Los Angeles Times
November 12, 2009 Thursday
CalPERS head seeks new law for middlemen; Bill would change how
'placement agents' are paid for helping investment funds get pensions'
The board president of the California Public Employees' Retirement System wants
fellow board members to get behind efforts to better regulate the financial
intermediaries who are paid millions by private equity firms to help them get big
pension fund investments.
The proposal Wednesday by CalPERS board President Rob Feckner comes in direct
response to a growing uproar over disclosures by CalPERS that investment funds it
does business with have paid tens of millions of dollars in fees to so-called placement
agents in recent years.
About $70 million has gone to one former CalPERS board member, Alfred J.R.
CalPERS is investigating the activities of Villalobos and other placement agents.
Broader probes are underway at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and
with the attorneys general of New York and California. In New York, a number of
placement agents and pension officials have been caught up in a pay-to-play scandal
that has brought allegations of political corruption and bribery.
The proposed bill, if passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, would
prohibit such intermediaries from being paid sometimes multimillion-dollar
contingency fees, calculated as a percentage of the amount of money that CalPERS
invests with an outside fund.
The placement-agent industry is expected to object to such stringent regulation.
Many of the firms say they support increased disclosure of their activities, including
fees paid to them. But they oppose efforts that they say could possibly push them
out of business.
Placement agents, they argue, play a useful role in helping investment funds,
especially small, cutting-edge firms, receive a fair hearing from large pensions,
including the $200-billion CalPERS, the biggest in the nation.
Fees to placement agents under Feckner's proposal would be part of a monthly
retainer or a flat charge for representing an investment fund before CalPERS or other
public pension funds. Fees could not be contingent on the placement agent
successfully completing an investment deal.
"Recent events and news articles have alleged undue influence by placement agents
and others attempting to sway the investment decisions of pension funds across the
nation," Feckner wrote in a letter released by CalPERS on Wednesday.
The proposed legislation, which is expected to be introduced before the end of the
year, probably will be discussed at a CalPERS board meeting Monday. The board's
agenda also lists a number of recommendations from CalPERS staff and outside
advisors to tighten a placement-agent disclosure policy approved in May.
Feckner, with support from state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang,
both CalPERS board members, wants placement agents to be registered as lobbyists
with the California secretary of state's office. The firms that employ placement
agents as well as the private equity and real estate funds that use them also would
be required to register.
By becoming registered lobbyists, placement agents would be governed by the same
laws and regulations that cover all professional advocates at the state Capitol and
before state government agencies. Those rules include the reporting of gifts, speech-
making fees and other compensation. They also would prohibit placement agents
from making political contributions to members of a pension fund board.
Mike Naple, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the administration
"supports the concept" behind the Feckner proposal but cautioned that registering
placement agents as lobbyists "does not go far enough to solve the problem." He
declined to detail the administration's criticism.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
November 10, 2009 Tuesday
Dallas council approves sweeping ethics measures; New rules for zoning
votes, lobbyists, gifts were proposed after corruption conviction
The Dallas City Council passed its most sweeping ethics changes in nearly a decade
Monday in an attempt to clear a cloud that spread over City Hall with the corruption
conviction of former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill.
In a series of votes passed with little opposition, the council pushed through four
measures intended to bring more transparency to City Hall, particularly in
development deals and the big money that comes with them.
"We have to have checks and balances, and unfortunately at times our checks and
balances weren't what they needed to be," Mayor Tom Leppert said.
Leppert has pushed hard to quickly pass some kind of ethics package, despite
criticism from several council members that the changes he ushered in will have little
impact on corruption.
The most vocal opponent Wednesday was council member Vonciel Jones Hill, who
called the package rushed, thoughtless and possibly harmful to the city's single-
member district council system.
That system - created after a hard-fought campaign to give minority residents fair
representation - resulted in giving council members enormous power over zoning in
their own districts.
Don Hill used that power to extort bribes from developers who wanted approval for
projects in his southern Dallas district, a federal jury found.
One of the measures passed Wednesday targeted that power. Beginning in
December, major zoning cases must be "seconded" by two council members before a
case can move to a vote of the full council. A second is essentially a vote that
supports a motion before the council.
Under the measures, members who second a major zoning case must certify they
have reviewed the case in detail.
Leppert said the measures will force developers to contact more than one council
member to ensure projects get moved forward for a vote. The weakening of the one-
on-one relationship between developers and council members will reduce the
potential for corruption, he said.
