August 22, 2006

Ethics Commission: No Problem if the Attorney General Takes Campaign Contributions from Lawyers He is Negotiating With

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Projo’s 7-to-7 blog, the state ethics commission has decided not to investigate the complaint against Attorney General Patrick Lynch filed by William Harsch regarding AG Lynch’s acceptance of campaign contributions from a lawyer representing DuPont around the same time that the lawyer was negotiating DuPont’s release from the state’s lead paint lawsuit.

Mike Stanton had a comprehensive history of the DuPont deal in Sunday’s Projo. Stanton’s reporting again raises the question of what exactly DuPont chief litigation counsel Thomas Sager was trying to get across in his letter-to-the-editor in Friday’s Projo. According to Mr. Sager, DuPont was released from the suit “on the basis of the facts produced in discovery”. However, Stanton’s article tells a very different story…

One of the people [Attorney General Patrick Lynch] heard from was Bernard Nash, a Washington lawyer who has cultivated relationships with attorneys general around the country.

As the head of the State Government and Litigation practice at Dickstein Shapiro, Nash is skilled in finding "creative non-litigation solutions" for corporate clients facing scrutiny from the nation's attorneys general, according to his law firm's Web site. Dickstein Shapiro's lawyers boast "remarkable success" in helping corporate clients "avoid or minimize the impact of investigations and litigation."

Lynch testified in January that he may have first met Nash at a Florida conference of newly elected attorneys general, followed by phone conversations early in 2003.

At first, Lynch said in his deposition, "there was nothing substantive, but more of an introduction . . . and obviously, you know, do I have any inclination or desire to sit down and talk about, you know, any understandings that could be reached, short of having to go back to a second trial."

Nash's pitch on behalf of DuPont, recalled Lynch, was, "We're not as bad as the other guys."

Later in 2003, Lynch asked his chief of staff, Leonard L. Lopes, to serve as a witness to the DuPont negotiations. On Nov. 15, Nash called Lopes.

According to Lopes, Nash asked, "What is it going to take to get out of this?"

A second detail that doesn’t square with Mr. Sager’s claim that DuPont was released on the basis of merit is Attorney General Lynch's claim that the other defendants in the suit could have made a similar deal...
The biggest break occurred in June 2005, when DuPont agreed to donate $12.5 million to several nonprofit organizations; in exchange, Mr. Lynch dropped the company from the lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch said the other paint companies could have reached a similar conclusion, an assertion disputed by Philip H. Curtis, a partner at Arnold & Porter representing Atlantic Richfield.

If both AG Lynch and Mr. Sager have provided accurate information, then all of the lead-paint defendants should have been dropped from the case on the basis of the facts (thus ending the suit) meaning that one or both of the lawyers has not been accurate. The ramifications of this discrepancy are unclear at the moment.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Just learned about this on the way home from work. Heard this alarming news on WGBH = NPR.

For shame!!!

Posted by: Chuck at August 22, 2006 7:48 PM

It is news like this that grinds down people who still believe the system in Rhode Island can be reformed before it collapses. So, Bobby Oliveira and all your cronies, I have a simple question tonight. Why should anybody with job offers outside RI stay here? (that includes most of the people who pay most of the personal income taxes in this state (think Providence Equity Group) Why should we stay in a state that resists offers second rate public schools, despite how much we spend on them; the nation's most inefficient social welfare program (which is attracting more and more poor people here -- note that we already have the lowest Latino family incomes in the nation); some of its most underfunded public sector retirement plans (which means higher taxes in the future); and a virulently anti-business climate that drives aways businesses, drives up health insurance costs, and limits job opportunities? Tell me, Bobby, and you other apologists for this wonderful system you have built in RI, why should the rest of us -- who pay for its inefficiency and ineffectiveness, and also have the daily pleasure of watching and listening and reading as you rub our noses in it -- why should we stay? Don't tell me it's because of the beautiful Bay and "high quality of life." Last time I checked, there's plenty of that on offer in other places. So, what's the best argument you can make? I'm waiting...

Posted by: John at August 22, 2006 9:11 PM

Lynch is a whore. Tell me something I don't already know.
If only Harsch could step up to the plate and give me one more good, sound reason to vote for him (as I did four years ago). I've gone from reluctant Lynch voter to very undecided.

