Delegate's bill record subpoenaed

Fulton, lobbyists investigated by federal authorities

Study reaches to 1996

Inquiry targets measures affecting paint companies

May 22, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Extending their criminal investigation of Del. Tony E. Fulton's relationship with State House lobbyists, federal authorities have subpoenaed the lawmaker's legislative records and voting history going back to 1996, according to federal documents.

The broad subpoena is part of investigators' efforts to find out if Fulton might have been helping State House lobbyists Gerard E. Evans and John R. Stierhoff generate business beginning in 1997, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Federal inquiries had earlier appeared to be limited to events this past fall.

The grand jury subpoena -- delivered to the General Assembly's legal office May 10 and obtained by The Sun -- makes a sweeping demand for copies of legislation the West Baltimore Democrat has drafted in the past four years, testimony he has given in that time, and a record of his floor votes in the House of Delegates.

A key focus of the federal investigation has been lead-paint legislation Fulton considered introducing in the fall -- legislation that four paint manufacturers represented by Evans would have sharply opposed. Evans was paid fees totaling $135,000 in 1997 and last year, according to state records.

Federal authorities are trying to determine if the two lobbyists prodded Fulton to introduce the legislation, which they would have then worked to kill for their clients, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

In interviews this week, state sources said Fulton became involved with the idea of a lead-paint liability bill as far back as the 1997 legislative session, almost two years earlier than had been reported.

State records show that a lead-paint bill that Fulton had legislative staff draft during the 1997 session would have allowed plaintiffs in civil lawsuits to allocate damages against a manufacturer based on that company's "market share" of the lead-paint market -- sparing plaintiffs the difficult task of proving which company supplied the paint that caused harm.

Fulton did not introduce the lead-paint bill in 1997.

It was during the 1997 session that Evans and Stierhoff first registered as lobbyists on behalf of the paint companies -- Sherwin-Williams Co. and Glidden Paint Co., both of Cleveland; NL Industries of Houston; and Millennium Inorganic Chemicals of Red Bank, N.J.

For the past three years, Evans has listed one issue that he has been tracking for the paint companies on his state lobbying registration forms -- possible market share legislation.

As part of that lobbying, Evans arranged a meeting with Fulton and representatives of some of his paint company clients, according to sources familiar with the meeting. The sources said the meeting took place before the 1998 legislative session, but could not recall exactly when.

At that meeting, Fulton discussed his plans for the bill, while Evans and the paint company representatives made their case against it, the sources said. The meeting ended with no clear indication from Fulton about whether he would introduce the bill.

As in 1997, Fulton did not introduce a lead-paint bill during the 1998 session.

Last October, Fulton sent a letter to Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke saying he was planning to develop a coalition to back a lead-paint market-share bill and asking for the mayor's support.

That letter made its way to Evans, who forwarded it to at least two of his paint company clients, according to representatives of the two firms.

Investigators are examining whether Evans and Stierhoff had a role in drafting Fulton's letter to Schmoke. The mayor, who has been interviewed by FBI agents, did not respond in writing to Fulton's request for support.

Veteran Annapolis advocates for victims of lead-paint poisoning and legislators who have led the effort on such issues said Fulton never told them of his plans to introduce market-share legislation at any time since 1997.

The four paint companies have paid Evans fees totaling $135,000 beginning with the 1997 session to ward off lead-paint market share legislation, according to reports filed by Evans with the State Ethics Commission.

Reports detailing Evans' fees for the recently concluded General Assembly session are due to be filed with the State Ethics Commission at the end of the month.

Fulton, Evans and Stierhoff have declined to comment on the investigation and did not return phone calls seeking a response yesterday.

Federal authorities have declined to confirm or deny the investigation.

Sources have said the U.S. Attorney's office, working with a grand jury, is also examining a real estate transaction last fall in which Evans and Stierhoff steered to Fulton, a Baltimore-based real estate agent, a commission of about $9,000 when they purchased a $600,000 Annapolis office building.

With the subpoena of state legislative records, federal authorities have examined Fulton's financial disclosure forms filed with the ethics commission and his campaign finance records filed with the state election board. Investigators have also subpoenaed records from at least three of Evans' four paint company clients, according to company representatives.

Sun staff writer Greg Garland contributed to this article.

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