Money in Politics

State of Democracy's coverage of campaign finance and the role money is playing in the 2016 New Hampshire primary and beyond.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

The New Hampshire Rebellion will hold its fourth annual “Granny D” memorial walk this weekend, commemorating the late campaign finance reformer’s cross-country journey to get money out of politics. Organizers say there’s a lot of work left to be done at the national — and local — level.

New Hampshire Senate
Allegra Boverman / NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate voted Thursday to keep campaign contributions flowing from LLCs, but moved to tighten restrictions on political advertising. 

Senator Dan Feltes argued in vain Thursday in favor of his bill, which would have closed what he calls the Limited Liability Corporation loophole. The bill sought to prevent multiple LLCs with the same owner from collectively exceeding the individual campaign contribution limit.

The majority instead voted with Senator Andy Sanborn, who owns several LLCs himself.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A Democratic senator from Concord is hoping to close a so-called loophole in New Hampshire’s election laws that he says undermines the state’s limits on campaign contributions.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A bill that would close a loophole that lets business owners make multiple campaign contributions to a single candidate will be up for debate Tuesday at the Statehouse.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The failure of Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan to negotiate a deal to limit spending by outside political groups guaranteed that their U.S. Senate race would be the most expensive election in New Hampshire history.

And it is – by far. An unprecedented $127 million has been steered toward the campaign so far. Non-candidate groups account for roughly $96 million, or more than three times what the candidates themselves have spent.

Down in the polls, low on cash and deeply unpopular, Rep. Frank Guinta could use all the help he can get defending his 1st District Congressional seat.

But, adding insult to injury, the incumbent has been all but abandoned by the Republican party’s major lifeline for House candidates. 

Wednesday is the deadline for candidates for state elected office to file campaign finance reports, detailing how much money they’ve raised and spent since the primary.

 

But these reports will give us only a glimpse of how the political dollars are flowing this year.

 

Following trends in recent elections, outside groups are expected to make a considerable investment to try and sway voters before they go to the polls less than three weeks from now.

 

Save the Children Action Network

    

Early-learning programs have always been a tough sell in New Hampshire. Child advocates and educators have tried for years to break lawmakers’ resistance to the idea, yet a proposal to put more 5-year-olds in all-day kindergarten can still roil Concord for months.

A Washington, D.C. political group with deep pockets, a team of lobbyists and a small army of volunteers wants to change that.

Spending by outside political groups in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race reached $50 million this week, fueled by a recent barrage of negative ads sponsored by a super PAC supporting Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte.

Granite State Solutions has booked an estimated $11 million in TV ads on Boston stations through mid-October. All 2,800 of the 30-second spots, which are scheduled to run through mid-October, attack Ayotte's challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan. 

Special interest groups spent nearly half a million dollars on the primary races for governor and state Legislature that ended Tuesday, led by a nonprofit social-welfare organization with ties to a prominent Concord lobbying firm.

A Citizen's Survival Guide to Outside Spending

Sep 2, 2016

You might already be overwhelmed by the number of TV ads about this year's U.S. Senate race between Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan.  And if you're like a lot of people, you're confused about who's paying for all these 30-second commercials, and why.

Before you tune it out completely, here's a video guide to navigating the political advertising - and money - behind this important race.

NHPR staff

Ted Gatsas isn’t the first candidate for governor to take advantage of a gap in New Hampshire’s election law that allows wealthy donors to dodge limits on campaign contributions.

But no one has benefited more from the so-called LLC loophole than the Manchester mayor.

 

NHPR

Democrat Colin Van Ostern and Republican Ted Gatsas are leading the cash race in the contest for governor.

Campaign finance reports filed Wednesday show Van Ostern has raised just over $1 million and Gatsas just below that amount, not including a $75,000 personal loan. The totals are significantly higher than their competitors. The primary is Sept. 13.

Republican Rep. Frank Edelblut has contributed $750,000 to his own campaign, giving him the highest cash on hand at this point.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

There's a wide fundraising gap between two of the Democrats hoping to become New Hampshire's next governor.

