Elections changed a great deal with the Citizens United ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Dating to 2010, it tossed out the ban on corporations and unions spending enormous sums on political campaigns. Deeming it a matter of free speech, the court (in a tight five to four decision), said it was appropriate for labor unions and corporations to “spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate,” according to an article from The Center for Public Integrity.
Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), sharply disagrees. Saying that “we must stand up to special interests and take action to ensure that money does not control our politics,” she seeks to undo the damages wrought by the Citizens United decision and bring the days of dark money politics to a fast end.
She has stated often that she will fight for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling, and that she seeks “campaign finance reform efforts to increase transparency in our elections and reduce the influence of money in politics.”
One of the first methods she used to cut back outside spending and further weaken the influence of money in politics, she created the 2016 “New Hampshire People’s Pledge,” similar to a similar program initiated by Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts (in 2012). Political candidates take these pledges and seek to reduce the impact of third-party advertising as well as cutting spending on campaigns, generally.
Millions of Americans remain unaware of the extent of influence that such tremendous contributions create, though they are aware of “dark money” issues. In brief, dark money is a term used to described donations that are unable to be traced to their origins, as well as expenditures by large groups towards the election of a candidate. Funneled through PACs (Political Action Committees) and SuperPACs, dark money is nearly impossible to identify or legislate.
Why? Because both PACs and SuperPACs, operate as non-profits that are not obliged to disclose the names of donors, they are almost entirely anonymous. Not only does this keep the source of political backing a secret, but PACs and SuperPACscan work around traditional tax and campaign finance rules that put limits on opportunities to create influence.
Groups are defined as PACs when they hit the $2600 spending cap in a federal election. Thedifference between PACs and SuperPACs is simply that the latter cannot donate to parties or candidates. Instead, they are allowed to spend any amount on high-priced ad campaigns and other marketing methods and face no limits on how much they can receive from groups or individuals.
One source noted that “spending of this kind (in which groups did not reveal their donors) climbed rapidly from five million dollars in the year 2006 to more than three hundred million dollars in 2012.”
And though some political experts say that the influence created is seen in “subtle things that are less top of mind, less likely to be in the news — some amendment tucked into a larger bill…[and] greater access for friendly lobbyists,” it cannot be ignored.
Common Cause has reported, “With big dollar donors effectively in control of American politics, writing six- and seven-figure checks to super PAC’s to support ad campaigns that confuse viewers and distort the views and records of candidates, it’s no surprise that voters are increasingly cynical about public affairs.”
Public awareness of them is growing, and politicians running for any level will indicate they reject corporate PAC donations, but cynicism is almost unavoidable.
Additionally, in her 2014 run for re-election to the role of Governor of New Hampshire, she was ordered by the state’s Attorney General to return almost $25,000 in campaign contributions that had violated campaign finance laws. She was also required to return an additional sum of the same amount because the organization actively contributing the funds had not registered as a PAC.
Perhaps this is why so much attention was directed towards Senator Hassan in mid-June of 2019 when it was announced that “a second former staffer was charged in federal court in connection with a case of ‘doxing’ – hacking Senate office computers to dig up and release personal information about several Republican senators.”
It seems that disgruntled employees of Senator Hassan’s office, angry at the current administration’s policies and seeking to cause disruption, installed equipment to gather data and “downloaded a massive trove of data from Senate systems.” Ultimately, his motivation was “out of anger spurred by their roles in the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh,” and he released personal information belonging to five Republican senators involved in the process.
Naturally, the political foes of Senator Hassan jumped on the issue, pointing out that she focuses attention on corruption while there is a heightened level of it within her offices. The Senator’s statements speak otherwise, stating that she “appreciates the work of Capitol Police and the U.S. Attorney’s office in pursuing justice in this case.”
So, is it safe to say that she is not under any influence from backers if she is unaware of criminal activity in her office? That is what we are going to consider throughout the rest of this article. To do so, we will examine several specific points:
- Her publicly stated priorities and issues
- Senator Hassan’s committee and caucus activities
- Her critical sources of campaign funding
- Senator Hassan’s most recent legislative items sponsored or co-sponsored
By doing so, we can determine if she has been influenced by campaign backers rather than constituents. We will also use other metrics to conclude, including bipartisanship ratings, approval ratings, and more.
For example, Senator Hassan rates just below the mid-range in the Lugar Center Bipartisanship Index, holding the 65th spot in the list. What this means is plain: legislation she creates does not typically attract the support of Republicans, and that, in turn, she does not often support their efforts. She ranks favorable in Senate approval ratings where she holds 21st place and maintains a 50% net approval rating.
