Flotsam & Jetsam
Red whine or white? No sooner had F&J speculated on the apparent political wimpishness of state GOP Chairman Warren Henderson - at least when it came to complaining that New Hampshire Democrats were being mean to Senate Majority Leader and presidential hopeful Bill Frist - then he actually adds more grist to the mill. Henderson, you may recall, had anguished on a recent “New Hampshire Close-Up” episode on WMUR-TV that the Dems’ criticism of the majority leader while he was visiting the Granite State had created a “climate of hostility” and a “climate of intimidation” and had generally made things unpleasant for the father of the nuclear option. Well, along comes Henderson again, this time at a gathering of Republicans in Milford. This time he appears to be whining about Democratic Gov. John Lynch not playing fair. Lynch, he said, is “trying to drive a wedge between members of our party” by working to - goodness! - attract Republican lawmakers to support his agenda. Talk about not playing fair. Runaround Mike To say that lawmakers are giving New Hampshire Legal Assistance the runaround would be putting it mildly. After winning endorsement in the Senate, the NHLA thought that it finally had won support to open a new office in Nashua and allow the agency to hire new lawyers to offer legal services to the poor in other parts of the state. In fact, Legal Assistance backers had dared to hope that their years-long effort to open the office may actually have finally been won when Senate Bill 146 passed the Senate, since it was that body that had historically been their biggest roadblock. Unfortunately, they didn’t take into consideration House Majority Leader Michael O’Neil of Hampton, who came out strongly against the bill’s funding mechanism - raising certain filing fees in the District, Superior and Supreme courts. O’Neil argued that the filing fee was an inappropriate way to raise the money, and if Legal Assistance wanted to open a new office, it should go through the regular budget process. All well and good - if you’re living in a vacuum. But Director John Tobin and the rest of the folks of Legal Assistance don’t. In fact, Tobin reminded a House panel after O’Neil inserted his 11th-hour monkey wrench that five years ago he had worked with lawmakers to put in a bill that would indeed set aside money in the state budget for a Nashua office. The response to that effort? “We got told to find a funding source,” Tobin said, “and that’s what we have done.’’ Blaming the victim again Ignorance of the law may be no excuse for most people, but former House Speaker Gene Chandler has been more than willing to give it a shot. Chandler faced a Legislative Ethics Committee hearing earlier this month on charges stemming from last year’s revelations that he had collected tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, but his “I knew nothing” defense has one flaw - one you could drive a Down Home Corn Roast through. Chandler and his attorney, Ovide Lamontagne, argued to the ethics committee that, essentially, he didn’t know he was breaking state law and ethics guidelines by collecting those gifts, failing to report them and using the proceeds to pay for such expenses as gas, groceries, car repairs and credit card bills, and even a mortgage payment - but you’ll be glad to hear he told the panel that he didn’t use the donations for vacations and stuff like that. (For the record, he said he was almost forced to accept the gifts from lobbyists, corporations, fellow lawmakers and plain old friends because his legislative duties had begun putting him under a financial strain: “I don’t like to ask people to do things for me, but we had to do it if I was going to continue in the Legislature,” he said.) Not surprisingly, Lamontagne argued that it was Chandler who was the victim in this whole mess, blaming instead the state’s maze of confusing laws and standards of behavior as well as the failure of the attorney general to enforce those laws and standards. “If they had taken the opportunity to educate him, we would not be here today,” said Lamontagne of his client. “The system did not serve him well.” Of course, the problem with Chandler’s defense is pretty straightforward: Chandler did at one point in his long legislative career actually know that he was supposed to report contributions from lobbyists. As majority leader, he had been instructed to do so by then-Speaker Donna Sytek. His confusion apparently began only after he assumed the speakership. All politics is ‘local control’ The next time Sen. Bob Flanders is up for election and he tells voters he’s all for “local control,” perhaps someone could remind him he dismissed as “foolishness” an attempt to amend his bill creating a state law requiring riders under 16 to wear bicycle helmets. The amendment would have left such decisions up to localities. It's been making the rounds ... There’s no truth to the rumor that before he returns to New Hampshire, Tennesseee Senator and Republican presidential wannabe and physician Bill Frist will be undergoing some elective surgery - a personality transplant. Why doesn’t Craig Benson end all our suffering and buy the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and open Benson’s Animal Park in a new venue? Would you say that Tom Eaton has the ability to bury his political opponents? Nothing about passing E-Z Pass is easy. Plenty of Republicans are secretly enjoying the trials and tribulations of the former GOP National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee official accused of masterminding the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming campaign. One thing about the adopt-a-Shipyard crowd: They don’t know when to give up.