A Democratic House lawmaker who is being paid by a lobbyist to work as a state representative renewed an ethics controversy by voting on behalf of a pro-abortion bill Thursday.
In December, the bipartisan Ethics Committee ruled some votes cast by Rep. Alissandra Murray (D-Manchester) ran afoul of House conflict of interest rules and ordered Murray to recuse in the future. That was not the ruling Murray, who sought the advisory opinion, wanted to hear.
The case resulted from reporting by NHJournal that Murray was being paid a salary by registered lobbyist Josie Pinto of the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire (RFFNH) “to allow Murray to work in the legislature” and advance the organization’s pro-abortion politics.
The House voted Thursday on a constitutional amendment declaring that “all persons shall have the right to abortion prior to 24 weeks.” The amendment, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, fell short in a 193-184 vote. Murray voted “yes,” according to House records.
Murray’s decision to vote on the abortion measure, even after the Ethics Committee’s 5-1 ruling declaring previous votes problematic, raised questions among some in the House.
Speaker of the House Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) told NHJournal his office was aware of Murray’s decision and is reviewing the matter.
Murray declined to respond to requests for comment from NHJournal. But the Democrat did address the matter in a social media post on X (formerly Twitter) published Thursday afternoon:
“According to Advisory Opinion 2023-3 from the House Ethics Committee, I was not required to recuse myself as my employer did not engage in advocacy work around these bills,” Murray claimed. “Although I have already met ethics standards by including my employer on Financial Disclosure forms when I was sworn in, I took the extra step today to also file Declaration of Intent forms with the House Clerk to be transparent about any potential conflict of interest.
“As long as my employer continues to avoid lobbying activities, I will continue to vote on abortion bills and abide by House Ethics standards.”
Members on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns on background that having a member who is paid to serve in the House by an organization that benefits directly from state action “isn’t a good look,” as one Democrat — who supports Murray’s politics — said.
Per the committee’s memo addressing the matter, published in the New Hampshire House Record on Dec. 22, 2023:
“We advise that Representative Murray is required to file a Declaration of Intent Form on any matters involving abortion funding. As long as Representative Murray is employed by RFFNH, she is required to recuse herself from voting, testifying or otherwise participating in any official activities relating to legislation on which RFFNH has lobbied, testified, or otherwise attempted to influence the outcome.”