Flotsam & Jetsam

Working the crowd

You may have had to see it to believe it, but the audience at the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire annual meeting Oct. 20 was brought to its feet after one of the speakers proclaimed his support for John Kerry.

The speaker was Malcolm McLane, the widely respected attorney and former executive councilor, who was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. McLane’s declaration for Kerry came at the very end of his thank-you speech, during which he recounted his journey over the years from Republican to independent to Democrat.

The missing links

You would probably be forgiven for not immediately associating the two terms “due diligence” and “Benson administration.”

After all, the administration’s track record includes promises of millions of dollars in savings from technology – before even knowing what kind of technology the state actually had – recommending elimination of a fish hatchery program without ever talking to the people who run the program and promising hundreds of thousands in revenue this year from a new state liquor store that has yet to be built.

Now you can add yet another promise modeled on the wing-and-a-prayer theory of public policy: the heavily spun Canadian pharmacy Web link.

It turns out that Merton Dyer, the former state rep and retired pharmacist who supposedly vetted the site months ago and gave it his seal of approval, is now saying that he himself wouldn’t buy medicine from the site because he was “not comfortable” with the way K-Tel Drug does business.

Dyer endorsed the site after he visited the operation with another pharmacist at the governor’s request – and apparently at the expense of K-Tel.

In touting the site, the governor said the company was “thoroughly researched.” It also was the only Canadian drug firm visited by the two New Hampshire pharmacists.

That thorough research apparently did not involve much debriefing by the governor or his staff.

Dyer told the Portsmouth Herald that his visit was made “to make sure they had a real office and real people working there” and that it had an acceptable number of qualified pharmacists, he said.

But no one thought to ask him a pretty basic question about the operation that maybe – just maybe – could have given at least one or two people pause.

The question, finally asked by a Herald reporter, was, “Would you buy your drugs there?”

“You asked me a direct question, would I buy, and I said I would not.”

Added Dyer: “The governor did not ask me if I would buy them,” Dyer said. “I just reported on what we found.”

A matter of perspective

After members of the State Police union charged that the number of troopers has dropped by 15 since Governor Benson took office, Keith Herman, the governor’s top aide, dove head-first into a spitting match over numbers.

Herman contended that the number of troopers serving in 2004 is identical to 2003. And if you didn’t believe him, you could ask Safety Commissioner Dick Flynn, who oversees the State Police. Herman did, and Flynn told him his numbers are legit.

Added Herman: “Who are you going to believe, the commissioner or the union?”

All of which means we should believe the commissioner when it comes to State Police employment numbers. But when it comes to details about the investigation of former AG Peter Heed – well, that’s another story.

Making your head spin

One thing you can thank Craig Benson for is the re-emergence of Steve Merrill.

After years of living below the political radar, the former governor – Benson’s co-campaign chair and chief undertaker for the Old Man of the Mountain – has gladly taken up some of the limelight in recent months. But his most recent appearance in news pages may be the most curious.

Merrill was head spin doctor for the Benson campaign, which went into a full-court press after learning that former Gov. Walter Peterson – a Republican – had endorsed John Lynch for governor. Merrill apparently made the rounds of political reporters to offer his take on the matter.

Merrill essentially endorsed the claim of the Benson campaign that Peterson was “one of New Hampshire’s most famous income taxers” and as governor “I always rejected such liberal Republican notions.”

Funny – last we checked Peterson never publicly endorsed an income tax. He did oversee restructuring of the state’s tax system, including establishment of the business profits tax. But the business enterprise tax – that 0.75 percent income tax on the state’s small business – well, wasn’t it Steve Merrill – at the urging of then-Cabletron CEO Craig Benson – who foisted that on us?

They said it…

“Well Craig, I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do. As of November 2nd, I am going to give you lots of opportunity to spend a lot of time skiing with your family this winter.” — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Lynch to Gov. Craig Benson after the governor said he has been too busy as governor to hit the slopes.

“Finding me is not something you need a Ph.D. from Harvard to do.” — Gov. Craig Benson answering a charge from challenger John Lynch over the governor’s appointment last year of volunteer aide Angela Blaisdell as the governor’s homeland security liaison.

“I think they took the Jeep Liberty” — Alicia Preston, Governor Benson’s press secretary, explaining the family vehicle Benson and his 16-year-old daughter used when she took her driver’s test.

“One of them said, ‘She’s 94, she could be dead tomorrow.’ I wanted to stand up and say, ‘So could you,’” — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doris “Granny D” Haddock recalling how the Ballot Law Commission hearing went last July, in her then-unsuccessful attempt to use her nickname on the ballot.

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