To The Daily Sun,
New Hampshire RSA 664:14 "Political Advertising" (http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/LXIII/664/664-14.htm) requires that all mail, signs, broadcasts, etc. contain both the names and the physical addresses of the candidates, parties or other entities distributing or posting material or messages. The law intends to make candidates and other advertisers identifiable, accountable and accessible to the electorate.
With one exception this season, all mail received to date from candidates, parties and advocates have clearly printed names and physical addresses, i.e. street, number, city, state, zip code. The exception is Sam Cataldo (State Senate District 6 — Alton, Barnstead, Farmington, Gilmanton, New Durham and Rochester) who recently mass-mailed what I considered venomous attack advertising against his opponent, Richard Leonard. The senator's name was on it in miniscule letters, but without a return address. Why? It was not for lack of space. I wonder what motivates or entitles a state senator to skirt election laws? On this, the Attorney General should not have to wait for a citizen's complaint.
New Hampshire's RSA 664:14 also applies to signage. Last week, I photographed the signage of many candidates in this district. With one exception — Peter Bolster, candidate for Belknap District 8 state representative (Alton, Barnstead, Gilmanton) — none of them, from state to national office, has an identifying address. Again, why? Even when the law permits the substitution of a website, provided name and address appears "immediately and prominently," none of them do so. Not to my eyes.
Republicans and Democrats alike, big ones and small ones, are avoiding accountability and access. I think the penalty should be 10 percent of their advertising budgets.
But voters should also hold the Secretary of State and the Attorney General accountable for enforcement. First, on filing to run, all candidates should immediately receive a boldfaced copy of New Hampshire's election laws. This takes care of the ignorance factor.
Second, before every campaign season, the state should send similar copies for posting in all town and city halls, libraries and post offices.
Third, similar copies should be sent to every major printer and audio-visual production house, radio and television station and mailing company. These vendors, who together make millions during campaign season, should be on notice that no material goes out the door or on the air without the full required identification.
Fourth, the state should require all candidates to file a sample or accurate image of every advertising item with the Attorney General's office. Fifth, election investigators should spot-check signage, mailings and broadcasts across the state and throughout the campaign season. If candidate Bolster is elected, I'll expect him to introduce these five measures as soon as possible.
Democracy is not served by governing New Hampshire on a complaint basis, nor should its officials be paid to sit around and wait for complaints. I think the violations are so obvious and widespread they are laughable.
Where New Hampshire's election laws are concerned, the difference between ignorance and impunity seems to be about 36 inches, the width of a plastic yard sign. I welcome and will consider voting for all candidates who abide by the laws, and I respect all officials who proactively implement and monitor their compliance.
- Category: Letters
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