Vonciel Jones Hill called the new requirement an attack on the single-member district
system, commonly known as "14-1" in reference to the number of council members
elected by district and the mayor elected at large.
"This proposal, in my opinion, is a clear incursion on the spirit of 14-1. ... It is my
belief this is the first step toward erasing the progress we have made," she said.
Council member Steve Salazar had a simpler criticism.
"It seems to be an unnecessary piece of legislation that doesn't do anything to
advance ethics," he said.
Most of the council disagreed, and all of the measures passed by wide margins.
Under the new rules, lobbyists will face the most stringent new requirements. Not
only must they keep detailed records of efforts to influence City Hall, but they also
will be required to disclose private contact about pending city matters with council
members and other high-level city officials.
The rules also will restrict the timing of campaign contributions from developers and
others involved in zoning cases.
Finally, council members will be required to disclose individual gifts worth more than
$50 or a group of gifts with a total value of more than $100 from a single source.
Though Don Hill wasn't mentioned by name Monday, it was clear that his recent
corruption conviction drove the ethics effort.
"We are doing this because there is a cloud over City Hall. If that cloud was not
there, we would not be doing this today," council member Tennell Atkins said.
Praise from Leppert
The council spent much of the morning hashing out a few last-minute amendments
to the measures, but little change was made to the ordinance proposals discussed by
the council two weeks ago.
Council member Hill voted against three of the four proposals, agreeing only to
disclosure of gifts to council members.
Leppert called the passage of the package a signal to residents that City Hall is
serious about the issue.
"I think our city has the right to believe we can deal with difficult issues and deal
with them expeditiously," he said.
City ethics package
Lobbyist registration and disclosure
*With some exceptions, people who make or spend more than $200 to influence city
officials will be required to register as lobbyists.
*Lobbyists must file quarterly reports disclosing contacts with high-level city officials,
the issues those officials were lobbied on and a list of expenditures used for lobbying
on municipal matters, among other requirements.
*On major zoning cases, applicants, landowners and people with contracts to
purchase property must disclose contacts with City Council members and plan
Voting against: Council members Pauline Medrano and Vonciel Jones Hill
*In major zoning cases, contributions to City Council members are prohibited by the
applicant from the date public notice on the case is mailed to 60 days after the case
*Contributions during the same time period are prohibited from anyone seeking a
tax abatement, tax credit, grant or similar subsidy from the city.
*Anyone bidding on a city contract is prohibited from making donations during the
same time period.
Voting against: Hill
*Two council members are required to second any motion on a significant zoning
case before it can be brought for a vote of the full council.
Voting against: Council members Hill, Tennell Atkins and Steve Salazar
Council member gift disclosure
*Council members must disclose all gifts greater than $50 and any gifts with a total
worth of more than $100 from a single source.
Voting against: None
The Miami Herald
November 10, 2009 Tuesday
Broward School Board may tighten lobbyist rules
The Broward School Board may sign off on a more restrictive policy for lobbyists
Tuesday, following a board member's arrest that called lobbyists' influence into
The changes will let the board prohibit lobbyists who violate rules from doing work in
the school district for up to two years. Softer penalties include giving lobbyists
warnings and issuing suspensions shorter than two years.
The push for the new rules comes after federal investigators arrested board member
Beverly Gallagher in a corruption probe in September. Gallagher, who has since been
suspended and replaced on the board, is accused of taking kickbacks for influencing
a construction selection committee.
Law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation have said they are looking
into Gallagher's relationship with Neil Sterling, a former School Board member and
major donor to current board members' campaigns who represents eight companies
before the board. Investigators have questioned several board members about
Sterling's influence on the board.
Last month, board member Stephanie Kraft drew scrutiny for revealing that her
husband worked for two years for a company owned by Sterling that does not do
business with the school district.
That news prompted the district to change its lobbyist disclosure form to require
lobbyists to mention ties to relatives of board members.
The new rules the board will take up at Tuesday's meeting expand the definition of
who is a lobbyist to include people who are not necessarily paid or hired to lobby.
Now, the district will consider a lobbyist anyone who tries to influence a decision for
the ultimate economic gain of a company. For example, that would include company
presidents and lawyers not typically registered as lobbyists.
People speaking for school groups like PTAs, public employees acting in their official
capacity, individuals representing themselves and lawyers representing clients in
formal proceedings would not be considered lobbyists.
