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Hassan Confirms Support for COVID Cash to Convicts, But Also Pushed Restitution Efforts

A day after NHJournal’s report on her vote to keep COVID checks going to convicted criminals, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan confirmed her support for the policy. At the same time, she pointed to a letter confirming the funds could be seized to go toward victim restitution.

Many New Englanders were shocked to learn convicted Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had received a $1,400 stimulus check as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act passed on a straight partisan vote in March. Last week, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Nathaniel Mendell asked the court to let the government confiscate the funds from Tsarnaev as restitution for the victims of the 2013 bombing.

Republicans opposed the ARP provision sending funds to incarcerated felons like Tsarnaev, and they proposed an amendment to prevent it. The amendment was voted down on a 49-50 vote, with all 50 Democrats in favor of keeping the checks flowing. If a single Democrat had supported the amendment, it would have passed.

Hassan refused to respond to NHJournal’s questions about her vote. However, after the news broke, she gave a statement to Fox News that did not contradict the reporting but instead touted her efforts to partially undo the policy.

“Sen. Hassan believes that the funds Tsarnaev received must be seized for victim restitution,” Hassan’s spokesperson Laura Epstein told Fox News in a Friday email. “She led the successful push in the Senate to help ensure that this could happen.”

Epstein referenced a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department from Hassan and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) asking for clarification on whether state officials would be able to seize the money they and their fellow Democrats voted to send all incarcerated felons.

“We strongly support state efforts to seize criminals’ Economic Impact Payments and to ensure that these payments benefit families victimized by crime rather than incarcerated criminals,” the two senators wrote. The Treasury Department confirmed the funds could be confiscated to pay outstanding restitution orders.

“To the extent permitted by applicable state and local law, amounts paid in the third round of [economic impact payments] may be subject to garnishment by state governments, local governments, or private creditors, as well as pursuant to a court order (which may include fines related to a crime, administrative court fees, restitution, and other court-ordered debts),” a Treasury official wrote.

But what about the millions of COVID relief payments that went to convicted murderers, rapists, and other felons who don’t have court-ordered debts? They would keep the money they received, thanks to the ARP plan as passed by Democrats and signed by President Joe Biden.

Hassan sent her letter to the Treasury Department two months after her vote to kill an amendment blocking the checks, a fact her GOP critics noted.

“It sounds like Hassan was for giving money to convicted murderers before she was against it,” quipped New Hampshire GOP Executive Director Joe Sweeney.

State Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) told NHJournal Hassan’s vote “is just one more outrageous example of how out of touch Maggie Hassan is with New Hampshire. Funding the radical progressive agenda and voting to send stimulus money to the Boston Bomber, a convicted mass murderer who already resides in prison at taxpayers’ expense for the rest of his pathetic life, is not representing our New Hampshire values. Time for the 603 way rather than the D.C. way.”

Morse is expected to enter the GOP U.S. Senate primary for a chance to challenge Hassan in November. Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, who has all but announced his candidacy, tweeted his comment: “There’s only one correct answer here from Sen. Hassan: ‘Yes, I regret voting to send stimulus checks to Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and convicted cop-killer Michael Addison.’ Period. Full stop.”

The status of Addison’s COVID relief check is still unclear. Addison is New Hampshire’s only death row prisoner, convicted for the murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006. He remains on death row despite the state’s repeal of its capital punishment law in 2019.

Paul Raymond with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections told NHJournal the DOC had no record of Addison receiving the ARP COVID relief funds. However, he also said New Hampshire allows prisoners like Addison to maintain bank accounts outside the DOC system, and it’s possible the funds could have gone there.

In a sense, this story isn’t news. The day the Senate voted down the amendment blocking these funds, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bomber, murdered three people and terrorized a city. He’ll be getting a $1,400 stimulus check as part of the Democrats’ ‘COVID relief’ bill.”

The left-leaning Washington Post claimed at the time this statement was untrue and gave it ‘Two Pinocchios” in its fact-checking section. After the news of Tsarnaev’s payment last week, the Post acknowledged Cotton was correct and amended their reporting.



