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Ticket brokers paid Vitale $60,000

DiMasi's friend said he wasn't group's lobbyist

State filings show payments to Richard D. Vitale in 2007. State filings show payments to Richard D. Vitale in 2007.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Andrea Estes
Globe Staff / May 17, 2008

The Massachusetts Association of Ticket Brokers yesterday filed reports with the secretary of state's office indicating it paid Richard D. Vitale $60,000 to work on its behalf in 2007 - contradicting assertions by Vitale that he did not lobby for the group.

The papers filed with William F. Galvin's office show the group paid Vitale's WN Advisors LLC $30,000 between January and June 2007, and another $30,000 between July and December 2007. In addition, the group said it paid an Ohio law firm, Roetzel & Andress, $532 on June 5, 2007, to testify at a legislative hearing.

The association, which said it severed its relationship with Vitale on Tuesday, reported earlier this week that it employed Vitale in 2008 as well, but filings for this year are not due until July.

Vitale, an accountant and close friend of House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, has insisted through spokesman George Regan that he was a "strategist" and not a lobbyist for the group.

Even so, Vitale registered as a lobbyist last week because, Regan said, Vitale wanted to avoid "any misinterpretation" by state regulators.

Vitale registered for 2008 but listed no clients, no payments from clients, and no legislation that he was seeking to influence.

He did not register for 2007, when he pushed legislation that would essentially deregulate the industry by allowing licensed ticket brokers to charge whatever the market would bear. Under existing law, ticket resellers can charge only $2 above a ticket's face value, plus a service charge. The bill passed the House but has been languishing in the Senate since last fall.

In 2006, Vitale gave DiMasi an unusual $250,000 third mortgage on his Commercial Street condo at an interest rate that was below prevailing rates. DiMasi paid off the loan last week, saying he acted as soon as he learned that Vitale might have been a lobbyist. The state's conflict of interest law prohibits lobbyists from giving anything of value to a public official.

On Wednesday, Vitale retired from the Charlestown accounting firm he cofounded, Vitale, Caturano & Co., under pressure from firm partners who warned him to resign or be let go. A spokesman for the firm said he had been working as an employee of the firm since reaching the mandatory retirement age of 62 last year. His photo and profile have been removed from the firm's website.

In a written statement issued yesterday, Regan insisted the ticket brokers' filings were consistent with Vitale's. He pointed to one of several disclaimers in the association's filings, which noted that "No apportionment has been made to determine what amount, if any, is attributable to any lobbying, or if such lobbying activities were in fact performed."

"That doesn't disagree with Mr. Vitale's position that he provided strategic advice rather than lobbying," the Regan's statement said.

But Galvin said there are "inconsistencies" in the reports, which he will try to reconcile next week through "appropriate enforcement action."

He said his office does not distinguish between "strategy sessions and overt lobbying. The statute speaks of promoting legislation. And that's what it appears these payments were for.

"We're going to examine the documents completely " he said, adding that he "appreciates the cooperation of the association" and its lawyer, former US attorney Donald Stern.

Andrea Estes can be reached at estes@globe.com

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