Richard Vitale Indictment Press Conference Transcript (RTF)
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Attorney General Martha Coakley Announces 10 Grand Jury Indictments against Richard Vitale for Lobbying and Campaign Finance Violations Press Conference December 18, 2008 Attorney General Martha Coakley: Good afternoon. Everybody all set? Attorney General Martha Coakley. Today, a Suffolk Grand Jury returned ten indictments against Richard Vitale, 63-years-old of Boston, and WN Advisors, a limited liability corporation, that’s owned and controlled by Richard Vitale. There are seven charges against Mr. Vitale; there are three against WN Advisors, and they are based as a result of an investigation beginning by the Attorney General’s Office back in June of this year, when we received a referral from the Secretary of State, relating to alleged lobbying activities by Richard Vitale on behalf of The Mass Association of Ticket Brokers. Let me just explain those seven charges against Mr. Vitale. He faces two counts of failure to register as a legislative agent, also known as a lobbyist. That’s a violation of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 3, Section 41. He is facing one count of an illegal agreement for compensation contingent on passage of legislation; I can talk a little more about that later. He faces four counts of making campaign contributions over $200; the law prohibits any lobbyist or legislative agent from, in a given year, giving to any candidate or elected official over $200. The three charges against WN Advisors follow those charges. Two are failure to register as a legislative agent, and one count for entering into an illegal contingency agreement, that is asking for or attempting to receive monies in the event of success of passage of legislation. Let me just give you a quick background on this. The legislation in Massachusetts that regulates the resale of tickets for sporting events, public events, or what are called public amusement, has not kept pace with the ticket prices, with the technology, with the number of events, and type of events. In fact the law was passed in 1924, and it requires, if there is to be a resale, that it can be resold only for face value, plus $2. Again, outdated, unenforced, and relatively unenforceable. Most in the Commonwealth had agreed that that legislation needed some updating to bring the statute into the 21st Century. The Mass Association of Ticket Brokers was interested in promoting a change in the law and they wanted to address legislation that would update that law, and particularly, they had particular interest in how the legislation would look. We allege in these indictments, that Richard Vitale and WN Advisors, after entering into a contract with the Mass Association of Ticket Brokers, was paid a total of $60,000. The contract, in fact, allowed up to $90,000, although $60,000 was paid. We allege that Richard Vitale communicated on several occasions and in different ways, with both the Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi and the Speaker Pro tempore Thomas Petrolletti in order to both promote and shape this legislation around the resale of tickets in Massachusetts. In October of 2007, that legislation passed the House. It did not however make progress in the Senate and is currently stalled and in fact, will expire at the end of this session. We allege that Richard Vitale and WN Advisors were required to and failed to publicly register as an entity or an individual who is acting as lobbyist to the legislature. Why is this important? Because, we require transparency both for the public as to how legislation is being influenced and shaped, and also to legislators. The law requires that those who are lobbyists are acting on behalf of others for payment, cannot donate more than $200 per calendar year to candidates or to legislators, and most importantly, if you are registered as a lobbyist, there are other consequent obligations; you have to for instance file an itemized statement, twice a year, under oath that lists all of your contributions and all of your expenditures that have been incurred or paid for on your behalf or on behalf of any members of the general court, any members or officers or employees of the legislature. And particularly in a state where we don’t require a legislature to follow the Open Meeting Law or to be subject to public requests for information, or what is commonly called Freedom of Information requests, it is particularly important that the public and the members of the legislature understand who is attempting to conduct business before them and who is compensating them, and in what manner they are being compensated. Failure to register as a lobbyist can operate to influence budgets and legislation in a way that is clearly not intended by the statutory oversight and it allows someone who fails to register to operate behind closed doors and with no transparency or accountability. Failure to comply with the lobbying laws can result in a corruption of the system, both to the detriment to the public, as well as to those who are operating in good faith as members of the legislature. They can not gauge who is trying to influence them or who is influencing them, and on what those contributions are based. In fact, it is the same reason why we require all candidates and all elected officials to comply with the stringent, but comprehensive, rules under the Office of Campaign and Finance. We allow for contributions in Massachusetts. We encourage that. In fact, we have not gone the route of public campaign finance, but we do require public disclosure, and it is the only way we can ensure that there is some way to tell how legislation and budgets are being influenced. I want to emphasize that by these charges today; they are limited to Mr. Vitale, and to WN Advisors. We have not implicated the Mass Association of Ticket Brokers or the three representatives and one senator who were the recipients of contributions over $200. We do not implicate, in any way, the firm of Vitale and Caturano and Company, who were cooperative with this investigation. We also received cooperation from the Office of the Secretary of State, the Inspector General, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, as well as the State Ethics Commission. I want to stress also that this is an ongoing investigation. We are announcing these indictments today, and that Mr. Vitale and WN Advisors are facing penalties of up to $30,000, as well as up to, for Mr. Vitale, two years in the house or a $2,000 fine. His arraignment on these charges is scheduled for Suffolk Superior Court on January 5. I would be happy to answer questions that I can, it is a pending indictment. I want to stress also that these are charges only, that both defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and I will answer any questions for clarification if I can.