Lobbying Taints Ticket Bill

The speaker of the Massachusetts House is facing complaints from an ethics commission regarding his friendship with a man accused of improperly lobbying on behalf of ticket brokers.

Last year, after state legislators proposed a bill to set limits on ticket resales, a group of brokers scheduled a meeting with Richard Vitale, the personal accountant and former treasurer of House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, according to the Boston Globe.

Brokers allegedly retained Vitale’s services with promises that he could "do things a registered lobbyist couldn’t do – behind the scenes," a source reportedly close to the matter told the paper.

When a bill to lift state regulations on ticket resales passed through the House with DiMasi’s support months later, it appeared the efforts of the brokers and Vitale were successful. However, the legislation later hit a snag in the Senate, where it currently sits.

It seems that a problem lies in the fact that Vitale wasn’t registered as a lobbyist at the time the ticket brokers contracted his services.

Lobbying laws required Vitale to register as a lobbyist if the brokers paid him more than $5,000 to influence DiMasi, which anonymous sources confirmed to the paper. But an ongoing financial relationship between the two men (Vitale loaned DiMasi $250,000 for a third mortgage) would have violated the state’s conflict of interest laws, the Globe reported.

Through a representative, Vitale denied the lobbying and conflict of interest charges, claiming he merely worked as a "strategist" for the ticket brokers’ issue.

Likewise, DiMasi told the paper he’s never accepted anything from a lobbyist and that he had never spoken to Vitale about the ticketing legislation.

"I had no idea that he was working for them or what his relationship was," DiMasi said. "He’s never talked to me about any legislation at all."

Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that continue to regulate secondary ticketing markups, which it limits to $2 above face value per ticket.

Although the broker-friendly legislation passed through the House last year, Sen. Michael Morrissey, a member of a joint committee that oversaw the ticketing legislation, told the paper he planned to insert ticketing price caps into the companion bill in the state Senate.