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Trying to board a plane with a loaded gun--think that might get you in trouble?

Not if you are a NH Republican state legislator--at least, not when NH's US Attorney Tom Colantuono is on the job.

When the x-ray machine found a loaded revolver in the carry-on bag of NH Republican state legislator Howard Dickinson, TSA and airport officials asked Colantuono to file federal charges. He refused.

Gun-toting Howard Dickinson--veteran GOP strategist Dave Carney -- former NH House Speaker Gene Chandler -- NH racetrack owner Richard Hart--what do these NH people have in common? All have ties to Colantuono or to Republicans, all showed up in my search of NH newspaper archives for various kinds of publicized wrong-doing, and none faced any charges from Tom Colantuono.

I've complained before that the NH phone-jamming was pursued incredibly sloowwwwly by Colantuono--but that may be just part of the story of how Colantuono made Krugman's list of shame, the list of US Attorneys who didn't get fired.

July 18, 2003--Manchester, NH's busy airport. NH Republican state legislator Howard Dickinson walks through security with a loaded .38-caliber pistol and 11 rounds of ammunition in his carry-on bag. The gun shows up in the airport's Xray machine.

"In this day and age we do not want to give people the message it's OK to bring guns to an airport and merely say, 'Oh, I forgot I had it'," one frustrated official told a reporter, as Colantuono obstinately refused to press charges due to Dickinson's lack of criminal "intent."  (NH Sunday News, July 27, 2003, "Guns at Airports: New state law sought after gun incident" by Shawne K. Wickham, story available online via Union Leader paid archive)

The Federal security director at Manchester Airport wanted to seek criminal prosecution of Dickinson but, faced with Colantuono's refusal to prosecute, had to settle for imposing a civil fine on the not-very-repentant lawmaker. "As far as I know, those planes that went into the World Trade Center were done with box cutters," Dickinson said, complaining that people who inadvertantly carry on Swiss Army knives face no fine. According to the August 23, 2004 Union Leader, "U.S. Attorney Tom Colantuono said the matter did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution. He would not discuss the details of the decision."  (NH Union Leader, August 23, 2004, "Gun-toting lawmaker faces up to $5,000 fine" by Mark Hayward, story available online via Union Leader paid archive)

***

On August 12, 2004, veteran Republican strategist Dave Carney was reported to the FEC for illegal activity involving petitions for Ralph Nader--but he didn't face any charges from Colantuono. And he didn't face sanctions from the FEC either--even though the FEC's own legal counsel urged the FEC to sanction him.

Norway Hill Associates, Inc., a corporation led by Dave Carney, made what even the FEC agreed was an illegal corporate contribution to Ralph Nader's campaign. They paid people to ask NH Republicans to sign petitions that would ultimately get Nader onto the 2004 NH Presidential ballot. (John Kerry still beat Bush in NH in 2004.)

The FEC's general counsel found "reason to believe Norway Hill Associates, David Carney, Lauren Carney, and James Mackay knowingly and wilfully violated" the relevant election laws. Bafflingly, the FEC overruled its attorneys, saying that just because Carney was a professional political activist didn't mean his law-breaking was "knowing and willful."

Google is sometimes so very strangely your friend. Dave Carney as far back as 1992 was invited to a confab at Harvard's Institute of Politics, where he spoke very learnedly about the legal and political issues of third-party candidates for President, in all 50 states.

But maybe the FEC doesn't know how to Google, because they were sure that Mr. Carney, like Mr. Dickinson, was just the victim of an innocent mistake. And did Colantuono prosecute Carney for anything? Judging from newspaper reports, he did not.

***

Former NH House Speaker Gene Chandler (Republican) got in trouble for soliciting gifts from lobbyists and failing to report more than $60,000 that rolled in. Chandler pled guilty to a single misdemeanor for violating a NH state law against  taking money from people likely to have business before the legislature. The House Ethics Committee recommended that Chandler should be expelled from the legislature. Republicans voted that down, censuring Chandler, but then giving him a standing ovation. IANAL, and maybe Chandler's behavior never rose to the level of federal crime. But it did make the newspapers. And it didn't make the list of Colantuono's publicized cases.

***

NH racetrack owner Richard Hart, who once donated $1,000 to Colantuono's failed campaign for the US Senate, got indicted on federal charges related to gambling, money laundering, and links to organized crime--but he didn't get hauled in by Colantuono. Hart of NH was prosecuted by feds in New York State. But it's late at night and I'm going to hope this inspires somebody else's investigations.

Originally posted to Betsy Devine on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 10:35 PM PDT.

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