GOP Calls on Hassan to Return 'Tainted Donations'

Dem received $30,000 from firm accused of donation reimbursements

Maggie Hassan
Maggie Hassan / AP
October 29, 2016

The New Hampshire Republican Party is calling on Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan to return more than $30,000 in campaign contributions she received from a Massachusetts law firm that reportedly skirted federal campaign finance laws.

The Boston Globe reported on Saturday evening that the Thornton Law Firm gave partners bonus checks that mirrored their political contributions, a potential violation of federal law prohibiting reimbursement. Hassan, who is challenging freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R.), is the second largest recipient of donations from the firm for the cycle.

Hassan received $31,500 from firm employees in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, trailing only Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold in overall donations from the firm.

Hassan also received $1,000 from firm partner David Strouss in June 2014 for her gubernatorial campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Six days after that donation, Strouss gave $2,500 to Montana Democratic Senate candidate John Walsh, according to the Globe. Strouss received a $3,500 bonus check immediately after those donations.

Jennifer Horn, head of the New Hampshire Republican Party, called on Hassan to return the donations she has received in light of the Globe investigation.

"Contributions from the Thornton law firm raise serious concerns and Governor Hassan needs to immediately return these tainted donations," Horn said.

Former employees at the law firm, which specializes in asbestos-related suits, told the Boston Globe that Thornton began including donation reimbursements in checks after receiving complaints about the number of political fundraisers it participated in. It even began to include the names of candidates in the memo section of bonus checks, in order to account for the money spent.

"Bonus checks that were reviewed by the Globe made clear that the payments were for political donations, with notations giving the name of the politician the partner had donated to," the Globe investigation says.

The firm's lawyer denied any wrongdoing, and Thornton told the Globe the checks were "an error made internally."

Neither Thornton, nor Strouss, nor the firm's lawyer immediately returned requests for comment Saturday night.

The Thornton Law Firm has contributed nearly $740,000 to federal candidates with nearly all of those donations going to Democrats in 2016. Since 2008 the firm's employees have contributed $3 million to political candidates. Of those donations just $58,600 has gone to Republican politicians.

This would not be the first time Hassan has returned questionable political contributions.

She paid back $33,000 in donations from state labor union PACs in 2014. Horn said that the troubling revelations regarding Thornton's political activities raise "serious ethical questions" about Hassan's political judgment.

"Maggie Hassan has a long history of accepting illegal campaign donations that have raised serious ethical questions about her political activity," she said.

The Hassan campaign did not return request for comment.