About Senator Maggie Hassan
Born in Boston in 1958, she has long been involved in government. Her father as a U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Johnson administration and both parents were politically active. She attended school in Massachusetts and earned a BA from Brown University before taking a JD from Northeastern University School of Law.
Her early career was defined by private practice in the Boston area, and then she was appointed by the first female governor for New Hampshire (current state Senator Jeanne Shaheen) to serve on the Advisory Committee to the Adequacy in Education and Finance Commission.
Soon after, she decided to run for the New Hampshire Senate, lost but came back to win two years later. She was re-elected a year later, and in 2012 she decided to run for the role of Governor. She was widely supported and won, only to resign in 2017 to take the seat of U.S. Senator, which she had won during the 2016 election.
Her official website says she is “committed to working with members of both parties to represent New Hampshire values and to solve problems to expand middle-class opportunity, support small businesses, and keep America safe, secure, and free…She is also focused on strengthening national security; protecting Social Security and Medicare; ensuring that veterans get the services that they need and deserve; combating climate change and preserving our natural resources; and protecting a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”
She also identifies her priorities as:
- Strong National Defense
- Bolstering Public Safety
- Combating Substance Misuse Crisis
- Education and Workforce Development
- Fiscal Responsibility
- Fostering Innovation and Economic Opportunity
- Health Care
- Inclusion for People who Experience Disabilities
- LGBTQ Equality
- Natural Resources, Clean Energy and Climate Change
- Safeguarding Social Security and Medicare
- Small Businesses
- Standing Up for the North Country
- Supporting Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families
- Transportation and Infrastructure
- Women’s Health and Economic Opportunity
ProPublica tracks all politicians to determine how they vote, the most common subjects of bills they sponsor and even what issues come to the forefront in any press releases indicate legislative focus. They have identified that Senator Hassan focuses on the following in her legislative work:
- Science, Technology, Communications
- Crime and Law Enforcement
- Armed Forces and National Security
No data is available from the group about the Senator’s press releases and the topics that take most of her attention. Naturally, the Senator’s words, legislative actions, and public/press statements can only give so much clarity; we also have to look at her political and legislative activities.
Senator Hassan’s Committee Work
For the 116th Congress, Senator Hassan is assigned to the following committees and subcommittees:
- Committee on Finance
- Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure
- Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth (Ranking)
- Subcommittee on Health Care
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- Subcommittee on Children and Families
- Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security
- Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
- Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
- Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management
- Joint Economic Committee
She has said her “committee assignments allow her to focus on these as well as other critical priorities facing New Hampshire’s families, small businesses, and economy,” aligning somewhat with her stated priorities. To authentically gauge her level of commitment to those priorities, we have to look at any signs of influence. That starts with an assessment of her top contributors.
The Top Industries Funding Senator Hassan Campaign Efforts
In 2016, Senator Hassan campaign raised $18,561,299.00 and spent $18,427,848.00, leaving her with no debt and more than $125k on hand. This support came from an array of industries, and we’ll look at those contributors in three distinct groupings:
- The industries in which the Senator was a “favorite,” or top recipient in the last campaign cycle (2016)
- The industries that contributed the largest amount of financial support
- Individual organizations that donated the most
According to the Open Secrets Website, Senator Hassan wasnot any industry’s specific favorite, nor did she rate in the top three for any industries. Naturally, there were many contributing towards his re-election, and the 20 industries that gave the most, overall, in 2018 were (in ranking order):
- Lawyers/Law Firms
- Women’s Issues
- Real Estate
- Securities & Investment
- Leadership PACs
- Business Services
- Printing & Publishing
- Non-Profit Institutions
- Miscellaneous Finance
- Health Professionals
- Electronics Manufacturing & Equip
- Civil Servants/Public Officials
- Hospitals/Nursing Homes
Finally, it is time to consider the individual organizations offering up the most, and which are listed below. NOTE: None of these organizations or groups donated directly to the campaign. Instead, they worked with PACs or had direct employee contributions for the 2016 election.
- EMILY’s List – “An American political action committee (PAC) that aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office. It was founded by Ellen Malcolm in 1985. According to the Washington Examiner, EMILY’s List is ‘the nation’s most influential pro-choice political action committee.’”
- JStreetPAC – “A nonprofit liberal advocacy group based in the United States whose stated aim is to promote American leadership to end the Arab–Israeli and Israeli–Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.
- Council for a Livable World – “A Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating the U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons. Its stated aim is for “progressive national security policies and helping elect congressional candidates who support them.”
- Paul, Weiss et al – “An international law firm headquartered on Sixth Avenue in New York City. In addition to its headquarters in New York, the firm maintains offices in Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Delaware, Toronto, London, Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong.”
