A progressive lobbyist is paying a Democratic state representative to serve in the legislature and cast votes representing the interests of the lobbyist’s principal, according to reporting from the far-left magazine, The Nation.
And despite what appear to be clear ethical conflicts, the representative has failed to file any of the required Declaration of Intent to Participate, a search of House records found.
In an article highlighting transgender state legislators across the country, The Nation reported on the work of Josie Pinto, a registered lobbyist for the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire (RFFNH), and her fellow community organizer, Alissandra Murray.
“Together, we sort of developed this theory of change, which was like, ‘If we want to see the state we want, we have to get our people to run,’” Pinto said.
But there was a major obstacle in their way: New Hampshire’s Legislature pays a salary of just $100 a year. That’s fine for wealthy retirees but not for working-class activists. So Pinto hired Murray at the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire, giving them [Murray] a salary that would allow them [Murray] to work in the Legislature while running the abortion fund’s social media accounts. [emphasis added].
In 2022, Murray, then 28, ran for a seat in the 400-member New Hampshire Legislature—and won.
Murray is currently employed as the RFFNH’s deputy director and appears on the organization’s website.
Murray is also a Democratic state representative from Manchester.
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.”
Therefore, any legislation involving abortion, restrictions on abortion, or expanding abortion access would directly impact the RFFNH and its lobbyist — aka Murray’s employer. Any vote on abortion legislation would require Murray’s recusal, or at minimum, the filing of a Declaration of Intent to Participate, under current House rules.
While Murray has cast multiple votes on abortion — including sponsoring CACR 2, which was a constitutional amendment to put Roe v. Wade in the state constitution — the Manchester Democrat has never filed a single Declaration of Intent to Participate.
Is that legal? Is it ethical?
“I do not purport to have a definitive answer,” said Rep. Robert J. Lynn (R-Windham), former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. “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.
“I would bring this matter to the attention of the attorney general,” Lynn added.
The issue of legislators dealing with legislation that overlaps with their fiscal interests isn’t new. For years, the late Rep. Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey) served as both the head of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and a state legislator. Ley repeatedly refused to recuse himself from votes directly impacting his union, resulting in an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which issued a warning to the Democrat.
“The Committee proposes to resolve this Complaint through informal resolution, provided that you agree that, as long as you are employed as president of or as an advocate for AFT-NH, you will properly recuse yourself from participating in any legislative activities which may have a direct benefit to your employer or the union membership. A failure to comply with that agreement would result in an ethical violation and the imposition of sanctions,” the Ethics Committee wrote.
Under those terms, Murray would appear to be in clear violation of House Ethics standards.
Rep. Greg Hill (R-Northfield) sought an advisory opinion from the Ethics Committee in 2018 when he considered working to raise money for the Children’s Scholarship Fund. He believes the Murray case shows that it’s past time for a legislative solution.
“The Doug Ley case showed that recusal is sometimes the best option but legislation hasn’t yet been successful to put the word recusal in our laws,” Hill said. “Legislation filed this year will hopefully provide the Ethics Committee a way to stop the legislator from voting when there is a conflict.
“Clearly more legislative work will need to be done to deal with candidates who run for office purely to serve their employers or special interests when they should be exclusively serving NH citizens in their district,” Hill said.
Murray and the NHRFF refused to respond to multiple requests for comment.