Posted by: rhody at August 22, 2006 11:43 PM

According to the commission's own chairman they had numerous cases to determine action on during their meeting but spent 90% of their time debating what action should be taken on the Patrick Lynch complaint. That tells me this was no easy/obvious/there's nothing to this charge type of case. Sadly this commission's decision not to do their due diligence is no surprise at all even though this type of complaint is exactly what this commission should be thoroughly pursuing. One gets the impression this ethics commission is all about the big splash, i.e. whacking a John Celona with a huge fine in a no heavy lifting no brainer no work involved decision that a chimp would have made.
This ethics commission is so Rhode Island and that's not a compliment in any way.

Posted by: Tim at August 23, 2006 7:12 AM

If there was such question over the lynch complaint...if there was such a great debate, don't you think they should have launched an investigation? i mean, THAT'S what this meeting was about: "initial determination" NOT probable cause.

If there were so many questions, then why not launch a full investigation to get more information?

what a sham! just like they let gordon fox off with little more than a slap on the wrist, the commission admitted that this was a high profile case with national implications and didn't want to touch it.

Posted by: johnb at August 23, 2006 8:34 AM

Someone tell Peter Lord to have the paint tested from some of his victim case studies. I'm sure forensics could correlate Dupont to some of the elevated blood level damage. That is, if he's half as interested in making Lynch look bad as he is in denigrating landlords.

Posted by: rhodeymark at August 23, 2006 9:14 AM

John - I would run from RI if there was a less corrupt place to go.

Posted by: taxpayer at August 23, 2006 9:52 AM

If Bill Harsch wants to win this race he should do commercials based solely on the following.

1. Get a list of all child molestors who have benn quietly given NO JAIL sentences in the Lynch regime.
2. Get a list of all lawyers who have paid bribes (er. contributions) to Lynch.
3. Compare the lawyers in the cases in paragraph 1 with the names on list 2.

As someone who spends a whole lot of time on the 5th floor of Superior Court I will tell you even the credulous of RI will be amazed and horrified with the results. Make sure you get some local police mug shots of the molestors.

Posted by: courtromm regular at August 23, 2006 9:56 AM

Dear John,

If the state you described was the state I lived in, I'd leave too. However, it's just not.

Based on No Child Left Behind Stats, we are doing better than many other states based on the pool of children we are trying to educate. Would you rather have MS schools? How about Utah's? How about one of those god-awful backwards places where they teach creationism?

Our social welfare program does need reform. However, reform takes har workers, not those who are after ego engrandisement. If I promise to help you bring this about, will you promise to help me? If you take on this promise, you can say it's getting better and therefore not a reason to leave.

We do have an underfunding issue, just like every other urban area. However, compared to the San Diego's of the world, we have problems that we can handle.

Your comments about the business climate directly contradict what the Governor continually says. If businesses don't come here, it has to do with our geography/cost of utilities relationship and not much else. Yes costs are higher as are profits and the ability of the wage earners to create revenue. I notice none of these firms go running to Nebraska where insurance rates are rock bottom.

You should stay because it is not as bad as you described. Unfortunately, you're another human being who's been caught up in the Governor's mixed message propaganda.

Let's get it straight, if Don Carcieri wins or loses, just like last time, it has very little to do with Don Carcieri. If you leave or stay, and it sounds like you're staying, it has very little to do with the well thought out, even if not exactly "true", view of our state you presented.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at August 23, 2006 10:23 AM

'John - I would run from RI if there was a less corrupt place to go.'

If you honestly believe that all of the states are as corrupt as Rhode Island than you're either:

1. Naive
2. Mentally deficient
3. Someone who's never lived outside of Rhode Island
4. All of the above

Posted by: Greg at August 23, 2006 11:04 AM

Dear Greg,

Unfortunately, the facts do not support your argument. It has been recently displayed that Montana is more corrupt than we are.

My suggestion is get away from the Carcieri spewed romantic myth and deal with reality. Then, unlike the Governor, you might produce a conservative moment that would win instead of lose seats.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at August 23, 2006 12:38 PM