The new policy still prohibits senior Broward schools employees and board members
from lobbying the board for one year after leaving the district.
It also restates the district's ``cone of silence'' rules barring vendors from lobbying
the School Board while a contract bid is out. Companies that violate that rule can be
disqualified from the school district bidding process -- and if violations are found
after a bid is awarded, the district can void the contract, the policy says.
Sacramento Bee (California)
November 8, 2009 Sunday
Lobbyists sue to block campaign-finance ballot measure
California lobbyists have filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court to stop the
vote on a ballot measure scheduled for the June primary election that would make
them the guinea pig in an experiment on campaign finance.
The lobbyists say the measure to make them collectively pay approximately $34
million to fund California's statewide secretary of state campaigns in 2014 and 2018
unfairly restricts their free speech rights and restricts people's constitutional right to
petition their government.
"Our view is that the First Amendment isn't up for election," said Jackson Gualco,
president of the lead plaintiff in the suit, the Institute of Governmental Advocates,
and himself a top-level California lobbyist.
The lobbyists' lawsuit names Secretary of State Debra Bowen as the respondent, in
her capacity as California's election overseer. But the real party of interest is the
Legislature, which last year placed the California Fair Elections Act on the June ballot.
The measure was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Authored by former Assemblywoman and current state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-
Berkeley, the measure would hit lobbyists, lobbyist employers and lobbying firms for
$700 each to help pay for the campaigns for two secretary of state races.
"Right now, politicians in Sacramento spend way too much time raising money
instead of governing," said Derek Cressman, the Western states regional director for
Common Cause. "This would make it possible for candidates to reject big money
from special interests and still run a competitive campaign."
Hancock's Assembly Bill 583 cleared the Legislature on tight votes that showed no
Republican support and a smattering of Democratic opposition.
It won only after it was amended to knock out the governor's race and elections for
two legislative seats from the pilot project in public financing. The bill was sponsored
by the California Clean Money Campaign, the California Nurses Association, other
labor, environmental and consumer groups, and Common Cause.
Gualco's lobbyist association opposed the bill when it was in the Legislature, along
with the California Chamber of Commerce, other business and anti-tax organizations,
as well as the state Fair Political Practices Commission and Schwarzenegger's own
Department of Finance, even though the governor later approved the measure going
to the ballot.
The plaintiffs filed the suit Aug. 25 in Superior Court only after they had registered
an identical action in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and saw it dismissed June 15
by Judge Frank C. Damrell. The federal judge threw it out on grounds of lack of
"ripeness," because voters had yet to approve the measure and there was no
imminent threat of damage to lobbyists.
Loyola Law School professor Richard L. Hasen, an expert in election law, said the
lobbyists can expect another tough legal go when their suit comes up for a scheduled
Nov. 20 county court hearing in Sacramento in front of Judge Michael P. Kenny.
Hasen said the "ordinary rule" is that lawsuits contesting the constitutionality of
ballot measures have to wait until the public votes them in, "on the theory that the
voters might turn down the measure and save the court from having to address the
"I know the opponents of these measures have argued a different standard would
apply to pre-election review of legislatively placed ballot measures," Hasen said. "But
I don't know of any authority - although there might be some - that would say the
courts would treat those things quickly."
If California voters approve the fees on the lobbyists, the legal burden then looks
likely to shift onto the measure's supporters.
According to a legislative analysis of Hancock's bill, courts in Arizona and Vermont
struck down lobbyist fees to fund public campaign financing programs "similar to the
one proposed by this bill." The analysis said the courts found the fees "impermissibly
burdened" the lobbyists' First Amendment rights.
Proponents of the measure think they've got a chance of jumping the First
Amendment hurdle because, in the words of Hancock chief of staff Hans Hemann,
"there is a direct link" between the lobbyist financing and the secretary of state's
office that monitors their activities.
"We think we're in good standing," Hemann said.
If voters approve the measure, it would raise about $34 million through the $700
assessments on the state's 1,239 registered lobbyists, its 383 lobbying firms and its
3,153 lobbyist employers. To qualify for the public campaign cash, the secretary of
state candidates would first have to garner $5 contributions from 7,500 registered
Candidates would be allowed to raise $75,000 in seed money through contributions
no greater than $100 to get their campaigns going.
Along with the Institute of Governmental Advocates, plaintiffs in the suit are Jericho:
A Voice for Justice, a nonprofit advocate for low-income people; longtime police
union lobbyist Tim Yaryan and his law firm; the Los Angeles Police Protective
League; and the California Professional Firefighters.
