NEWS25 June 2013

Bass push poll case dismissed in New Hampshire

Legal North America

US — A New Hampshire lawsuit accusing a state congressman’s re-election campaign of engaging in push polling has been dismissed in the Merrimack County Superior Court.

The lawsuit was brought by state Attorney General Michael Delaney against Charlie Bass’s (pictured) Bass Victory Committee in April last year.

Delaney’s office said surveys paid for by the committee fit New Hampshire’s definition of push polls, and, as such, they should have disclosed the name of the sponsor during the survey.

However, New Hampshire’s definition of a push poll, as any survey that asks questions about an election candidate’s character, status, political stance or record, is a definition that also applies to legitimate message testing work – and companies carrying out these studies do not disclose the name of the sponsor for fear of biasing results.

Bass ultimately lost his re-election campaign, however Delaney’s office continued to pursue its complaint. In weighing the merits of the case, however, the Merrimack County Superior Court looked to advisory opinions produced by the Federal Election Commission, one of which stated that federal law supersedes state law – meaning that New Hampshire could not force federal election candidates like Bass to identify themselves when conducting research that fits the state’s loose description of push polling.

The lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month.

Howard Fienberg, director of government affairs for the Marketing Research Association, thinks the court’s decision augurs well for next year, when legislators are expected to mount a second attempt to correct the state’s push poll laws.