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Democrat bashes Shaheen, Hassan at candidates forum

Concord Monitor - 5/15/2018

For the Monitor

A candidates forum revealed internecine Democratic strife Monday when candidate in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District took aim at the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators over their support of a bill that rolls back reforms on bankers and Wall Street traders.

Terence O’Rourke, the Rochester city attorney and Iraq War veteran who’s considered a long shot among the nine Democrats trying to succeed retiring four-term Democratic congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, criticized Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan on Monday during a congressional candidates forum on campaign finance reform.

During the candidates’ opening remarks, O’Rourke targeted Shaheen and Hassan over their votes in favor of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which he argued “essentially guts” regulations imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act during the financial crisis.

The bill, which passed the U.S. House last year, advanced through the Senate earlier this year, thanks to the support of 17 Democrats who joined their GOP colleagues. The measure relaxes a number of regulations imposed in the 2009 law.

“Seventeen Democrats went along with this bill to gut Dodd-Frank,” O’Rourke argued. “The average donation received from banks and related industries to those 17 Democrats the last five years is $222,000. And our own two Democratic senators in New Hampshire voted for it.”

O’Rourke, who lobbed similar criticism at Shaheen and Hassan two weeks ago in a forum with the Belknap County Democrats, claimed that the two senators voted for the bill “because they took half a million dollars in money from Wall Street.”

Supporters touted the bill as a boon for small banks and consumers that would give community banks and credit unions relief as they struggle to comply with the regulations meant for larger firms.

But opponents, led by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, argued the bill would relax oversight on many large banks that currently are regulated by the Dodd-Frank restrictions.

Shaheen communications director Ryan Nickle defended the Senator’s position to the Monitor.

“(Shaheen) supported Dodd-Frank and has a long record of holding Wall Street accountable. She supported commonsense changes to the Dodd-Frank law that cut red tape for New Hampshire banks and credit unions so that they can better serve New Hampshire customers, without changing how the law applies to big Wall Street banks,” Nickle said.

Hassan press secretary Ricki Eshman said Hassan also highlighted small banks in her response.

“(Hassan) believes that we must support community banks and credit unions – who were not responsible for the economic crisis – in order to help expand access to credit for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and middle class families, particularly in rural areas,” she said.

The measure was also strongly supported by the New Hampshire Bankers Association, which serves the Granite State’s banking institutions.

While Shaheen and Hassan have received some criticism from progressives over the past couple of months for their votes in favor of the bill, recent polls by the University of New Hampshire and Saint Anselm College indicate they both remain extremely popular among most Granite State Democrats.

Eight of the nine Democrats running in the 1st District took part at the forum, which was held at the Warren Rudman Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law in Concord and hosted by the national conservative campaign reform group Take Back Our Republic and by the Granite State-based Open Democracy Action.

Besides O’Rourke, the other Democrats taking part were Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester; Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth, a U.S. Marine and Iraq War vet who later served at the Veterans Administration and the Pentagon under President Barack Obama; state Rep. Mark Mackenzie of Manchester, a former fireman who served more than two decades as head of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO; retired Portsmouth trial lawyer Lincoln Soldati, a former Somersworth mayor who also spent 17 years as Strafford County attorney; technology executive and community activist Deaglan McEachern of Portsmouth; Levi Sanders, a Claremont resident and legal services analyst who’s also the son of 2016 presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont; and Naomi Andrews of Epping, a top aide to Shea-Porter who served as the congresswoman’s chief of staff until stepping down this spring to run to succeed her.

The nine Democrats in the race, environmental scientist and state Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye, was at the State House testifying in front of a committee of conference in support of her bill to clean up the Seacoast’s Coakley Landfill Superfund site.

Two Republicans also attended the forum, which invited all of the Democrats and Republicans running in either of the state’s congressional districts. They were Mark Belanger of New Boston, who’s running in the 2nd District race, and Andy Martin, a perennial candidate who’s known for pursuing numerous litigations.

O’Rourke also targeted Sullivan, who has dramatically outraised all the other candidates in the 1st District contest. Sullivan, who moved to Portsmouth last summer, has come under attack for her lack of Granite State roots.

“We’ve seen all over the nation and in New Hampshire an unbelievable increase in what we call ‘carpetbagger candidates.’ ” O’Rourke said. “They come into our states with millions of dollars of PAC money and lobbyist money. And they expect the folks of New Hampshire, or California – or wherever you’re from – to just roll over and just go over it. And forget about folks who’ve been in your communities for years serving our constituencies.” Citizens United

All of the candidates took aim at U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United v. FEC ruling, which struck down as unconstitutional a federal law prohibiting corporations and unions from making expenditures in federal elections. The 2010 ruling opened the campaign spending floodgates.

“So long as Citizens United is the law of the land, our democracy is at stake. Which is why as a member of Congress, one of the first things I would do is to work in bipartisan basis to introduce an amendment to overturn Citizens United,” Sullivan said.

MacKenzie said “I think the system stinks. And we’ve got to overturn Citizens United.”

Soldati said that “Citizens United is an abomination. It allows dark money. Everything that was predicted by the opponents of it has come true. And it’s absolutely essential what we overturn Citizens United.”

McEachern argued that “we have too many politicians right now that are focused on the next election, that are focused on raising that money so that they can win that next election. We need more leaders. We need more people who aren’t worried about that next election.”

Pappas called for “public financing of elections. We’ve got to incentivize small donors and we’ve got to reward candidates who raise money through small donations within their own home state.”

Sanders urged that “we have to take on these corporations. We have to take on these super PACs.”

And Andrews, who was endorsed by Shea-Porter last week, highlighted that “campaign finance reform has been at the top of my priority list for years. I know candidates can win and be supportive of campaign finance reform because Carol did, despite being outspent 10 to 1 numerous times.”

 
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