The suit says that if the measure makes it to the June ballot, the plaintiffs "will be
faced with having to spend millions of dollars collectively to oppose its adoption by
the voters." Lobbyists are demonized as high-priced peddlers of undue influence in
capitals from California to the banks of the Potomac.
Gualco says any juice his people enjoy is only the result of the organizations that
hire them in "the marketplace of ideas."
Gualco, whose own firm has done $2 million in business so far this year representing
agriculture, water, manufacturing, energy and other interests, said paid professional
advocates represent everybody from 4-H Clubs on up and that the advocacy industry
reflects "the way our system has matured over the years."
"Why do we want to make it more difficult for that marketplace to function?" Gualco
asked. "We're already well regulated.
All this does is put a tax on us to present our views to the Legislature and the
executive branch. People get a chance to make sure their views are directly heard
through people like me."
Common Cause's Cressman said the lobbyist fees don't stop anybody from saying
anything they want to anybody who will listen.He said the ballot measure will open
the door to "new types of candidates" who "aren't career politicians." The lobbyists,
he said, are trying to roadblock reform with the lawsuit.
"I think lobbyists are desperate to maintain the status quo, where they've got a lot
of access and influence and ordinary voters don't," Cressman said. "They'll try
lawsuits, they'll try anything to keep the edge they've got."
Palm Beach Post (Florida)
November 9, 2009 Monday
SHAKEN BY POWER BROKER'S SCANDAL, STATE LEADERS WONDER: ARE WE
It wasn't just the nippy fall breeze that gave capital insiders the shivers last week.
Revelations that Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein's nearly $1.4 million in
political contributions since 2006 -- much of it landing in Tallahassee -- might be
tainted also chilled the marbled halls of the Capitol and its environs.
"It's another financial scandal that is personal because it happened right here," said
political consultant and lobbyist Mark Flynn, sitting on a bench beside the third-floor
Capitol rotunda and scanning lawmakers in town for a week of committee meetings.
The timing of the accusations made the matter all the more spooky for the denizens
of the Capitol.
The allegations that Rothstein had bilked investors and the law firm he founded out
of as much as $500 million unfolded during a committee week in Tallahassee, just as
the indictment against another political rainmaker, Broward County eye doctor Alan
Mendelsohn, had a little more than a month before.
Both were generous fund-raisers not just for Gov. Charlie Crist but for politicians of
all stripes, as they coughed up cash for campaigns and charities.
Lobbyists, lawmakers and staffers were glued to their BlackBerrys monitoring blog
posts as the Rothstein drama unfolded from Monday throughout the week.
Developments in the saga dominated chatter in the hangouts surrounding the 22-
story Capitol. By late Wednesday, the clientele at the popular watering hole Clyde's
and Costello's was whispering about an FBI raid on the offices of Rothstein
Rosenfeldt Adler even as it was going down hundreds of miles away in Fort
For some, it held the same morbid appeal of watching a train wreck. For others, it
posed a more ominous threat.
Flynn observed that some were thinking this "could be happening to me. You never
know where these things go."
Early in the week, the first reaction of many lawmakers and their staffs was to
scramble to figure out if they had received any contributions from Rothstein. Then,
whether they had taken money or not, lawmakers were distancing themselves as
quickly as they could from the highflying donor who spent millions on a lavish
lifestyle that erupted in scandal seemingly overnight.
"I never took a nickel from him" was the hastily offered response from various
legislators at the mere mention of Rothstein's name.
Broward County lawmakers still reeling from the arrests of a county commissioner
and school board member just weeks ago on bribery charges were especially
"Who's next?" wondered Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, a former Broward County
School Board member who quickly said she had not received any campaign
contributions from Rothstein or his associates.
And those who had accepted money from Rothstein quickly said they were giving it,
or at least part of it, back, but many were still puzzling over how to return the
contributions late in the week.
Should they donate them to charity or give them to the courts now that the law firm
was in receivership? For example, U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Lakeland, who is
running statewide for Florida agriculture commissioner, issued a news release Friday
saying he was returning his campaign contributions.
When asked to whom, Putnam's aide responded: "Either the receivership or to
State law, however, prohibits campaign contributions from being given to charities
until the campaign accounts are officially closed and the campaigns are over.
