Sen. Shaheen Campaign Rips ‘Defamatory’ Attempt to Link Her to 34-Year-Old Felony

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign is strongly pushing back against comments made by a New Hampshire sheriff insinuating that Shaheen was involved in a 34-year-old felony case.

On Thursday, the Washington Free Beacon reported on the small business that Shaheen and her husband Bill co-founded. The shop, called “Bill & Bob’s — A Sterling Example,’’ sold used jewelry. The Shaheens helped run a store in Maine from 1969 to 1977, when Bill was named U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire. He then sold his stake in the company.

A few years later, Bill & Bob’s ran into legal trouble under its new management. In 1980, police searched the shop and indicted co-owner Bob Fennelly – a state senator and Bill Shaheen’s brother-in-law – for buying stolen jewelry, according to a newspaper report at the time. Fennelly was arrested and sent to jail on several felony charges for buying stolen goods.

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Importantly, Jeanne and Bill Shaheen did not own the shop at the time of its legal troubles. As the Free Beacon noted: “The Shaheens were never charged or connected to the crimes.’’ Indeed, Jeanne Shaheen has cited this job as an example of her small business expertise.

That background information brings us to Friday, when Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard read the headline of the Free Beacon story, seemingly failed to read its (important!) details, and came out firing against Shaheen.

“Senator Shaheen’s connection to this tarnished business raises serious questions that should be addressed,’’ Hilliard told the New Hampshire GOP. “It is troubling that Senator Shaheen never disclosed this information during her many years in politics as she campaigned on her small business experience.’’

In response, Shaheen campaign manager Mike Vlacich blasted that “defamatory’’ attack with some powerful adjectives: “unprecedented,’’ “outrageous,’’ “disgusting,’’ and “shameful.’’ Vlacich called on Scott Brown, the Republican challenger to Shaheen’s Senate spot, to denounce Hilliard’s remarks.

Even in a Senate race that has been “increasingly nasty and expensive,’’ as The Boston Globe wrote on Thursday, there’s nothing like an accusation of defamation to ratchet things up a notch.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the Shaheens helped run stores in Maine and New Hampshire. The Shaheens were only involved with the store in Maine. The story has been updated to reflect this change.

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October 15, 2018 | 10:02 AM