THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Vitale case is referred to Coakley

AG urged to press compliance issue

RICHARD VITALE RICHARD VITALE
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Andrea Estes
Globe Staff / June 18, 2008

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, thwarted in his efforts to examine the relationship between a group of ticket brokers and a close friend of House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, asked Attorney General Martha Coakley yesterday to take whatever steps are necessary "to ensure compliance."

"This represents a remarkable case of stonewalling by people who have taken money to influence public policy," Galvin said in an interview after he sent Coakley an inch-thick pile of documents about the ticket brokers and their hiring of accountant Richard Vitale.

Since her election in 2006 Coakley has not handled an alleged violation of the state's lobbying laws, according to spokeswoman Emily LaGrassa, who would not say how the office will probably proceed with this one. She said the attorney general's office had not prosecuted such a case in at least the last six or seven years.

"If we did in fact receive the letter, we have not seen it," said LaGrassa, whose office was closed yesterday for Bunker Hill Day. "We'll review it. Beyond that, we're not going to comment."

Galvin said he felt compelled to refer the dispute to the attorney general to uphold the spirit of lobbying disclosure rules. "If people feel they don't have to file, then we're inviting the type of activity that ultimately leads to influence peddling and corruption," he said.

The circumstances of this case, Galvin said, made it especially difficult to force compliance. While Galvin has the power to bar lobbyists from working in the state, he said, Vitale doesn't consider himself a lobbyist and therefore the threat would be meaningless.

For nearly two months, Galvin has been trying to compel Vitale, DiMasi's close friend and accountant, to explain inconsistencies between a lobbying report he filed and one filed by the Massachusetts Association of Ticket Brokers.

The ticket brokers reported paying Vitale and lawyer John T. McLaughlin $60,000 in 2007 through his firm WN Advisors LLC. Their 2008 report is not due until July.

But Vitale, who registered as a lobbyist for 2008, reported no income from the group. He admits being hired by the ticket brokers to help with legislation that would remove caps on ticket prices, but has said through a spokesman that he was a strategist, not a lobbyist.

If he had been a registered lobbyist when he worked for the ticket brokers, he and DiMasi might have violated the state's conflict of interest law, which prohibits lobbyists from giving anything to a public official.

Galvin ordered Vitale, McLaughlin, and the ticket brokers to hearings to clear up the contradictions, but they refused to show up. Vitale's lawyer, Richard Egbert, argued that Galvin's office has authority only to compile records and to refer violations to the attorney general.

He said that Vitale could not file disclosure reports even if he wanted to, because he didn't keep any records.

Galvin is supporting legislation that would give him stronger powers to investigate alleged violations of lobbying disclosure rules.

George Regan, Vitale's spokesman, declined to comment on Galvin's referral to the attorney general. "We have not been notified or seen anything in writing, and we're not going to respond to anything we haven't seen," he said. "If something is filed, we'll deal with it then."

Andrea Estes can be reached at estes@globe.com.

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