Asbestos measure included in probe of Fulton, lobbyists

Federal investigation examines Annapolis ties

May 07, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

The federal investigation of two prominent State House lobbyists and a Baltimore delegate may be broader than was publicly known, with a focus on legislation dealing with asbestos litigation as well as lead paint matters.

A report in The Sun yesterday disclosed that federal authorities are examining the relationship between the two lobbyists, John R. Stierhoff and Gerard E. Evans, and Del. Tony E. Fulton, a West Baltimore Democrat. Sources familiar with the investigation said this week that authorities were focusing on Fulton's move last year to introduce sweeping General Assembly legislation targeting companies that manufactured lead paint.

But documents subpoenaed by federal prosecutors and released yesterday by Baltimore officials show that the legislation was also aimed at asbestos manufacturers.

Investigators are trying to determine whether the lobbyists pushed Fulton to introduce the legislation as a way to generate new or additional lobbying fees from corporate clients, sources familiar with the inquiry said.

Evans and Stierhoff represent at least three paint companies that would be affected by the legislation, firms that have paid Evans $77,500 for his representation during the 1997 and 1998 General Assembly sessions.

During the recently concluded legislative session, the Evans-Stierhoff firm also represented for the first time two companies that manufactured asbestos, according to the lobbyists' disclosure forms filed with the State Ethics Commission.

Reports detailing how much the lobbyists earned from those companies are to be filed with the commission this month.

The investigation also involves an Annapolis real estate transaction last year in which the two lobbyists steered a commission of about $9,000 to Fulton, a real estate agent based in Baltimore County, according to sources.

In an October letter released yesterday by the Baltimore solicitor's office, Fulton urged Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to support his proposed legislation targeting lead paint and asbestos manufacturers.

"It is time that elected leaders stand up against corporate special interest and require those who are responsible for this atrocity to pay for appropriate damages done to children and their families," Fulton wrote.

Schmoke did not respond in writing to the letter but wrote in a note to an aide that he looked forward to reviewing the legislation.

Fulton did not introduce the bill during the recently concluded 90-day session of the General Assembly.

Schmoke's office turned over Fulton's letter to the U.S. attorney's office late last month in response to a grand jury subpoena delivered to the mayor's office April 14.

The subpoena, which also was released yesterday, requested "any and all records of legislative activities relating to lead paint abatement in Baltimore City and market share liability for hazardous products."

The bill that Fulton proposed to introduce would have allowed plaintiffs in civil lawsuits to allocate responsibility in cases involving lead paint and other dangerous substances according to each manufacturer's "market share" of the total production of such products.

The legislation also would have spared plaintiffs the task of identifying the maker of the product in each case.

Such legislation would have been fiercely opposed by lead paint and asbestos manufacturers -- including several clients of Evans and Stierhoff.

Fulton, who did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, said this week that he did not know about a federal investigation involving his legislation.

Stierhoff and Evans did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Pub Date: 5/07/99

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