Thursday, May 14, 2015

How Do You Spell Apology?

I told you so.

For the last five years, I’ve been telling you that Frank Guinta was lying to us about his magic bank account. After an interminable FEC investigation, we learned this week that Frank DID break campaign finance laws by using his parent’s money to fund his campaign in 2010. He has to pay back the $355,000 he claimed he earned himself. He’s being fined $15,000. The Patriots are paying a million dollar fine for some deflated balls. Frank Guinta is being fined $15,000 for breaking campaign finance laws and betraying the public trust.

 In 2010, Frank Guinta, former mayor of Manchester, ran for Congress against incumbent Carol Shea-Porter. Over the course of the campaign, he loaned himself $355,000. It was done incrementally. In 2010 after one such incremental “loan”, a Nashua Telegraph reporter wondered, in print, where he’d gotten all that loan money. Twelve days later, Guinta filed a revised financial disclosure form that added a new bank account worth somewhere between $250,000 - $500,000. (The bank account had not appeared on previous disclosure forms.) He also altered the period of disclosure on the form, adding an additional 4 months. It seemed obvious that the account had been opened during that time, given his refusal to provide a bank statement.

When he was asked where the money came from, he said he earned it. He told the Union Leader that he’d begun putting money away in the mid-1990’s. The only problem was that his known assets and income – no matter how frugal he was – did not add up to him being able to save that kind of money.

In 2008, his parents sold a house in New Jersey for $820,000. It seemed obvious that they were the source of the mystery money, which he denied. For five years.

In July of 2010, Guinta’s campaign manger, Mike Biundo, said that Guinta had liquidated some of his stock market and mutual fund assets. Guinta said that Biundo had made a mistake, and he’d always had that money in a bank account he’d forgotten about. It’s so easy to misplace half a million dollars when you’re running for office.

In October, 2010 the Union Leader reported that Guinta denied accepting money from his parents to finance his campaign and that Carol Shea-Porter and the Democrats had stooped to a new low for implying he had.

Former GOP Congressman Jeb Bradley had been Guinta’s boss when Bradley was in Congress. He did not ever endorse his former staffer; in fact, he told Politico that if Guinta couldn’t account for the money he should withdraw from the race.

Fergus Cullen, former NHGOP Chair, wrote a piece for the Union Leader in August 2010, about the mystery money. He asked Guinta how he could have forgotten to list a bank account worth half a million in his previous disclosure forms. Guinta called it an “inadvertent oversight.”

He continued to insist that he earned the money, that his parents did not help him. A GOP activist filed the first complaint and later the NHDP also filed a complaint with the FEC. That complaint was filed in September 2010.

Guinta won the 2010 election, despite the questions about his finances. During the campaign he made a lot of noise about Congresswoman Shea-Porter abusing Congressional franking privileges. Frank went on to become the #1 abuser of the franking system for the 2011/2012 Congress, sending out big, shiny, multicolored mailers every week.  The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Guinta one of the most corrupt legislators of the year.  He lost the 2012 election.

In 2014 Guinta ran again. He ran an ad featuring his mother and his wife, who assured voters that Saint Frank would be there for all of us. He ran an ad featuring “real NH voters.” The last woman in the ad said, “He’s always been honest.” In October the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) ran a couple of ads asking where the mystery money came from.

On October 27, 2014, WMUR televised a debate between Guinta and Shea-Porter. I was there. When Shea-Porter asked about the money, Guinta said he’d been cleared by the FEC, in Dec. 2010, before he was even sworn in, and he had been exonerated. He accused Carol of lying about his record, and huffily announced, “The people of NH ought to know the truth.” 

Then his campaign ran an ad called “The Truth.” The ad accuses Carol Shea-Porter of lying about Guinta’s finances. The ad claims Guinta was cleared 100% by the House Ethics Committee on 12/14/10. Again, before Guinta was ever even sworn in for his first term. The thing is, the House Ethics Committee never investigated him. He approved that ad.

At the debate he said he’d been cleared by the FEC. In the ad he claimed to have been exonerated by the House Ethics Committee. He knew both of those things to be untrue, but he didn’t hesitate to trumpet them loudly. The people of NH certainly deserved the truth, but Guinta was the last person they were ever going to hear it from.

This week, the FEC finally found him guilty of violating campaign finance laws. He has to pay the $355,000 back. He has to pay a $15,000 fine. He now claims that he had access to his parent’s account (which is in their names, not his) and had made deposits into it that exceeded the amount he “loaned” his campaign. He says he’s come to an agreement with the FEC so he can “end the distraction.” Those big, bold-faced lies he told during the WMUR debate? He’s trying to say he “misspoke.”

For 5 long years, Frank Guinta told us that he earned that campaign money; his parents didn’t give it to him and he put it in a bank account he forgot about. He accused Carol Shea-Porter of lying about his finances in a televised debate. He NOW says that he “inadvertently” made a mistake on his FEC forms. He NOW apparently “misspoke” when he accused Carol Shea Porter of lying about his finances.

How can he repay the voters of his district for 5 years of lying? How can he repay the state for stealing an election? How is it possible that NH Republicans are silent about this? Where is his apology to Carol Shea-Porter for those ugly, dishonest accusations he made?

There’s only one way out.  

For Frank Guinta, apology is spelled: R-E-S-I-G-N-A-T-I-O-N.

Frank Guinta "misspeaking" at the WMUR debate:

If you're wondering why the FEC took so long, read this piece from 2013 by Dave Levinthal from the Center for Public Integrity. The FEC has been systematically defunded and cannibalized. When we eliminate the watchdogs we enable the continued demise of our democracy. 

This was originally published as an op-ed in the May 15, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

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