- Dartmouth College
- Harvard University
- Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – “The only organization solely dedicated to electing a Democratic Senate. From grassroots organizing to candidate recruitment to providing campaign funds for tight races, the DSCC is working hard all year, every year to elect Democrats…”
- Motley Rice LLC – “One of the largest American plaintiffs’ litigation firms. Founded in 2003, Motley Rice seeks justice and accountability on behalf of people and institutions harmed by wrongdoing and negligence. The firm is currently involved in litigation seeking to hold accountable those who allegedly financed the September 11, 2001, attacks.”
- Voices for Progress – The group “galvanizes the advocacy of business leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and other prominent individuals who unite to protect our climate, strengthen our democracy, and ensure economic and social justice for all.”
- Thornton Law Firm – Boston-based firm whose “clients are individuals and organizations that have suffered physical, financial, and emotional harm because of another’s negligence or wrongdoing.”
Influential names appear on her list of key backers, but that hardly translates to influence. The only way to identify such issues is to take the final step and look at some of Senator Hassan’s most prominent pieces of legislation introduced during the 116th Congress.
7 Items Senator Hassan Has Sponsored During the 116th Congress – To Date
For the 116th Congress, to date, Senator Hassan has 297 pieces of legislation with her name appearing on them; she has sponsored only12 of them, and the remaining 285 she has cosponsored. The Senator’s official Congressional page indicates that her emphasis in this Congress has been on education, science, technology, communications, armed forces, and national security, crime and law enforcement and energy.
Senator Hassan reintroduced this bipartisan and bicameral bill on January 31 and tasked the Department of Homeland Security to “create permanent incident response and so-called ‘cyber hunt’ teams tasked with mitigating and preventing cyberattacks on private sector organizations and federal agencies,” according to a report from Security Week.
If enacted it would authorize the DHS “National Protection and Programs Directorate to create teams for assisting owners and operators with restoring services following a cyber incident, detecting intrusions, creating mitigation strategies, and providing recommendations for improving network security.”
Speaking about the bill in 2018, Senator Hassan said, “By encouraging the private sector and the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber response teams to work together, this legislation will foster collaboration between the best minds in the field of cybersecurity to help fend off cyberattacks and protect vital infrastructure.”
Senator Hassan is noted for placing a lot of attention on cybersecurity, and this legislation is not the only she has introduced in that vein. She has also “collaborated on the Hack DHS Act, which establishes a bug bounty program for DHS assets, and the Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act, which complements it by creating a responsible disclosure program for vulnerabilities found in DHS systems. Both bills were signed into law last year.
On June 11, the House passed the companion bill. At that time, Senator Hassan said, “I am pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve companion legislation to our bipartisan bill that will help prevent and mitigate cyber attacks that threaten the safety, security, and privacy of Granite Staters and Americans. I urge the Senate to vote on this commonsense legislation as soon as possible to help strengthen our country’s cyber defenses.”
Another bipartisan piece of legislation, Senator Hassan reintroduced this bill on February 7, with cosponsorship by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The goal of the legislation is to “strengthen counterterrorism coordination efforts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)…[and] will authorize the Counterterrorism Advisory Board (CTAB), which brings together intelligence, operational, and policy-making elements from across DHS to devise joint strategies to deter and disrupt potential terrorist attacks.”
Established in 2010, the CTAB’s creation was spurred by a failed underwear bomber attack on a Northwest Airlines flight a year earlier. The incident made it plain that better “coordination and ongoing situational awareness for senior leadership,” was much needed. Since then, the board has made “recommendations about whether to issue a National Threat Alert System alert, and has aided in the response to aviation threats, border threats, homegrown violent extremists, and cyber threats.”
If enacted, this bill would codify the “board for two years and ensures that DHS will continue to succeed in its counterterrorism mission.”
Speaking of the legislation, Senator Hassan said, “This bipartisan bill will help to ensure that all parts of the Department of Homeland Security are coordinating effectively to combat terrorist threats. The first duty of government is to protect the homeland and keep our citizens safe, and I will continue working with Senator Rubio to pass this commonsense legislation.”
It was ordered to be reported with an amendment in the nature of a substitute favorably by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on May 15.
Introduced on March 7, this legislation hopes to “help states implement ‘Green Alert’ systems to locate veterans when they go missing so that they can receive appropriate care, similar to the AMBER Alert system for children or Silver Alert system for older Americans.”
According to a press release on the bill, it would “establish a federal commission to develop best practices and provide technical assistance to states to implement Green Alert systems that would be used to alert law enforcement and the public in the event of a veteran’s disappearance. The federal government also played a role in helping states implement AMBER Alert systems, which are in place in all 50 states.”
