Letter to Chuck Morse from Former State Senator Martha Hennessey
January 28, 2022
Dear Senate President Chuck Morse,
Our democracy is based on the fundamental belief that the people rule — not
corporations and their lobbyists. We can all agree, no matter your political party, that elected
officials must go above and beyond to ensure that the critical work of public office is done on
behalf of those who elected us: the people of New Hampshire — and not corporate special
Recognizing those shared values, I am writing to you today to express deep concern
about your campaigns’ employment of multiple corporate lobbyists. On January 12, 2022, it was
reported that you hired Mr. Jim Merrill to join your campaign as Finance Chair — a pivotal role
that requires a great deal of communication and coordination between you and Mr. Merrill.
However, Mr. Merrill still is a registered lobbyist for clients with business before the state
legislature, and specifically, before your State Senate. Mr. Merrill’s work for your campaign and
for various lobbying clients creates a serious conflict of interest, and the only appropriate course
of action would be to remove Mr. Merrill as the Finance Chair of your US Senate campaign and
from the payroll of your State Senate campaign account.
Mr. Merrill’s employment by your campaign raises a number of conflicts of interest of
both local and national concern. For example, Mr. Merrill lobbies for Terrafugia, Inc., a
company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Mr. Merrill’s relationship with Terrafugia
and its CCP-aligned parent company represents both a potential national security concern and an
opportunity for foreign manufacturing interests to take precedence over Granite State businesses
and workers. In 2021, Terrafugia laid off all of its New England employees and abandoned the
American market; there is a danger that Mr. Merrill would promote policies favorable to other
CCP-favored companies or corporations that lay off American workers. Mr. Merrill has also
lobbied for Prenda, a homeschooling company that has received millions in state-controlled
federal funds meant to be used to reopen public schools and that was investigated over its use of
state funds in Arizona. Your employment of Mr. Merrill raises troubling questions about whether
on key legislation related to education, transportation, workers’ rights, and economic
development policies you would act as Senate President in favor of Mr. Merrill’s clients — not
what is best for our state.
Unfortunately, this conflict of interest is not new. In addition to hiring Mr. Merrill onto
your United States Senate campaign, you’ve paid his firm $68,660 over the past four years for
his work in support of your re-election to the State Senate. Additionally, your State Senate
campaign retains Periklis Karoutas, a Concord lobbyist who has represented the worst special
interests – including a shady mail order pharmacy that paid $11 million in penalties for its role in
the opioid crisis, used an illegal kickback scheme to aggressively push opioids on injured
workers, and that the Attorney General of Massachusetts said dispensed deadly fentanyl “with a
shocking lack of regard for whether those prescriptions were legitimate.” Mr. Karoutas still
represents a big pharma lobby group whose members, such as Mallinckrodt, Abbott, and Johnson
& Johnson, helped worsen the opioid crisis. Mr. Karoutas also represents a pesticide lobby group
that has denied its industry’s role in the PFAS pollution crisis.
Your financial relationships with these lobbyists would also present a clear conflict of interest in
your role as Senate President. And they raise serious questions about whether as a US Senator,
you would stand up for what is best for New Hampshire. Granite Staters would not know
whether you were headed to Washington to represent them or to represent big pharma, big tech,
government contractors, and Chinese Communist Party interests.
As you know, during my time in the State Senate, I supported measures to curb the
influence of special interests in our politics to ensure that candidates, regardless of political
party, were running to serve the people of our state. That’s why I feel so strongly that it is in the
best interest of the Granite Staters you currently serve and hope to represent, that you remove
Mr. Merrill and Mr. Karoutas from your payroll and pledge to not allow them a role – paid or
unpaid – in orchestrating your bid for higher office.
If you choose not to remove Mr. Merrill and Mr. Karoutas, you will be sending a clear
message to the people of New Hampshire that getting checks from corporate lobbyists and doing
the bidding of special interests are more important to you than running a campaign based on
honesty and integrity.