New Hampshire’s push poll law could face difficulties following a Federal Election Commission (FEC) advisory opinion Thursday saying the state can’t force federal candidates to identify themselves when they engage in the controversial political telemarketing technique.
According to the New Hampshire Union Leader
, the decision about whether the Federal Election Campaign Act, which doesn’t require push poll disclaimers, preempts the state law is ultimately the court’s to make.
But the FEC opinion could still have an impact on pending cases in the state involving alleged push poll violations by candidates.
New Hampshire Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice declined to comment immediately on the FEC opinion. She said her office would have to evaluate it before determining what affect it may have on the state law, which requires those who pay for push poll phone calls to identify themselves.
However, Charles Douglas, an attorney representing Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, said the opinion would likely help the congressman defend himself against a lawsuit filed by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office earlier this month.
Bass’ campaign is accused of deliberately avoiding identification as a sponsor of a push poll against Democratic rival Ann McLane Kuster in the 2010 election. If convicted, Bass’ campaign could be fined up to $400,000.
“It strengthens our hand and I think the state, if it were wise, would withdraw their petition, rather than get thrown out by a federal judge,” Douglas said.
The FEC opinion grew out of inquiry filed by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm, which plans to poll for federal candidates and special interest groups in New Hampshire this year.
Commission vice chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, was the lone vote against the advisory opinion. She said it was “a close call for us to tell the Attorney General of New Hampshire he can’t enforce his law.”
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