Friday, November 18, 2016

Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General

Emails detail interactions between the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida and a law firm trying to sway her. Credit Alex Wong/Getty Images

Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General
The New York Times
By Eric Lipton
Oct-28, 2014

When the executives who distribute 5-Hour Energy, the popular caffeinated drinks, learned that attorneys general in more than 30 states were investigating allegations of deceptive advertising — a serious financial threat to the company — they moved quickly to shut the investigations down, one state at a time.

But success did not come in court or at a negotiating table.

Instead, it came at the opulent Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California, with its panoramic ocean views, where more than a dozen state attorneys general had gathered last year for cocktails, dinners and fund-raisers organized by the Democratic Attorneys General Association. A lawyer for 5-Hour Energy roamed the event, setting her sights on Attorney General Chris Koster of Missouri, whose office was one of those investigating the company.

"My client just received notification that Missouri is on this," the lawyer, Lori Kalani, told him.

Ms. Kalani’s firm, Dickstein Shapiro, had courted the attorney general at dinners and conferences and with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Mr. Koster told Ms. Kalani that he was unaware of the investigation, and he reached for his phone and called his office. By the end of the weekend, he had ordered his staff to pull out of the inquiry, a clear victory for 5-Hour Energy.

The quick reversal, confirmed by Mr. Koster and Ms. Kalani, was part of a pattern of successful lobbying of Mr. Koster by the law firm on behalf of clients like Pfizer and AT&T — and evidence of a largely hidden dynamic at work in state attorneys general offices across the country.

Attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

A robust industry of lobbyists and lawyers has blossomed as attorneys general have joined to conduct multistate investigations and pushed into areas as diverse as securities fraud and Internet crimes.

But unlike the lobbying rules covering other elected officials, there are few revolving-door restrictions or disclosure requirements governing state attorneys general, who serve as “the people’s lawyers” by protecting consumers and individual citizens.

 A result is that the routine lobbying and deal-making occur largely out of view. But the extent of the cause and effect is laid bare in The Times’s review of more than 6,000 emails obtained through open records laws in more than two dozen states, interviews with dozens of participants in cases and attendance at several conferences where corporate representatives had easy access to attorneys general.

 Often, the corporate representative is a former colleague. Four months after leaving office as chief deputy attorney general in Washington State, Brian T. Moran wrote to his replacement on behalf of a client, T-Mobile, which was pressing federal officials to prevent competitors from grabbing too much of the available wireless spectrum.

"As promised when we met the A.G. last week, I am attaching a draft letter for Bob to consider circulating to the other states," he wrote late last year, referring to the attorney general, Bob Ferguson.

A short while later, Mr. Moran wrote again to his replacement, David Horn. "Dave: Anything you can tell me about that letter?" he said.

"Working on it sir," came the answer. "Stay tuned." By January, the letter was issued by the attorney general largely as drafted by the industry lawyers. Read more

The 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Investigative Reporting

Eric Lipton of The New York Times

For reporting that showed how the influence of lobbyists can sway congressional leaders and state attorneys general, slanting justice toward the wealthy and connected.

Lobbying State Attorneys General
Here is a look at some of the organizations and players that are part of the fast-growing and largely secretive world of lobbying state attorneys general. OCT. 28, 2014

Pam Bondi and Dickstein: A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

Republican Attorneys Generals Association (RAGA)
Money sent to "Justice for All" or "And Justice for All" Groups Associated with Bondi

9/23/13 Republican State Leadership Committee Florida PAC $500,000
12/13/13 Republican State Leadership Committee Florida $50,000
1/28/14 Republican State Leadership Committee-Florida PAC $100,000
10/06/14 Republican Attorneys General Association $100,000

 Regulatory Capture: The Corruption of America

Regulatory Capture

Regulatory capture is a form of government failure that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.[1] When regulatory capture occurs the interests of firms or political groups are prioritised over the interests of the public, leading to a net loss to society as a whole. Government agencies suffering regulatory capture are called "captured agencies". Read more

The Modern State Attorney General Power, Influence, and Ethics

The Modern State Attorney General Power, Influence, and Ethics
Published on Jan 27, 2016

In 2014, the New York Times ran a series of articles by Eric Lipton on the lobbying of state attorneys general by lawyers representing both defense and plaintiff-side interests. The articles painted a remarkable picture of attorneys general so closely tied to industry interests that at the word of a lobbyist they might either initiate or kill an investigation, use industry-drafted letters or pleadings, or farm out investigations to powerful plaintiffs’ firms. The series won Lipton a Pulitzer prize and galvanized investigations and proposed reforms to the practice.

The Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, the Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and the Stanford Journalism Department are pleased to have welcomed Lipton to Stanford for an in-depth discussion of the legal and ethical issues raised by his investigation and the resulting reaction. He was joined by Terry Goddard, former attorney general of Arizona and current Senior Counsel with Dentons’ Public Policy and Regulation Practice, and James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and current Director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School. The discussion was moderated by Stanford Law Professor Nora Engstrom.

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