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ICYMI - Sununu Uses No Bid Contract to Make Himself the Star of a Taxpayer-Funded Ad Campaign

On Friday, WMUR reported that the New Hampshire Democratic Party called out Governor Sununu for awarding a half-million dollar, no-bid contract for a massive ad campaign where he cast himself as the star of the ads. Instead of letting trusted medical professionals and community leaders star in the ads, which research shows is most effective in convincing people to get vaccinated, Sununu is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting himself on television and even falsely claimed that all of the ads featured health professionals. Sununu’s “unilateral approval of hundreds of millions of dollars, without Executive Council review” has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats on the Executive Council.

Key points:

  • “State Democrats are charging that Gov. Chris Sununu is exploiting federally-funded public service announcements urging Granite Staters to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for his own political gain.”

  • “‘Taxpayer money should be spent on proven efforts to encourage people to get vaccinated, not on promoting Chris Sununu’s political ambitions,’ New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley said Friday.”

  • “The governor brought the original contract and additional small expenditure to the five-member Executive Council at the May 19 meeting as ‘informational items,’ but did not seek council approval.”

  • “‘I have been challenging the governor at every meeting to say why these can’t be subjected to the regular scrutiny that all contracts are subject to, and allow us to ask whatever questions we may have and vote them up or down,’ [Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington] added in an interview Friday.”

  • “Warmington was not alone in her concern. ‘I think they I should go the council,’ said Republican councilor David Wheeler. ‘I think it is constitutionally required.’”

  • “The Democratic Party also noted that among the items to be provided with the additional $8,000 under the contract is a ‘behind-the-scenes of the TV spot with Governor Sununu,’ to be completed by May 31.”

  • “With Sununu considering running for the U.S. Senate next year – and reportedly being urged to run by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell -- Buckley called on Sununu to replace himself with medical professionals in PSAs.”

WMUR: Democrats charge Sununu exploiting COVID vaccine PSAs for his own political gain By John DiStaso CONCORD, N.H. — State Democrats are charging that Gov. Chris Sununu is exploiting federally-funded public service announcements urging Granite Staters to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for his own political gain.

“Taxpayer money should be spent on proven efforts to encourage people get vaccinated, not on promoting Chris Sununu’s political ambitions,” New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley said Friday.

“This entire ad campaign is a craven, unethical and political waste of taxpayer money by the governor.”

[...]

Sununu has so far unilaterally approved the use of $434,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funding to produce television and social media video PSAs in which he appears with state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan and Commissioner of Health and Human Services Lori Shibinette urging Granite Staters: “This is your shot, New Hampshire. Do your part and sign up for an appointment today.”

A radio ad carries the same message.

Sununu approved an initial contract totaling $426,490 with GYK Antler LLC of Manchester to “develop and deliver a comprehensive multimodal PSA campaign” on April 2. He then approved an additional $8,000 for the contract, bringing the total $434,490, later in the month.

The governor brought the original contract and additional small expenditure to the five-member Executive Council at the May 19 meeting as “informational items,” but did not seek council approval.

[...]

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, the lone Democrat on the five member body, told Sununu she believed “the council could, and should, be looking at these.”

“I have been challenging the governor at every meeting to say why these can’t be subjected to the regular scrutiny that all contracts are subject to, and allow us to ask whatever questions we may have and vote them up or down,” she added in an interview Friday.

Warmington said she understood that some contracts most likely required quick action.

“But on others, we might ask: ‘Did you need to act immediately or could it have gone through the proper channels?”

Warmington was not alone in her concern.

“I think they I should go the council,” said Republican councilor David Wheeler. “I think it is constitutionally required.” He said that in the regular course of business, contracts using federal funds are regularly brought to the council for approval.

Wheeler said that with the emergency seemingly drawing to a close, he is hopeful that Sununu will bring future COVID-related items to the council, as he does items related to other issues.

The PSA contract also prompted Warmington to question why Sununu is taking such a prominent role in the ad.

“We know that New Hampshire, like other states, has a segment of the population that is hesitant to get the vaccine,” she said at the meeting. “These announcements are intended to help convince people that they should get the vaccine.

“Reports have shown that the best people to speak to the public are our physicians, medical professionals and scientists … I'm just wondering if we are going to use our medical professionals and our scientists to be doing and speaking to this hesitant population.”

Sununu responded, “Well, our lead ad was Dr. Chan and Commissioner Shibinette,” and he added, “They’re in, I think, every ad. There’s no ad with just politicians. That just doesn’t exist.”

But the Democratic Party pointed out that later Wednesday, Sununu tweeted a 10-second video with New England Patriots player Chase Winovich, but no medical professionals. The party said the video, which is not a paid ad, contradicts Sununu’s answer to Warmington earlier in the day.

[...]

The Democratic Party also noted that among the items to be provided with the additional $8,000 under the contract is a “behind-the-scenes of the TV spot with Governor Sununu,” to be completed by May 31.”

With Sununu considering running for the U.S. Senate next year – and reportedly being urged to run by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell -- Buckley called on Sununu to replace himself with medical professionals in PSAs.

“The governor should cancel his ‘behind-the-scenes’ video, which serves no purpose at all, and replace these television spots with spots that are proven to work -- those featuring medical professionals,” Buckley said.

The NHDP also charged that the PSAs are "strikingly similar" to his campaign committee's social media video ads.

[...]

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