Candidates are not required to file campaign finance reports until Aug. 24, less than a month before the Sept. 13 primary. But Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and businessman Mark Connolly filed reports Wednesday, a deadline for non-candidate committees to file.

Spend any time around Sen. Kelly Ayotte or Gov. Maggie Hassan nowadays, and you'll hear repeated assurances that while it may be election season, they remain wholly dedicated to serving New Hampshire.

But take a look at either’s fundraising books in their race for the U.S. Senate, and you'll find plenty of proof that both are also focusing further afield.


Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign raised $26.4 million last month, beating the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders financially for the first time in 2016.

Sanders has routinely outpaced Clinton in fundraising this year thanks to a dedicated base of small donors. But these latest numbers indicate a political pivot; Clinton's fundraising is accelerating while Sanders' is slowing.

Republican Congressman Frank Guinta is facing a fresh obstacle in his quest to keep his seat: The formation of an outside money group to back one of his rivals.

Republican businessman Rich Ashooh is the benefactor of a newly formed super PAC, which can raise unlimited sums of money from individuals. The group's financial backers aren't yet known, but Matt Mowers, a former executive director of the state GOP, is helping run it.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As a former lobbyist for the New Hampshire banking industry, Jerry Little had little trouble raising money for his 2014 campaign for state Senate.

 

Of the more than $100,000 in contributions Little collected, more than a third came from donors with ties to the financial sector. Little, a Republican, went on to win his race by a comfortable margin.

 

Ayotte Airs First TV Ad in Senate Race Against Hassan

Feb 29, 2016

Three weeks after the First in the Nation Presidential Primary, nine months before the November election, and New Hampshire is already on to a new round of political ads.

It began today with a 30-second spot from Sen. Kelly Ayotte, which features her 11-year-old daughter, Kate.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Here's a twist in an election year in which the role of money is a dominant theme: A Super PAC created to blunt the influence of Super PACs in key political races is jumping into the Senate contest between Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan.

With the 2016 presidential campaign now entrenched in Nevada and South Carolina, local television stations are closing the books on the New Hampshire Primary.

Sara Plourde/NHPR

One of the more closely-watched Senate contests of 2016 won’t be bound by a so-called people’s pledge after all.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the Republican incumbent, and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan have failed to reach an agreement to limit the influence of outside political groups in the race.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

For months after announcing his White House bid, Bernie Sanders didn’t run a single campaign commercial on television. But he was everywhere online: emails, social media posts and paid ads on desktop computers and mobile devices.

Sanders has spent $10 million building a presence on the Internet, more than anyone else running for president this year. While the Vermont senator has hardly turned his back on TV, he’s betting that the voters most likely to embrace his vision for the country are online, not in front of a 50” flat-screen.

Donald Trump likes to point out that, unlike everyone else running for president in 2016, he’s got the money to pay his own way to the Republican nomination.

Bernie Sanders may be running an unconventional campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But to close the sale with New Hampshire voters, he has put his money on a rather conventional means: television advertising.

Brian Wallstin for NHPR

When Bill Binnie launched WBIN-TV in 2011, less than a year after losing the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, his goal was to bring more competition to New Hampshire political coverage.

Binnie had another incentive, of course: The tens of millions of dollars spent on political advertising during the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Sara Plourde/NHPR

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is waving off super PACS that want to help him.

In an email Monday to supporters, his campaign manager Jeff Weaver says Sanders has been surprised to learn about the pro-Sanders campaigns of outside groups that are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from donors. Sanders rails against such groups on the campaign trail, saying they contribute to a corrupt political system.

"They should spend their money somewhere else," Weaver writes in the email. "We do not want their help."

TV ads are unavoidable during a presidential election campaign — just ask the Iowans and New Hampshirites being bombarded with advertisements right now. So why aren't those TV spots seeming to do much good for some Republican candidates?

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