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GOP, conservative group take aim at Hassan over trip

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(June 3, 2014) - Gov. Maggie Hassan’s political opponents on Tuesday attacked her plan to go ahead with a $15,000 trade mission to Turkey despite a travel ban she requested in light of state revenue shortfalls.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway launched a petition drive on his campaign website in the hope of blocking the trip, scheduled for June 20-27, with Hassan leading a delegation of eight business representatives and six state employees.

Hemingway’s opponent in the Republican primary for the right to challenge Hassan in the fall, Walt Havenstein, issued a statement of his own just minutes ahead of Hemingway, calling the trip a junket.

“A trade mission without an economic development plan is just a vacation,” said the former BAE executive.

The conservative policy group Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire recently filed a right-to-know request for more details on the trip, and received a reply from Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of Resources and Economic Development, on May 30.

Among other things, Rose identifies the 15-member delegation, including Hassan, who, according to Rose, “Is paying all costs for her daughter to accompany her, but she is not an official part of the trade mission.”

The businesses had to cover their own costs, including international airfare, incidental expenses and a $2,500 per person “participation fee.”

The Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists, known as TUSKON, is paying all of the costs for the governor and one member of the state police, according to Rose. The trade mission has been organized in partnership with TUSKON and the Turkish Cultural Center in Manchester.

Rose elaborated on the explanation provided last week by Hassan’s spokesman that most of the money has already been spent. 

“In early May, when state revenues were still $25 million above plan and before the (travel) freeze, the state and the businesses paid most of the upfront costs for the mission,” he wrote.

A detailed expense ledger attached to Rose’s response reveals that only $5,000 remains in DRED’s “out-of-state travel account” due to a series of checks written on May 7 and 8 — including $6,000 to Milne Travel and $4,000 to the Turkish Cultural Center.

“DRED is required to use Milne Travel agency as they are the state contractor for travel,” the letter states. “Additionally, as required by state rules, all international flights are economy class.”

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