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Stark Choice for NH House: Efforts to Plug “Dark Money” Flow

PHOTO: The state House is in recess, but a stark choice faces lawmakers who want to put a plug in the flow of so-called "dark money" into the Granite State. Credit: Wiki Commons
PHOTO: The state House is in recess, but a stark choice faces lawmakers who want to put a plug in the flow of so-called "dark money" into the Granite State. Credit: Wiki Commons
March 31, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. - The state House of Representatives is in recess, but members who are trying to curb the flow of so-called "dark money" into the Granite State are pondering some difficult options. Some legislators, such as Rep. Bob Perry, want to put a plug in the flow of outside money. They face a stark choice: accept last week's state Senate vote for a study of the issue that they think is unnecessary, or try to force the Senate to accept strong language that was already rejected.

"We did end up with this compromise," Perry said, "so we are faced with a decision as to whether we accept and work with what they send us - or whether we challenge it and move it."

Last week, the state Senate voted to study the issue and rejected an amendment that would have called on Congress to amend the Constitution to overturn "Citizens United." That Supreme Court decision found that corporations have the same rights as people when it comes to making political donations.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer, Public Citizen "Democracy is for People Campaign," has been active on the issue in New England. He said voters in New Hampshire, especially Republicans, sent a clear message to state lawmakers that they wanted to put a plug in dark money.

"In 48 town meetings - almost a forth of the state - people called for a constitutional amendment, and in a two-to-one ratio those were in Republican districts. So the Republicans are not following the will of the people; they aren't following their constituents. There has to be some other force that's pulling them in the other direction."

Perry said this will delay action, and by the time the next vote comes up, everyone will know the results of another Supreme Court decision: the pending case of McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission. Perry was not optimistic.

"To the extent that Citizens United opened the floodgates to corporate spending, McCutcheon is going to open the floodgates to individual spending," Perry predicted. "Election cycles that are 24/7 - I'm sure the public isn't looking forward to that."

The Supreme Court McCutcheon decision could be announced by mid-week.



Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH