CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu received $438,101 in contributions for inaugural celebrations, but reported spending less than half of that amount — $194,100, according documents filed on Friday at the Secretary of State’s Office.
Sununu held three “black tie optional” inaugural events in January. The contributions paid Sheraton Harborside Hotel in Portsmouth $43,554, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua $41,587 and the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods $40,015, according to the report signed by inaugural treasurer Paul Collins.
What Sununu is allowed to do with the remaining funds is unclear, according to Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano, who handles issues involving election laws.
“The statute doesn’t specify what is done with the left-over money,” Buonamano said. He couldn’t speak in detail about the law on Monday without studying what has been done in the past, Buonamano said. “This is a brand-new statute… It does say there will no commingling of funds,” he said.
In the past, a few governors such as Gov. John Lynch voluntarily reported inaugural finances, but it wasn’t mandated until RSA 644:13a became effective in May.
The inaugural donations were made by 175 contributors, including individuals and businesses, according to the report. It was filed on March 10, the deadline under the new law that now requires governors-elect to appoint an inaugural treasurer and publicly report contributions and expenditures.
Gov. Sununu did not respond to email and phone requests seeking more detailed information about the report on Monday.
There were some differences in what was reported on the Sununu Inaugural Celebration website – which has since been taken down – and the report filed on Friday.
The website only listed donors who gave from $1,000 up to $25,000, but the list released by the Secretary of State also includes donors who gave less than $1,000. The donations appear to have been made to purchase tickets to the inaugural events and VIP sessions. See complete list here.
Eversource, Centene, GCG Law, which was listed on the inaugural website as Gallagher, Callahan and Gartrell Realty, and NextEra Energy, were all listed on the website as having donated $25,000 each. But the report filed with the Secretary of State showed NextEra Energy, the owner of Seabrook, donated only $11,000 even though its logo was posted on the inaugural website reserved for $25,000 donors.
Eversource’s donation raised concerns previously because of Sununu’s outspoken support of its controversial proposal to build Northern Pass, a 192-mile high-voltage power line from the Canadian border at Pittsburg to Deerfield. The plan is to bring hydropower from Hydro-Quebec through New Hampshire to the New England grid.
The $10,000 donors included AT&T Services, Bank of America, Comcast Corp., Intralot Inc., Liberty Mutual Insurance, Pierce Atwood LLP, RAI Services, The Provident Bank, Unitil, Wal-Mart Stores and Waste Management, the report said.
Some contributors such as New Hampshire Hospital Association, which gave $5,000, appeared on the report, but didn’t appear on the inaugural website.
Inaugural treasurer Collins must file an itemized statement of receipts and expenditures with the Secretary of State again on July 10 for the period beginning on March 1 and ending on June 30.
After the July 10 filing, he must continue by law to file every six months until a “zero balance is achieved.”
Gov. Sununu was paid $182.49 for expenses, and treasurer Collins was paid $1,489 for his expenses, the report said.
Omni Wizard/Niftywavepro was paid $11,750 for water flasks, Avard for Senate was $650 for music entertainment, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen $1,073 for gifts, and $1,500 cash for gratuities, the report listed.
Sununu’s spokesman David Abrams told InDepthNH.org on Feb. 28 that inaugural funds were used to buy food for a lunch meeting with a group of reporters that was held in early February.
The report showed only one food expenditure in February for $181.51 to Elizabeth’s Kitchen on South State Street, but it is not known if that was for the lunch with reporters. Several news outlets that were invited said they didn’t eat lunch at the meeting and attended because they were concerned by a press release Abrams sent out on inauguration day telling them to attribute comments to “senior transition officials.”
Abrams said in an email to InDepthNH.org on Feb. 28: “Governor Sununu wanted to take an opportunity to informally meet with individuals who will be regularly covering him in the Governor’s Office. Chips and sandwiches were served and paid for by funds raised through the inaugural celebration.”
According to the website, The Sununu Inaugural Celebration is a non-political 501C4 organization and contributions are not tax deductible.
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