South Florida Republicans whose campaigns received money from Rothstein or
entities associated with him include Senate President Jeff Atwater of North Palm
Beach, Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart, House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Boca
Raton, and Reps. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, Juan Zapata of Miami and
Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, according to state records.
Rothstein also gave to Democrats, including Sens. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Dan
Gelber of Miami Beach, Jeremy Ring of Margate and Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale,
along with House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands of Weston and Reps. Martin Kiar
of Davie and Evan Jenne of Dania Beach. Jenne's father, disgraced Broward Sheriff
Ken Jenne, took a job with the lobbying arm of Rothstein's law firm after he was
released from prison last year.
And then there were those last week who breathed a guarded sigh of relief at having
avoided a close brush with Rothstein.
One GOP Senate leader said Rothstein had put off meetings with him on several
occasions within days of the scandal becoming public.
"I guess I'm lucky," he shrugged.
Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
November 9, 2009 Monday
COUNTY AGREES TO MORE INDEPENDENCE FOR INSPECTOR GENERAL
The latest version of ethics reform gives Palm Beach County’s scandal-ridden county
commission a lesser role in picking a new full-time government watchdog.
Since 2006, three former county commissioners have gone to prison on federal
corruption charges, prompting a slate of proposed ethics reforms.
Key among them are establishing a new Ethics Commission as well as hiring an
inspector general, who would be charged with investigating corruption and
County officials and community groups had differed over how much power the
County Commission would have over the new Ethics Commission and inspector
A previous version called for the independently appointed Ethics Commission to
recruit and choose the new inspector general, but left it up to the County
Commission to approve the selection.
The new county proposal allows the Ethics Commission to pick the inspector general,
and then leaves it to the county attorney?s office to negotiate a contract with the
chosen candidate. The County Commission would still have to approve the contract,
at least for the initial inspector general.
Removing the inspector general would still require a supermajority vote of the
seven-member County Commission, after a review by the Ethics Commission and
two public hearings.
The ethics reforms go for an initial vote before the County Commission on Dec. 1,
with a final vote scheduled for Dec. 15.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 8, 2009 Sunday
Lobbyists open wallets to influence Pa. budget
HARRISBURG - When it became clear that the state budget was in crisis mode, three
industries with much at stake in Harrisburg opened their wallets.
Gambling interests, natural-gas drillers, and tobacco companies have since January
spent more than $4.5 million combined on lobbying efforts, according to expense
reports filed last week with the state.
Those industries were among the few winners in a budget ravaged by the recession.
Casinos are poised to introduce poker and other newly legalized table games.
Natural-gas drillers and tobacco companies fought off new taxes.
Six-figure lobbying campaigns are not new in Pennsylvania's capital. And it's hard to
know the extent to which such activity changes legislators' minds. Even so, critics
say the dollar amounts speak for themselves.
Industries "wouldn't spend money like that if it didn't work," said Barry Kauffman,
executive director of Common Cause of Pennsylvania, a watchdog group.
Lobbying expenditures are, in Kauffman's view, "a key indicator of how Harrisburg
really works: Invest a lot of money, and you are going to have a lot more clout at
the bargaining table."
Comparing recent expenditures with past lobbying efforts is difficult. Pennsylvania
didn't enact its disclosure law until late 2006, long after most states. And unless they
provide gifts or lodging, those who try to influence state decision makers must report
little detail other than the totals spent.
Arthur Zaretsky, for one, isn't shy about describing the details: He hosted receptions
and made his case to legislators over food and cigars - the latter being his business.
Zaretsky never thought he would need a lobbyist until it became clear to him this
year that Gov. Rendell and Democratic legislators had set their sights on his
livelihood. They wanted to help close the budget gap by taxing cigars.
Zaretsky, owner of Famous Smoke Shop, an Easton Internet and mail-order retailer
of premium cigars, hired Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott L.L.C., a Pittsburgh law
firm with a Harrisburg office.
"I needed to educate the politicians about exactly what it is we do and how many
people we employ and that putting on a tax would not be a good idea," he said.
Eventually, Republican legislative leaders defeated the proposed cigar tax, along with
one proposed for smokeless products such as chewing tobacco and snuff. Left
standing was a new tax on little cigars - cigarillos.
In all, tobacco interests large and small spent nearly $1.5 million on lobbying from
January through Sept. 30, records show.
Reynolds American Inc., whose subsidiary Conwood Co. is the nation's second-
largest producer of smokeless tobacco products, devoted the most - $670,658.
