Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Former Barnes & Thornburg Lobbyist Guilty Of Honest Services Fraud

Kevin Ring becomes the second former D.C. lobbyist for Barnes & Thornburg to be found guilty for honest services fraud. Ring is a former associate of corrupt D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff who traded free tickets and other gifts to secure earmarks and other special actions from Congress on behalf of his clients. Today he was found guilty on five counts of conpiracy, providing illegal gratuities and honest services wire fraud. "For years, this team of lobbyists schemed to corrupt public officials, and, because of their actions, Americans were denied honest services of public servants," Principal Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division [of the Justice Department] said in a statement.

Another Barnes & Thornburg lobbyist and former associate of Abramoff's, Neil Volz, pleaded guilty in 2007 to similar charges. Barnes & Thornburg hired the two former Abramoff associates in order to build their D.C. practice. Shortly after the two began working for the firm, a federal probe into their lobbying activities was launched by the Justice Department. Similarly, the law firm hired City-County Councilor Ryan Vaughn as a lobbyist as soon as the Republicans took control of the Indianapolis City-County Council and Greg Ballard won an upset victory over former Mayor Bart Peterson. Vaughn has unabashedly used his council position to advance the interest of his law firm's clients and often refuses to recuse himself from matters directly pertaining to his clients before the council, including tonight's vote on the controversial 50-year parking meter lease deal with ACS. Vaughn retaliated against Councilor Christine Scales when she refused to support the deal by removing her from the Public Safety Committee. Vaughn's law firm lobbies both the state of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis on behalf of ACS. Although state lobbying records showed Vaughn was a registered lobbyist for ACS, he claimed he was inadvertently listed as a lobbyist for the company by a paralegal who filed the lobbying registration statements for the firm's lobbyists.

Observers at tonight's council meeting during the vote noted the presence of Barnes & Thornburg attorney and ACS lobbyist Joe Loftus, who is also a paid lobbyist for Mayor Greg Ballard. "Joe Loftus was at the meeting tonight, and after the vote, he was smiling and on his cell phone talking to somebody," commented fellow blogger Chris Worden. "So here's my question," Worden continued, "Was he there for ACS or the Mayor?" "You make the call!" Loftus has denied he lobbied for the parking meter lease deal even though he is ACS's registered lobbyist with the city. Deputy Mayor Mike Huber, who spearheaded the initiative on behalf of the Ballard administration, formerly worked for a high level ACS executive, Skip Stitt, and was handpicked by Loftus to work in Ballard's administration. How much more evidence needs to accumulate before Vaughn is investigated for honest services fraud? Ironically, Vaughn led the effort by Republicans on the council in 2007 to investigate ethics complaints against former City-County Council President Monroe Gray. Gray's bad judgment doesn't even approach the level of ethical improprieties undertaken by Vaughn these past three years.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Vaughn's defense to having a conflict of interest is laughable. He told Abdul that it was okay to advocate and vote for the deal, despite a conflict of interest, because the vote turned out to be 15-14 and would not have passed without his vote. It's amazing that someone trained in the law would offer such a ridiculous rationalization.

It's time that Vaughn, Loftus and the whole B&T that has been buying and selling political influence for years be investigated.

Cato said...

Investigated by whom, Paul? Everyone in Indy is in on the scam.

This is a corporate version of some creepy New England town in a Stephen King novel wherein anyone who doesn't support the evil practices of the town comes to a grim end. Like a Stephen King town, Indy is unaffected by the mores and pressures that confront the outside world.

That B&T attorney only got in trouble because he thought the whole world ran like Indy.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Oh Cato. I wish you weren't right.

artfuggins said...

How long before someone files a complaint against Ryan Vaughn either with the Ethics Commission or the Bar Association or some body that investigates what Vaughn admits is an "appearance of a conflict of interest."

Had Enough Indy? said...

So Paul, if the vote were 17 ayes, it would have been wrong for Vaughn to vote on the proposal?

He comes up with one nutty ethics rule interpretation after another. Maybe he should have attended an actual class in ethics during his law school stint.