As Senator Hassan explained, “Far too many of our brave veterans experience mental and emotional trauma as a result of their service, and as we work to build a country that is ever-worthy of their service, we must ensure that they have the support and resources they need to thrive in civilian life.
The Green Alert Act would provide federal assistance to help states implement Green Alert systems to locate and assist missing veterans. This is a commonsense step we can take now to ensure that we can be there for our veterans who have so valiantly served to defend our freedoms.”
With endorsements from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, the bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Also known as the Preventing Risky Operations from Threatening the Education and Career Trajectories of Students Act of 2019 was introduced on March 26, this bill is co-sponsored by 27 other senators. The goal of the legislation is to “help safeguard students, including servicemembers and veterans, and taxpayers from predatory and anti-student higher education practices and ensure that higher education meets the needs of hard-working students.”
As the Senator’s press release about the item explains, “the PROTECT Students Act represents common-sense consumer protections for students and holds predatory institutions, including for-profit schools, accountable when they engage in unfair, deceptive, and other fraudulent practices.”
Inspired by the collapse of several for-profit colleges, the legislation focuses on the disproportionate risk to taxpayers and students. As the Senator explained, “These companies raked in billions in federal taxpayer funds that enriched executives and investors while leaving tens of thousands of borrowers with huge amounts of debt that they’ll never be able to repay, credits or degrees of little value, and few job prospects.”
Noting that current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos “has worked to roll back key reforms put in place to improve the Department’s ability to prevent and respond to future collapses…consistently putting the interests of fraudulent, for-profit colleges ahead of students and underscoring the need for additional protections under the law.” This bill would prevent students from “being subjected to unlawful, unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices, and prevent additional taxpayer dollars from being wasted.”
Speaking about it before Congress, Senator Hassan said, “For our students and veterans to receive the quality education that they deserve, we must ensure that they are protected from predatory practices that too often occur at for-profit colleges and other higher education institutions.
From closing a loophole that allows for-profit colleges to take advantage of our veterans who have sacrificed bravely in defense of our freedoms, to ensuring that higher education institutions are preparing students for good-paying jobs that allow them to repay their student loans, to implementing a process to give students the loan forgiveness they are entitled to under the law, the PROTECT Students Act is critical to providing basic consumer protections to our students and preparing them for success.”
The legislation is endorsed by a long list of groups, including “The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), Center for American Progress (CAP), Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, New America Higher Education Initiative, The Center for Responsible Lending, Generation Progress, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Third Way, The Education Trust, Young Invincibles, Veterans Education Success (VES), National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).”
It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
A bipartisan bill, this legislation was reintroduced by Senator Hassan on April 10 and seels to “expand economic opportunity for hard-working Americans and to support innovative businesses in need of a strong workforce,” according to a press release about it.
As explained, low unemployment rates throughout the U.S. have left businesses struggling to find skilled workers essential to growth. “Simultaneously, as the economy rapidly changes, individuals may not have the skills and supports they need to enter – and remain – in the workforce. The Gateway to Careers Act would address this challenge by supporting career pathways strategies, which combine work, education, and support services, to help individuals earn recognized postsecondary credentials.”
If passed into law, it would achieve its goals by providing “grants to support partnerships between community or technical colleges and workforce development partners such as state workforce development boards, industry associations, and community-based organizations. These partnerships would support individuals who are unemployed or underemployed by strengthening job training and removing barriers that prevent them from completing a degree or credential program and succeeding in the workforce by providing support for things such as housing, mental and substance use disorder treatment, health insurance coverage, career counseling, child care, transportation, and guidance in accessing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).”
When speaking about it to the Senate, Ms. Hassan said, “The bipartisan Gateway to Careers Act will help strengthen job training to meet the needs of our businesses and remove barriers that keep too many people from participating or staying in the workforce. I am encouraged that there is bipartisan support for this legislation, and I’ll keep working across party lines to pass this bill so that hard-working people and businesses have the opportunity to thrive.”
It has endorsements from several organizations, including The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), National Immigration Forum, and the National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE). It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Still further bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Hassan, this bill offers “better support kinship caregivers – the vast majority of whom are grandparents – who have taken over as primary caregivers for children exposed to substance misuse or other trauma,” according to a press release about it.
If enacted into law, this bill would:
- “Help to ensure that grandfamilies and all kinship families are eligible for services under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).
- Provide additional support to these families to meet the unique needs of children who have experienced trauma, including being exposed to substance misuse.
- Call for specialized training to help kinship caregivers navigate the complicated supports and services they may be eligible for.”
