Testimony on NH Commissioner of Administrative Services Nominee Charlie Arlinghaus
Executive Council, May 10, 2017
My name is Zandra Rice Hawkins and I am the Executive Director of Granite State Progress, a multi-issue advocacy organization working on issues of immediate state and local concern. Our organization has grave concerns about the nomination of Charlie Arlinghaus for NH Commissioner of Administrative Services.
Mr. Arlinghaus has spent the last fifteen years as a paid lobbyist for special interests. During that time, Mr. Arlinghaus received a salary to oppose the Affordable Care Act implementation, Medicaid expansion, RGGI and renewable energy projects, and to support school privatization efforts, right to work, and significantly changing public pensions.
In fact, nearly all of Mr. Arlinghaus’ experience is in political advocacy and political campaigns. A review of Mr. Arlinghaus’ work history shows that he served as:
For the last 15 years, Charlie Arlinghaus has served as President of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, as well as served as Governor Sununu’s Interim Budget Director the last few months. For reference, the Josiah Bartlett Center has usually had a staff of 2-3 people, which is also the size of our organization.
Arlinghaus is not qualified for this position compared to his predecessor. While Mr. Arlinghaus’ lobbying background gives him experience in public policy settings and with functions of state government, it doesn’t give him the experience needed for this position. The current Commissioner has over 25 years of experience in management of organizations in a variety of disciplines in the private sector as well as city, county and state government in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California and Texas. She is a Registered Professional Engineer (PE), a Public Works Leadership Fellow (PWLF), and an Envision Sustainability Professional (Env-SP). Her background and credentials make her qualified and fit for this position.
It is not just his lack of management experience and public administration roles that finds Mr. Arlinghaus ill-suited for the position. Mr. Arlinghaus himself has stated on several occasions that political operatives like himself should not be appointed to such positions. In a January 2013 Union Leader op-ed, Arlinghaus advised incoming Governor Hassan to follow her predecessors’ tone in some respects: “None of his appointments involved anyone seen as having a political future or as being rewarded for long service to Lynch’s political party. Few appointments were controversial because most had experience in the field they were being appointed to and were seen as competent managers rather than politicians.” (Originally published in Union Leader, January 2013; http://www.jbartlett.org/for-hassan-some-administrative-lessons-from-lynch)
Is Mr. Arlinghaus being rewarded for his political loyalty and Sununu connections? By his own admission, Mr. Arlinghaus does not have the managerial experience or background for this position. What he does have is substantial connections to Governor Sununu and his family. Former Governor John H. Sununu previously sat on Josiah Bartlett’s Board. James Sununu currently sits on the Board. Earlier this year, the Josiah Bartlett Center promoted Michael Sununu, brother of Governor Sununu, and his work lobbying for the fossil fuel industry. (Desmog Blog, New Hampshire climate denier brother Governor Michael Chris Sununu, 3.5.17)
In a 2014 Union Leader op-ed Arlinghaus was again critical of Governor Hassan appointing an advocate to government positions. “This problem can occur when you seek out activists for appointment to oversight positions. Previous governor have rarely sought activists for these oversight positions … But should someone with such demonstrated hostility to [certain department issues] be placed on their oversight and authorizing board?” (Originally published in Union Leader, May 7, 2014; http://www.jbartlett.org/the-governors-appointment-is-inappropriate)
In this situation, Arlinghaus was being critical of Governor Hassan for appointing an unpaid advocate who had volunteered his time on an issue of interest to him to a State Board that oversaw that issue area – which is how most community leaders are appointed to boards. Yet Mr. Arlinghaus has spent years as a paid lobbyist for special interests and sees no problem with being appointed to a role within state government. Was he wrong then or is he wrong now?
This situation is a prime example of Mr. Arlinghaus’ history of political partisanship.
More pressing, however, is the question of whether Mr. Arlinghaus has been honest and transparent during his work in and around the State House. Earlier in the hearing Mr. Arlinghaus asserted that transparency is one of his guiding values and cited it in support of his nomination. But the following story calls that into question.
During the 2013 state legislative cycle, Granite State Progress launched an ambitious campaign to expose every ALEC model bill that was introduced in the New Hampshire legislature. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as a reminder, lets corporate special interests sit side by side with state legislators and draft bills that benefit their own bottom line – often at the expense of everyday Granite Staters. The goal of the campaign by Granite State Progress was to ensure that state legislators knew about hidden corporate sponsors of ALEC model bills so that they had a clearer picture of who would stand to win – and lose – should the legislation pass.
The Josiah Bartlett Center and its national network are close allies of ALEC and share a similar legislative campaign agenda. The Granite State Progress campaign thus inadvertently touched on the work that the Josiah Bartlett Center is doing and the funding it receives to advance those policies.
On March 17, 2013 a Josiah Bartlett Center staff member wrote an op-ed in the Concord Monitor attempting to discredit our organization and the ALEC Exposed campaign we were leading. As part of it, he mocked that Granite State Progress often highlights the billionaire oil tycoon Koch brothers and the groups they fund to promote policies that benefit their bottom line. But then he went on to say something interesting:
“Of course, I could be so wrapped up the Kochs’ web that I don’t even know it. I asked Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center – where I worked for the past four years and where I’m currently helping research New Hampshire budget issues – if he was part of the vast, secret Koch Empire.
