Entangled in an ethical scandal, progressive Democrat Rep. Alissandra Murray (D-Manchester) is bringing high-powered Democratic Party lawyer William Christie to represent her before the Legislative Ethics Committee.
Murray is going before the committee seeking an advisory opinion on whether or not the Manchester Democrat is legislating within House rules. But Tuesday’s meeting with the committee was delayed at the last minute because Christie was not able to be present.
Christie is a partner at Shaheen & Gordon, the state’s most politically influential law firm. He has been recognized as a “super lawyer” for his work in the criminal defense field. His civil work includes getting close to $1 million from the FBI for victims of James “Whitey” Burger and his gang.
Christie is also married to Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington (D-District 2).
His involvement in the case of Murray, who appears to have repeatedly violated House conflict of interest rules, raises the political stakes in this case.
According to Christie’s own web bio, he is “an officer and legal counsel to the New Hampshire Democratic Party and is a member of the Association of State Democratic Committees Voter Protection Committee.” As such, Christie “organizes and supervises the voter protection activities for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.”
The progressive legislator is under fire after Murray’s employer, pro-abortion lobbyist Josie Pinto, publicly disclosed she was paying the representative’s salary so Murray could represent Pinto’s interests in the State House. Pinto lobbies for the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire (RFFNH), and Murray has amassed a staunchly pro-abortion voting record since she was elected in 2022, in line with the RFFNH’s positions.
The RFFNH’s self-described mission is to “remove financial barriers for anyone receiving abortion care in or from New Hampshire through direct service funding and movement building guided by patient need.” It claims to have funded more than $400,000 in “abortion care.”
Because New Hampshire lawmakers are essentially volunteers (they are paid $100 a year), the 400-member House has fairly lax rules when it comes to conflicts of interest for lawmakers who are employed. Landlord legislators vote on housing laws, and school teachers weigh in on public education spending, for example.
When a conflict of interest exists, lawmakers are required to recuse themselves or, at a minimum, file a Declaration of Intent to Participate, revealing the conflict.
Despite the many votes on abortion legislation directly related to RFFNH’s mission, Murray has never filed a Declaration of Intent to Participate.
In a recent House committee hearing, Rep. Steven Smith (R-Charlestown) raised the issue of Murray’s employment and ethical standing. Soon after, Murray requested the House Ethics Committee to review the facts.
But Murray backed out of Tuesday’s committee hearing when it became clear Democratic “super lawyer” Christie would not be able to attend. Murray can come back at the next meeting, set for Nov. 14.
At least one committee member is already skeptical of Murray’s status as a lawmaker paid by a partisan lobbying firm. Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Windham) told NHJournal he thinks Murray’s situation should be investigated by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. Lynn, now retired, was chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
“I do not purport to have a definitive answer (on the legality),” Lynn said. “But it’s at least arguable that the ‘salary’ provided to Rep. Murray by the Reproductive Freedom Fund could be considered an improper gift or inducement offered as a quid pro quo for doing as the donor demands.”