Conservative Think-Tank Run By Arlinghaus Has Deep Ties To Sununu

May 16, 2017

Credit Josh Rogers for NHPR

Charlie Arlinghaus is expected to win confirmation as New Hampshire’s next Administrative Services Commissioner. Right now, Arlinghaus is serving as Governor Chris Sununu’s budget director, but for years he’s run the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.

That free market think tank has deep - and increasingly conspicuous - ties to the Governor.

When Charlie Arlinghaus had his Executive Council confirmation hearing last week, Councilor Andru Volinsky noted something conspicuous about Arlinghaus’s resume.

“I looked at the staff listing on your website. It’s you and your dog.”

“It’s not my dog and he’s not there anymore."

“Well, he was there yesterday.”

Volinsky also pointed out something else - that the Josiah Bartlett Centers’ board is full of people close to Sununu: His father, a brother, the leader of his transition team, his chief of staff, and Sununu’s newly appointed attorney general.

Arlinghaus told Volinsky and the other councilors council he didn’t see that as a big deal.

“I guess I would be concerned if the entirety of, if every commissioner in state government were a board former member of the Josiah Bartlett Center. Well I wouldn’t be concerned, but you should be."

“I would be.”

“But it would be an issue.”

That one could joke about every commissioner having Bartlett Center ties is saying something. Grant Bosse is the editorial page editor of the NH Union leader and former Bartlett Center staffer.

“After a lot of years in the desert, conservatives are making their way back into state government,” he says.

And during the years before Sununu, when Democrats won nine of ten governors races, the Bartlett center was a kind of oasis for policy-minded conservatives. Founded in 1992, by Emily Mead and Edgar Mead, the center’s focus has been on fiscal issues and government transparency.

Arlinghaus has run it since 2003. Along the way he’s become an established voice on small government policies, pushing tax cuts and school choice, opposing commuter rail, warning about an underfunded retirement system.

Throughout, the Sununu family, and all that comes with them, have been close to the center.

“It is very fitting John that you be honored by the Josiah Bartlett Center for your dedication to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.”

That was former President George H.W. Bush praising John H. Sununu when the Bartlett Center honored him at a 2011 dinner. Cultivating Republicans from here and away, and getting them to write checks has helped Arlinghaus keep the center going.

According to the current Governor Sununu, he’s looked to the Bartlett center for talent because that’s where it can be found.

"The Josiah Bartlett Center has done some incredible work. They’ve been a powerhouse of great talent and so I’ve been very fortunate to be able to bring in some of their best and brightest to be part of our team. Charlie has obviously been heading that group.”

But Arlinghaus’s success – and he is expected to win easy confirmation as Administrative services commissioner– raises a different question: What will become of the Bartlett center? That’s a question its board of directors will have to figure out.