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DiMasi accountant indicted on lobbying, campaign finance violations
By Andrea Estes and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
The accountant and campaign treasurer for House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi has been indicted on charges of violating lobbying and campaign finance laws stemming from work on behalf of a ticket brokersí organization.
Richard Vitale is accused of secretly pushing legislation on behalf of the ticket brokers, which included directly lobbying DiMasi and House Speaker pro tempore Thomas Petrolati on several occasions. In one instance, Vitale forwarded e-mails from the ticket brokers to a personal e-mail address of DiMasi, according to a press release issued by the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley. Investigators also allege that Vitale used a courier service to deliver printed copies of e-mails from the ticket brokers to Petrolatiís office.
"Investigators found that on at least one occasion, Vitale delivered an e-mail which requested specific changes to the bill, which the House of Representatives made before passing the bill," the press release says.
Vitale's lawyer, Martin Weinberg, described the charges as regulatory offenses and maintained that his client had done nothing wrong.
"This demonstrates that despite a pretty intensive state grand jury there is no evidence of felonies," Weinberg said.
Vitale, who was not registered as a lobbyist, also allegedly tried to conceal his role by arranging meetings in his accounting firm office and other private locations. On at least one occasion, Vitale specifically instructed a member of the ticket brokers' association not to disclose the role of his company, WN Advisors, according to the press release.
Vitale, 63, and his company were indicted on 10 counts. The charges include two counts of failing to file timely registration statements; making an illegal agreement for compensation contingent on the passage of legislation; and four counts of making campaign contributions in excess of the $200 maximum per year. WN Advisors is charged with two counts of failing to file timely registration statements and making an illegal agreement for compensation contingent on the passage of legislation.
Vitale is scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 5 in Suffolk Superior Court. Coakley said the investigation was "on-going."
DiMasi and Petrolati have not been charged with any crimes.
"All of my decisions are based solely on what is in the best interests of my constituents and the Commonwealth and, in this case, the House of Representatives passed ticket legislation that protects consumers," DiMasi said in a brief statement this afternoon. He said that he intended to stay focused on working with his colleagues to address the state budget crisis, solve transportation problems, and "make Massachusetts a better place to live, work and raise a family."
The Globe first reported in October that Coakley had launched an investigation of financial ties between DiMasi, Vitale, and an association of ticket brokers that hired Vitale to help push a bill through the Legislature. The Massachusetts Association of Ticket Brokers paid Vitale $60,000 as it pursued legislation that would deregulate their industry. Vitale had given DiMasi a rare, below-market-rate third mortgage in 2006 that DiMasi repaid after the Globe wrote about the arrangement.
Vitale has not acknowledged that he lobbied for the group. As a lobbyist, he would be prohibited by the state's conflict of interest law from giving DiMasi the mortgage.
The Globe reported on Wednesday that US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan had convened a separate federal grand jury to investigate the state's awarding of a pair of multimillion dollar contracts to a Burlington software company that made large payments to Vitale and other close associates of DiMasi. The company, Cognos ULC, was awarded a $13 million "performance management software" contract in August 2007.
WN Advisors was paid $600,000 by Joseph Lally, the sales agent and former Cognos executive, who persuaded the state to spend millions on Cognos's software. Vitale did not publicly disclose the payments, has never publicly explained what he did for the money, the bulk of which he received on the same day the state wired payment to Cognos. The state has since rescinded the $13 million contract, and Cognos's new owner, IBM, has returned the money.
Lally's lawyer, Robert Goldstein, would not comment in Wednesday's story on the investigation. A spokesman for Cognos did not return calls.
Another associate of DiMasi who received payments is Steven Topazio, a lawyer who shares downtown office space with the speaker. Topazio was placed on a $5,000-a-month retainer by Cognos for two years. The payments stopped the month the Legislature passed and the governor signed a bond bill that financed the $13 million Cognos contract.