Former Massachusetts accountant Richard Vitale late last week pleaded guilty to all charges related to a four-year-old lobbying violations case involving ticket brokers within the state.
Vitale was accused of breaking lobbying laws when he took payments totaling $60,000 from the Massachusetts Association of Ticket Brokers in 2007 to work on their behalf and convince state legislators to pass a bill that would legalize ticket resale in the state.
According to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, Vitale has been placed on probation for two years and is barred from “acting as a legislative agent or lobbyist entity” in the state for three legislative sessions. He must also pay a fine of $32,000, in addition to forfeiting to the state the $60,000 he received from the broker group.
Charges against Vitale were two counts of “failing to file timely registration statements for 2007 and 2008”; one count of “making an illegal agreement for compensation contingent on the passage of legislation”; one count of “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 for legislative agents.”
The broker group was not accused of any wrongdoing.
Vitale spoke directly to his friend, former state House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, and another legislator about the ticketing bill. Such communication is illegal, and both DiMasi and the other legislator were charged with violations.
Back in 2007, the proposed ticketing legislation was passed in the state House, but as news of the allegations became known, the bill stalled in the state Senate. It remained dormant until this year, when new bills were proposed.
“The failure to register as a lobbyist undermines the integrity of the legislative process,” Coakley said in a statement. “With [the] guilty plea, Mr. Vitale will pay the maximum fines allowed under the law at the time as well as return the amount he was paid for his illegal lobbying activity.”
According to Coakley, Vitale met frequently with the representatives to discuss the legislation, but he had not registered with the state as a lobbyist until 2008. He also negotiated a separate $20,000 payment with the broker group if the bill passed, which is also a violation.
In addition, Vitale passed along e-mails from the broker group to DiMasi and former House Speaker Pro Tempore Thomas Petrolati. On at least one occasion, an e-mail contained proposed changes to the bill that the House adopted.
DiMasi was recently sentenced to eight years in prison on unrelated corruption and ethics charges.
Vitale could not be reached for comment by TicketNews. His attorney, Martin Weinberg, said in a statement to the Boston Herald that Vitale is looking to place the matter behind him.
“My client has lived through an ordeal. He went to trial at a federal court on felonies. He was acquitted. And today is a day for him, in essence, to go on to the next stage of his life, which is to return to being the successful businessman and financial adviser that he was before he was accused,” Weinberg said.