Lobbying in the capital takes many forms - meetings with legislators, letter-writing,
and "blast" e-mail campaigns orchestrated by lobbyists. There are studies and polls
and white papers commissioned by lobbyists.
"There is nothing wrong with lobbying per se. It is just delivering information. It's
valuable," said Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware). "The problem comes when lobbyists
try to do more than inform, try to ingratiate themselves to you. And that happens a
lot in Harrisburg."
To natural-gas drillers, too, the writing was on the wall as early as February. That
was when Rendell announced in his budget address that he was pushing for a new
tax on the odorless, colorless gas found deep below Pennsylvania's soil.
Rendell said the tax would bring in about $100 million this year, thanks to what he
called the "gold rush" of new drilling for natural gas in the vast underground
formation known as the Marcellus Shale.
But in late August, the governor - to the surprise of some of his aides - said drilling
executives had convinced him that imposing the tax this year would stunt the growth
of the industry. Rendell said he would abandon his push until next year. The
companies won another major victory in the prolonged budget battle, persuading
lawmakers to open up thousands of additional acres of state forest land to drillers
despite the concerns of environmentalists. The industry's argument: The state could
bring in more revenue by leasing the land to drillers than by taxing the gas
As a whole, the natural-gas industry reported spending about $1.6 million on
lobbying thus far this year.
Range Resources Appalachia L.L.C., a Texas company that has invested heavily in
drilling in the Marcellus Shale, led the way, spending $605,817 this year - nearly
triple the expenditure of the next-closest natural-gas company, Chesapeake
Appalachia L.L.C. By comparison, Range Resources reported spending less than
$200,000 on lobbying here last year.
"Natural gas has a big story to tell and a good story to tell," said Matthew M.
Pitzarella, spokesman and registered lobbyist for Range Resources. "It is critically
important that our elected leaders and regulators have a healthy understanding of
modern natural-gas development and the potential for Pennsylvania."
As the economy sank, the odds of adding table games to slots parlors, once just a
dream for the casino industry, improved greatly. Expanding gambling options
created a "full-time employment opportunity" for the lobbying community, said
Kauffman, of Common Cause.
The millions in revenue that roulette, poker, and blackjack could raise was too great
a lure for lawmakers and Rendell to ignore, and the industry was ready to trumpet
The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, which opened in May, reported spending about
$307,000 so far this year lobbying - more than any other gaming company in the
Such an amount came as no surprise in Harrisburg. Since the state approved slots
parlors in 2004, the casino lobby has become an "influential force in the halls of
government," said Rep. Paul Clymer (R., Bucks), the legislature's leading gambling
The industry's pitch was simple: Table games meant new jobs and new revenue for a
state in dire need of both.
"They have deep pockets and have made the right connections and, as a result, have
been successful in getting their agenda passed," Clymer said. "One-and-a-half
million dollars might seem like a lot of money, but when you compare it to what they
will make on table games, well, it's a great investment."
The lobbyists' work isn't complete. Legislative leaders in the House and Senate have
yet to come to terms on the details of the table-games legislation. Sticking points
include how much the state would charge the casinos in taxes and licensing fees.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
November 6, 2009 Friday
GOP leaders OK contribution limits
Moved in part by a tough citizen initiative petition on legislative ethics and campaign
finance reform, some GOP legislative leaders have agreed to the adoption of
campaign contribution limits for state candidates and officeholders. They had
previously opposed such limits. At a meeting of the governor's democracy
commission it was revealed that over several days a number of secret meetings
between Utah's top political leaders and commissioners ? who had already adopted a
more restrictive contribution limit ?
had reached a compromise. House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, who is not a
member of the commission, said in a telephone interview Thursday night that the
donation cap agreement "is a big move" forward in government/campaign reform in
Utah. Senate Majority Whip Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, a commission member, voted
for it and Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, chairman of the House Governor
Operations Committee, also a commission member who voted for it, said he had
opened a bill on the donation cap agreement. Gov. Gary Herbert spokeswoman Angie
Welling, who said neither she nor Herbert had heard of the agreement, said after
speaking with the governor that he was not on board with, but is willing to sit down
and talk about it. Herbert told the commission in an Oct. 1 meeting that he has long
been opposed to campaign donation limits, and prefers more "transparency" in
quickly disclosing donations, perhaps on the Web. But Herbert also said he could be
persuaded to change his view by true and convincing facts. The Governor's
Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy's recommendation, if adopted by
the 2010 Legislature, would mean that Herbert, who took several whopping $50,000
individual donations at his last week's Governor's Gala fundraiser, would only be able
to take $5,000 per year, or $10,000 over a two-year election cycle, from an
individual, PAC or business. Herbert raised $1 million at last week's event, and he
likely would not be able to raise that much at a single event again should the new
agreement become law. The donation cap agreement is a turnaround for some GOP
legislative leaders, who have said for months that they wanted no campaign
donation limits, but instead preferred quick disclosure of all campaign donations.