“They don’t give us money, but I wish they would,” Arlinghaus responded.” [i]
However, this was blatantly false. Granite State Progress had documents that proved the Josiah Bartlett Center received funding from the Koch brothers and that it had been recent, and direct, donations under Charlie Arlinghaus’ leadership – there was no way he was not aware of them. As Granite State Progress wrote in its response piece in the Concord Monitor:
“When Granite State Progress first started talking about the Koch brothers and ALEC, we expected to get push back from Koch’s lead group, AFP. Instead, we were surprised to see the Josiah Bartlett Center rush to their defense. It didn’t take long to figure out why: The Josiah Bartlett Center is part of the conservative State Policy Network, which is funded by Charles and David Koch via the “Donor’s Capital Fund.” Financial filings show that the Bartlett Center also received direct funding from a Koch-run foundation – despite President Charlie Arlinghaus and Bosse’s assertions that it did not.” [ii]
In this situation, Charlie Arlinghaus had used his position to try to discredit critics, going so far as to intentionally mislead the public and press. Instead of being transparent, Mr. Arlinghaus sought to undermine our organization’s work and credibility, because our criticism touched on the special corporate interests his organization was receiving funding from to promote policies that would benefit the bottom line of those same special interests.
Granite State Progress did not even have to provide the offered documentation to the Concord Monitor regarding the connections between the Josiah Bartlett Center, ALEC, and the Koch brothers. Upon request from the Monitor, Arlinghaus immediately confirmed that his organization receives Koch funding – just three days after he put in a newspaper column that they do not. It is likely that Mr. Arlinghaus had simply not expected anyone to challenge him on the false assertion.
Copies of both opinion pieces are included here.
This story is brought forward not because of Mr. Arlinghaus’ discredited attack on our organization, or even because of the special interest policy work and funding sources he accepted – it is because Charlie Arlinghaus showed a willingness to be dishonest to the public and media. In a job interview, honesty, transparency, and accountability matter. This is a job interview. The public should be able to have faith and trust in its Commissioners in all dealings.
To this day, Mr. Arlinghaus has never publicly admitted or apologized for lying in the media, or for targeting our organization for our fact-based research. In fact, just two months ago Mr. Arlinghaus used a Valley News biographical piece of his deceased former Board chair to take a swipe at our organization again. In it he called the above expose a “scurrilous attack” while conveniently forgetting to admit that it was, indeed, factual. We were honestly floored that Mr. Arlinghaus would use a biographical piece of a deceased Board member to again promote his lie and attempt to discredit our organization.[iii]
A couple of years ago Mr. Arlinghaus was quoted in an article in The Atlantic, where he took Rep. Frank Guinta to task for doubling down on his initial falsehoods about his campaign finance violations, even when confronted with the truth. “But Guinta has faced at least as much damnation from the media and fellow Republicans because of his dishonesty, Arlinghaus said. Before settling with the FEC, Guinta denied that the commission was investigating him and lashed out against those who brought it up, including his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. “He called her a liar for saying things that he now admits,” Arlinghaus said. “And it’s one thing to have a scandal come out and then say, ‘I can explain, I’m sorry.’ It’s different to say it’s absolutely false and then attack people for saying it’s a lie.” (The Atlantic, Why Frank Guinta May Not Survive a Campaign Finance Violation, 12.7.15)
Mr. Arlinghaus expresses advice that he does not follow himself. Commissioners have a responsibility to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, let alone lean into it. Managers have a responsibility to expect from others what they expect from themselves in regards to honesty.
Related to this is the fact that Mr. Arlinghaus has weighed in on a vast amount of legislation in New Hampshire on behalf of the Josiah Bartlett Center, a fact that was well-noted in today’s hearing, but has never once registered as a lobbyist. Mr. Arlinghaus and his staff never file as lobbyists despite spending a massive amount of time promoting or opposing certain state policies, providing testimony, and speaking with state legislators. A simple glance at the Bartlett Center website will show the depth of past legislative involvement.
These examples should stir concern among the Executive Council about this nomination. Granite State Progress calls on the Executive Council to reject the nomination of Charlie Arlinghaus for Commissioner of Administrative Services. The Executive Council should take the time to review the news pieces referenced here and see for themselves Mr. Arlinghaus’ record on honesty and transparency.
Granite State Progress also notes that Mr. Arlinghaus and the Josiah Bartlett Center are connected to a late-breaking story just this week about the Bradley Foundation that also warrants the Executive Council take pause on or reject this nomination. The Bradley Foundation, which funds the Josiah Bartlett Center’s national network, is in the news this week for leaked documents that show funded projects specifically aimed at dismantling unions for purely political reasons, among other things.[iv] It would be wise for the Executive Council to take the time to explore Mr. Arlinghaus’ connection with this foundation and allow more information to come out before putting Mr. Arlinghaus in the position of Commissioner.
Granite State Progress is more than happy to take questions or provide follow up documentation for anything referenced here today. Thank you.
[i] Concord Monitor, Column by Grant Bosse: Obsession with the Koch brothers clouds the left. March 17, 2013
[ii] Concord Monitor, My Turn by Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress: In fact, ALEC’s influence isn’t benign, March 22, 2013
[iii] Valley News, A Life: Emily ‘Amie’ Mead, 1927-2016; ‘She Was a Doer. She Had a Presence’, March 27, 2017
Excerpt: “In January, the right-leaning, free market think tank The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy (Bartlett Center), published a 21-page document authored by Michael Sununu, in which he attacked a recent report by the New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazard Commission (NHCRHC) warning of threats to the state’s coastal communities from climate change-related impacts. The commission, created through a bi-partisan bill passed by the New Hampshire Senate in 2013, labored for three years on its final report and received inputs from a variety of scientists, public officials, and local representatives.” (Desmog Blog, New Hampshire climate denier brother Governor Michael Chris Sununu, 3.5.17)
See also: Granite State Progress Stink Tank Report: Bad Bartlett, October 2013