Lobbyist's time spent in court is off the clock

This Just In...

June 23, 2000|By Dan Rodricks

I ARRIVE IN the federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore, fresh from Pratt Street, which is splashed in the colors of hundreds of conventioneering square dancers - there are as many as 15,000 here - and tourists hustling down to the harbor for OpSail. Despite the surreal allure of the street, I take a seat in Courtroom 5C - very nice, by the way - and there's Gerry Evans, the big-shot Annapolis lobbyist on trial for mail fraud. Evans wears a dark suit and shoes with tassels - very nice, by the way - and, now and then, he slips a peek at his wristwatch, and I try to imagine what this guy must be thinking: time and money. He's gotten himself into one bad pickle with this federal indictment and this long jury trial, and it must be costing him big-time in legal fees. Never mind all the clients he could be billing instead of blowing several working days in a courtroom.

Time and money.


What a waste.

Evans could be golfing with clients. He could be fishing on a party boat out of Chesapeake Beach, schmoozing on deck with politicians and other pals.

He could be on the clock.

Instead, look at him - once a million-dollar-a-year lobbyist, until recently the highest-paid in the state, on trial for trying to make a little something extra with what's been called "creative lobbying techniques."

I call it rainmaking.

I think the dictionary definition applies beautifully: "The act or process of attempting by some scientific or other artificial means to produce rain or to make rain fall earlier or in greater amounts than would fall naturally."

Evans is accused of trying to drum up extra business for himself by having his pal, Del. Tony Fulton, make some noise about lead-paint legislation that could adversely affect the paint manufacturers Evans represented.

Fulton allegedly gave the appearance that he meant business on lead paint, but he never introduced the legislation. And apparently it's hard to find anyone who even heard him talk about it.

This supposedly was done so Evans, already pulling down $42,000 a month - very nice, by the way - could bill the paint manufacturers for more time and make more in lobbying fees.


There's that theme again.

It seems to dominate this story, doesn't it? It comes up even in the footnotes.

Footnote: Two witnesses who testified against him yesterday didn't make in a year what Gerry Evans paid himself by the month.

James B. Davis III, for instance. Here's a good-looking guy from Baltimore, 28 years old, working his way through law school as a legislative aide in Evans' office in Annapolis. Evans paid him $36,000 a year and his law school tuition, about $4,500 a semester.

Anyway, one day in 1998, Evans called Davis into his office. I think the lobbyist might have been in a mentoring mood that day. According to Davis, Evans wanted to show him a "creative lobbying technique."

Davis said Evans had a copy of a letter Fulton had faxed to then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. The letter outlined Fulton's proposed bill on lead paint.

Evans also had the cover sheet of a fax from the mayor's office.

Davis said he and Evans assembled some office supplies - tape, scissors, some glue, some Wite-Out - and Evans "superimposed" the fax phone line from the mayor's office onto the copy of the Fulton letter.

You following this at home?

This document allegedly became a tool for Evans; he could present it as evidence of a brewing legislative effort - between Fulton and City Hall - to make it easier for victims of lead-paint poisoning to sue manufacturers for damages. The implication of Davis' testimony was clear: Evans was using "creative lobbying techniques" to raise his clients' concern about future litigation over lead-paint poisoning.

Even if there was no real cause for such concern in 1998.

Even if Tony Fulton had no intention of filing the so-called "market-share liability" legislation.

Davis said he followed Evans' orders and faxed the document to some paint manufacturers.

In the rainmaking metaphor, that's seeding the clouds.

Then Tanya Bailey came to the witness box. She's a secretary to members of the House of Delegates, including Fulton. She earned $20,000 in one year - less than what Gerry Evans made in two weeks in 1998.

Yesterday, she said she never heard Fulton discuss this "market-share liability" business. Never saw it on his schedule for discussion with anyone, including Schmoke. She couldn't recall ever typing a letter to anyone about it.

Schmoke, testifying on videotape, said he never heard about it, either. He spoke with Fulton about education matters, mental health, children and justice. Not lead paint. Fulton was by no means a leader in efforts to make it easier for victims of the poisoning to sue paint manufacturers. "I did not have conversations with him about market-share liability," Schmoke said emphatically. He couldn't recall ever meeting with Evans to discuss it, either.

So maybe there was no brewing legislative movement to go after Evans' clients, and therefore no need for the lobbyists' extra efforts to stop it. Maybe it was, as alleged, all one big fraud scheme engineered by a guy in shoes with tassels, and who had a great thing going in Annapolis without it.

If convicted, Evans and Fulton each face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the 11 counts against them.

That's a lot of T&M.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.