Voters could then decide if any campaign donation was inappropriate, they said.
Clark and several other GOP legislators noted that not all House and Senate GOP
leaders had been asked about the agreement, and certainly the Republican caucuses
in both the House and Senate had also not taken votes on the agreement. Thus,
passage in the 2010 Legislature is not a done deal. The proposed caps on individual
giving over a two-year election cycle are: $10,000 limit in statewide races, like
governor and attorney general ($20,000 over a four-year term); $5,000 in legislative
races (that would be $10,000 over a senator's four-year term, $5,000 for a two-year
House term); $50,000 to political parties; and $10,000 to PACs over two years.
Anyone could give up to $200 to a candidate and not be listed by name. And any
individual couldn't give more than $50,000 per two-year election cycle in the political
arena, whether to state candidates, parties or PACs. The commission's campaign
donation limit recommendations fall well short of those imposed by a far-reaching
citizen petition initiative now out for voter signatures. (That initiative would limit only
legislative candidates and sitting lawmakers' contributions; it does not apply to
statewide races, like governor). House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton, has
said before that lawmakers' consideration of an independent ethics commission is
being influenced by the Utahns For Ethical Government citizen initiative. Clark said
when he was elected speaker last year he wanted a number of government reforms
but couldn't get them all addressed in the 2009 Legislature. The legislators' idea of
an independent ethics commission and, now, campaign donation limits, are a
continuation of that ongoing work, Clark said Thursday night. "We're not done. We're
still working on ideas that, we hope, will give Utahns greater confidence" in the
Legislature and state government, he said. Herbert's commission ended its work
Thursday. It's recommendations and membership can be found at
strengthendemocracy.org. Herbert's democracy commission voted down the idea of
requiring registered lobbyists to join a professional lobbyist association.
Commissioners also voted down the idea of splitting Utah's electoral college votes
based on the state's popular vote for president. Now, all such votes go to the
candidate who wins the popular vote. But Jenkins said the Legislature "will find a
way to fund it," although he doubted it would cost that much.State GOP chairman
Dave Hansen, a member of the democracy commission, said such a panel could cost
between $500,000 and $1 million over the six years of a retired judge's commission
term. The three-member campaign filing commission, made up of retired judges,
would also oversee the financial filings of registered lobbyists. The governor's
commission, in other action Thursday night, decided to recommend a new
"independent" commission be set up to oversee the proper campaign filing for
candidates and lobbyists. But that new campaign/election commission would not look
into any ethics complaints against lawmakers or governors, only whether the
officeholders are properly filing their campaign finance disclosures.
Palm Beach Post (Florida)
November 6, 2009 Friday
ROTHSTEIN LOBBYIST HAS TIES TO CRIST CAMPAIGNS
A capital city lobbying operation of Scott Rothstein provides another link between the
beleaguered Fort Lauderdale lawyer and Gov. Charlie Crist.
One of the two lobbyists running the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler office was Cheryl
Seinfeld, the Republican Party of Florida's finance director from October 2006 to July
2008. Seinfeld also worked on Crist's 2006 gubernatorial campaign and "Yes on 1 --
Save Our Homes NOW," Crist's 2008 campaign for a property tax constitutional
amendment, according to campaign finance records.
A party spokeswoman said she was let go because of restructuring. Rothstein
Rosenfeldt Adler hired her within days, according to her profile on LinkedIn.com.
Grant Smith, son of former U.S. Rep. Larry Smith, D-Hollywood, also works in the
The Rothstein firm is registered to lobby Crist and state lawmakers. Its 10 clients
during the past two years included Edify LLC, a health benefits consulting company
in Fort Lauderdale that recommended the Palm Beach County School District hire
Blue Cross Blue Shield instead of keeping United Healthcare.
The school board retained Blue Cross after employee protests.
Edify, which includes Rothstein on its board, has donated $24,000 to the state
Republican Party, $5,000 to South Florida GOP Reps. Adam Hasner and Ellyn
Bogdanoff, and $1,000 to Crist's 2006 campaign.
