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RELEASE: Senator Bette Lasky Files Legislation to Close “Gatsas Loophole”

CONCORD – Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) has filed legislation to close a loophole in New Hampshire’s campaign finance laws that allowed candidates to illegally accept and spend contributions in a primary campaign beyond the limits established in state law without any penalty.

“Our laws around individual political contributions are very clear—you cannot spend general election funds in a primary election,” said Senator Lasky. “Closing the so-called ‘Gatsas loophole’ will ensure that any political candidate who violates the law will face penalties if they do so.”

Last April, the Attorney General’s office determined that Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas violated RSA 664:4, V(1) when he illegally spent $68,000 in general election funds over the course of his 2016 primary election campaign for governor. The Attorney General’s office stated that “a civil penalty may well have been warranted”, but “the legislature has chosen not to provide this office the statutory authority to assess a civil fine in such circumstances.”

“Free and fair elections are a hallmark of our democracy and we need to ensure that we give the Attorney General the necessary authority to enforce our election laws and punish those who break them,” Senator Lasky continued. “Now that candidates know about the ‘Gatsas Loophole’, the legislature needs to take action and close it as soon as possible to prevent others from breaking our election laws without penalty.”

Sen. Lasky’s draft legislation would establish a fine of up to $1,000 per violation of campaign contribution limits. A copy of the text submitted to the Office of Legislative Services is attached to this release, along with a copy of the April 4, 2017 letter from the Attorney General’s office that concludes that Mayor Gatsas violated campaign contribution limits.