Senator Hassan explained the need for this legislation, by saying, “We must be there for the children whose parents have died or are absent because of their substance use disorder. Largely due to the opioid epidemic, 2.6 million children are currently being raised by their grandparent – or other relatives or close family friends – without their parents in the home. This bipartisan bill will help ensure that these children get the care and support that they need to thrive.”
An increasing number of grandparents and familial relations are having to raise children due to the loss of one or both parents from an overdose or because of substance abuse issues. “This bipartisan legislation would help address the unique challenges that face grandfamilies and all kinship families, including ensuring that these families are eligible for services under Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and providing support to meet the unique needs of children who have experienced trauma, including exposure to substance misuse.”
Endorsed by the New Hampshire Children’s Trust, HampshireGrandFamilies Advisory Council, and others, it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
A bipartisan and bicameral item, it was introduced on May 1, by Senator Hassan, who said at the time, “The bipartisan FACE Act will help identify changes or improvements that federal agencies need to make by allowing agencies to receive feedback directly from American taxpayers. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this measure and help the government better serve the American people.”
The bill aims to provide “better assess and improve the customer service experience Americans receive when dealing with federal agencies.”
According to a press release about the bill, it would “allow agencies to efficiently and effectively assess customer satisfaction with government services through brief surveys developed in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA). It also increases transparency within the federal government by requiring participating agencies to publish their customer feedback online and with OMB.”
It will achieve such goals by requiring agencies to develop “short, voluntary, and anonymous surveys that include standard questions developed by OMB and GSA which should address (1) overall satisfaction; (2) whether an individual accomplished his/her intended purpose; (3) whether an individual was treated with respect and professionalism; and (4) timeliness of service.”
A co-sponsor of the bill, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, went a bit further in explaining why the legislation is significant. “Customer service should not be reserved for the private sector; the federal government should pay attention to its customers: American taxpayers. My office routinely hears from taxpayers who have identified federal agency customer service concerns, including timeliness of benefit processing, quality of communication, and general responsiveness. Congress cannot fix what it cannot see, and the FACE Act brings sunlight to the quality of federal agencies’ day-to-day interactions with constituents and gives American taxpayers greater ability to have their voices heard regarding their customer service experience with agencies.”
With bipartisan support in the House (and a bicameral bill introduced), it was placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 111 on June 10.
Senator Hassan has also introduced the National Evaluation of Techniques for Making Energy Technologies More Efficient and Resilient Act of 2019, the Gateway to Careers Act of 2019, a Resolution supporting the designation of the week of April 8 through April 12, 2019, as “National Specialized Instructional Support Personnel Appreciation Week“, the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act of 2019, the Fair AMP Act, and a bill to amend section 303(g) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 823(g)) to eliminate the separate registration requirement for dispensing narcotic drugs in schedule III, IV, or V, such as buprenorphine, for maintenance or detoxification treatment, and for other purposes.
This latter piece of legislation is also bipartisan and very impressive. It seeks to “eliminate the requirement for practitioners to apply for a waiver through the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication that helps those struggling with substance abuse,” according to one press report. When introducing it in early July of 2019, Senator Hassan said that “Medication-assisted treatment is the gold standard for treating substance use disorder and we need to break down the barriers that prevent health care providers from treating patients in need.”
As we have now seen, Senator Maggie Hassan lives up to the needs of her constituents. It is impressive to see the number of bipartisan items she has managed to introduce. And though she has introduced far fewer than many of her colleagues in the Senate, she has only emphasized the issues she has indicated full commitment. Fighting opioid addiction, supporting children and students, looking after veterans, building careers…these are excellent points to stress and are distinctly non-partisan initiatives.
She is good for the state of New Hampshire and the people of the U.S., as one report noted, “Senator Hassan’s numbers indicate she is in a strong position…[and] has an approval rating at +34 points.”
Of course, her reputation has taken a few hits because of the doxing scandal so closely tied to her office. For instance, as a report in the Daily Caller indicated, her “computer system was hacked in what prosecutors called the ‘largest data theft in Senate history,’ yet there is no evidence she informed constituents who may be at risk of identity theft as a result — despite being one of the most vocal advocates for laws requiring hacking victims to do just that.”
Although she is firmly behind legislation that would require firms to notify Americans when their personal information is jeopardized, she did not alert any of the individuals compromised by the theft at her office. The investigations into whether or not her team failed to live up to federal digital consumer protection laws are ongoing, but the point is that some have lost faith in her.
However, and this is crucial to point out, nothing to do with that particular issue links to undue influences. Senator Hassan has a spotless record where campaign finance is concerned, and it would seem that her tendency to trust her staff is her only Achilles heel.