Rothstein, who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Crist's 2006
gubernatorial campaign and 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, is being investigated by
federal agents in what investors describe as a Ponzi scheme running into the
hundreds of millions of dollars.
FBI and IRS agents on Thursday took 44 boxes of evidence from his Fort Lauderdale
office, including banking records from Gilbraltar Private Bank & Trust and TD Bank,
cash from a credenza, a key to a Ferrari, 21 "deal folders" and a number of binders
containing corporate, financial and property records.
Agents also searched the office of Debra Villegas, the firm's chief operating officer.
Inside her office was an itinerary for Rothstein's Oct. 27 flight to Morocco. He left the
country as investors were discovering that their money had disappeared, but
returned this week.
The Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)
November 5, 2009 Thursday
Petrolalti denies link to lobbying; Judge refuses to dismiss charges involving
ticket broker bill.
BOSTON - An accountant, charged with illegally lobbying on Beacon Hill for a bill
sought by ticket brokers, said that Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati was at one point
working on "a daily basis" to assist in passing the bill, according to a decision issued
last week by a judge in Boston.
Petrolati's lawyer on Wednesday said the accountant, Richard Vitale, of Boston, was
attempting to make it appear he was working hard for his clients and his fees. But he
said that Petrolati spent virtually no time on the disputed bill.
"Petrolati was never on it for one day, never mind a daily basis," said Jack St. Clair,
of Springfield, lawyer for Petrolati. "Tom did not play an integral role in this
Petrolati, a Ludlow Democrat and the speaker pro tempore, is not charged in a
criminal case against the accountant brought by Attorney General Martha M.
Coakley. And Petrolati will not be charged in the case, the legislator's lawyer said on
The bill sought to change a law that sets price limits on reselling tickets. The state
House of Representatives passed the bill in October 2007 but it died in the Senate.
Petrolati could be a witness against Vitale if the state case goes to trial, St. Clair
said. Vitale is a friend of a former House speaker.
Vitale is charged in state court by Coakley for failing to register as a lobbyist,
receiving a lobbying contract with a possible success fee and exceeding limits of
Last week, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frank M. Gaziano issued a 40-page ruling
denying Vitale's motions to dismiss the indictments.
The decision is based on testimony during a court hearing held in June to consider
dismissal of the state charges.
Vitale, former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, and two others also were indicted
in U.S. District Court in Boston on charges they conspired to help a software
company receive state contracts and that they hid the money they received from the
In the decision in the state case against Vitale, the judge said the evidence shows
that Vitale's lobbying activities included meeting with Petrolati to discuss the ticket
broker bill, providing Petrolati with a copy of a bill from New York whose language
was used in a draft of the broker bill in Massachusetts, arranging a meeting that
involved Petrolati and passing along to Petrolati comments from ticket brokers on the
In July 2007, Vitale, responding to a request for an update on the bill from a ticket
broker, said that he had "Petrolati starting on it now on a daily basis," the decision
On Sept. 25, 2007, Vitale delivered to Petrolati a package that contained an e-mail
on the bill from James Holzman, president of the Massachusetts Association of Ticket
Telephone records also showed five calls between Petrolati's and Vitale's cell phones
that day, the decision said.
St. Clair said Petrolati made the cell phone calls to discuss work an employee at
Vitale's company was doing on his late father's estate.
In a separate instance, Petrolati was at Vitale's office one day to talk about his late
father's estate when by coincidence, Holzman was also there, St. Clair said. Petrolati
discussed the ticket broker bill with Holzman that day and DiMasi participated via
"He wasn't there for a meeting with Holzman," St. Clair said.
The bottom line, St. Clair said, is that Petrolati made no changes to the bill and took
no affirmative actions on the bill other than to vote in favor. The House
overwhelmingly approved the bill.
"Under no circumstances did Tom Petrolati do anything illegal," St. Clair said.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general, Emily J. LaGrassa, said by e-mail on
Wednesday that Vitale's trial was initially scheduled for next month, but will be
postponed. There are motions and other preliminary court work that still need to be
done, the spokeswoman said.
"In terms of whether any others will be charged or who will be called as witnesses at
trial, I cannot comment at this time," LaGrassa wrote.
Vitale has denied working as a lobbyist. His lawyer, Martin Weinberg, of Boston, has
said that Vitale was exempt from the state's lobbying registration requirements and
was not compelled to register.