Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Cash Gifts to New Hampshire Politicians Banned

As Joe Adler reports in the Portsmouth Herald, a bill prohibiting cash gifts to public officials (aside from campaign contributions) was signed into law last week. HB 424 also sets a limit on the value of permissible non-monetary gifts at $50.

The impetus for the bill stemmed from the revelation that two New Hampshire officials had each collected more than $60,000 in cash gifts in the last several years, all without reporting it. Both officials said the money was for "personal expenses".

It is a mystery why there wasn't already a law on the books prohibiting elected officials from receiving cash gifts. (Also a mystery to me is why these bozos think "personal expenses" justify a public official accepting gifts.) Most states recognize that allowing officials to take cash gifts provides an enormous opportunity for corruption, and outlaw the practice.

While outlawing cash gifts is a step in the right direction, it didn't do much to ensure that campaign contributions don't grant rich folks greater say in the political process than regular folks in New Hampshire. Lawmakers themselves realized they have miles to go before they put to rest the issue of money influencing politicians. As State Rep. MaryAnn Blanchard said: "I hope we will be able to vote on something substantial next session."

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