Gardner Blasts Hassan Over Fed Election Takeover: ‘This Will Hurt Turnout’

New Hampshire’s top election official says Sen. Maggie Hassan has never spoken to him about the federal voting rights law she’s backing, or its impact on Granite State elections. And, Secretary of State Bill Gardner says, that impact won’t be good.

“This will hurt turnout,” he told NHJournal Tuesday.

Last week, Hassan made national news when she took to the Senate floor to announce she was abandoning her support for the filibuster in order to pass the “Freedom to Vote” Act. The bill would impose federal mandates on all 50 states regarding early voting, voter registration rules, voter ID, and taxpayer-funded campaign ads. Federal power over local election laws is needed, Hassan said, because of “partisans who are attacking our democracy.”

Unless the federal government intervenes, Election Day in New Hampshire would be very different, Hassan warned.

“We’ll wake up, cast our vote, drop our kids at school, go to work. We’ll tune back in at the end of the day to see the election results – only to learn that the vote tally is being ignored, that our votes don’t matter much. We’ll learn that our legislatures are going to throw out the results and pick their own winner. We’ll see an election day that is a charade – just like in countries where democracy doesn’t exist.”

Hassan followed up her floor speech with a WMUR interview: “If we can’t protect the wonderful elections that we have in New Hampshire, then we are all faced with a slide toward authoritarianism,” Hassan said.

Gardner rejected Hassan’s conspiracy theories and argued the real danger to the Granite State election process is federal intervention like the law Hassan is backing.

“Look back at history, going back to FECA [Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971], the NVRA [1993 National Voter Registration Act], or the Help America Vote Act. Every time the federal government has stepped in to take over more of the election process, they tell us it will increase voter turnout,” Gardner said. “But the results are very different.”

Gardner says New Hampshire has largely avoided most of the requirements of those federal laws, finding workarounds like same-day registration. Other states like California and Colorado have embraced the federal policies, including widespread mail-in voting.

“Look at the results. We have a higher turnout rate,” Gardner said.

In 2020, New Hampshire had the sixth-highest turnout rate of its voting-eligible population (78.3 percent), well above Colorado (71.3 percent) and California (69.4 percent). The Granite State has consistently had among the highest turnout rates in the country for decades.

“They keep saying these new rules will lead to more voting, but that’s not the record if you look at the facts,” Gardner said.

“If you cheapen the value of voting, and you have people losing faith in the process, you’ll lose people on Election Day. That’s what’s been happening in other states.”

Asked if he explained that to Hassan when she called him to discuss the legislation and her position, Gardner told NHJournal his fellow Democrat has never spoken to him about New Hampshire’s election laws or procedures.

“Not even when she was governor, I don’t think,” Gardner said.

Hassan has declined repeated requests for comment. Asked to name the people in New Hampshire she believes are threatening the state with “authoritarianism” or illegally overturned elections, her office declined to respond.

She does have the support of Granite State Democrats, however. They agree with her view that Granite State elections are under local threat.

“Proposals to undermine our free and fair elections and make it harder to vote are here in the New Hampshire legislature and across the country because of unfounded right-wing conspiracy theories intended to sow division and discord,” Deputy House Democratic Leader and Ranking Democrat on the House Election Law Committee, state Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) said in a statement. “As a caucus, we thank Senator Maggie Hassan for her commitment to defending Granite Staters’ right to cast their ballot, regardless of for whom they cast it.”

Not surprisingly, Republicans took a different view of Hassan’s actions.

“We may never see such a brazen, self-serving flip-flop ever again,” said NRSC spokesman T.W. Arrighi. “Maggie Hassan has gone back on her word and surrendered the fate of New Hampshire’s First-In-The-Nation primary to her buddy Chuck Schumer. What’s most concerning is it appears she surrendered her state’s federal election control to win liberal praise from the radical base she hopes will fund her campaign.”

Gardner, who has repeatedly warned expanding federal control of elections will endanger the state’s First In The Nation primary, is unwilling to attack his fellow Democrat so directly. But, he says, the fallacy of her approach is obvious if you just do some basic math.

“New Hampshire has two members of Congress. States like California, New York, and Texas have far more. If we let Congress make our local election rules, which states are going to decide what the rules are?” Gardner asked.

“California’s not going to get New Hampshire’s election system. We’re going to get stuck with theirs.”