunity for more exports. The stakes are high. Some of the pending trade agreements, the estimates are they could create as many as 8,000 new New Hampshire jobs. We have seen increases in exports and we can see even greater opportunities. Ninety-five percent of the consumers live outside of the United States, so the more we can break down some of the barriers that our companies have, and have more American trade to allow them to sell their great products overseas, I know that’s why I support it. This is one that the president supports, as well.