CONCORD — A state lawmaker said Wednesday he could no longer support Sen. John McCain's campaign over the proposed immigration bill in Congress. But McCain's campaign countered that state Rep. D.J. Bettencourt stepped down as its Rockingham County co-chairman only after asking for — and being refused — a paycheck.
"I have told the McCain campaign that I would withdraw my support as his Rockingham County co-chairman if Senator McCain continued to push for amnesty for illegal aliens," Bettencourt said. "Although earlier I publicly endorsed Senator McCain, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support him. ... We must enforce the laws on our books, not provide amnesty for millions of people who have broken the law since the moment they stepped on our soil."
But in e-mails provided by the McCain campaign, Bettencourt, 23, said he had been offered a paid position with the Romney campaign and "they are on the hunt for conservatives."
"While I love Senator McCain, the next few years are going to be financially difficult for me — next year with graduate school and law school following that — and thus I must at least entertain some thought on the offer. ... I'm not going anywhere soon, but I wanted to inform you of this so we could discuss it and so that you wouldn't be broadsided if rumors of this circulate," Bettencourt wrote to a McCain staffer earlier this month.
A Romney spokesman said Bettencourt is not on the payroll, was not offered a job and the issue of money never came up during Bettencourt's discussions.
Bettencourt, who became Rockingham County co-chairman in March, had recorded a video endorsement of McCain in May and posted it on YouTube. He said on Wednesday that Romney's approach to immigration was better suited to voters in the early primary state.
"His principled stand to not reward people who are here illegally with a permanent free pass to stay, is consistent with my views and the views of most New Hampshire citizens," Bettencourt said.
McCain's popularity has been hurt among voters over his support for a bipartisan immigration bill, lobbied for by President Bush. His support for the bill has put McCain at odds with his own party.
But a McCain official said the issue here was money.
"D.J. Bettencourt asked the campaign for a level of compensation that we were unwilling to provide, and as a result he's manufactured a reason for leaving the campaign," the official said.