Thursday, November 23, 2006

President of NYS&W Agrees to Fine

Following article from the AP about Walter Rich. Kind of reminds me of the 1800's when railroad tycoons bought influence with the politicians of the day.

Railroad Executive Agrees to $75,000 Fine in Lobbying Probe
Mon November 20, 2006 3:52 p.m. ET
By MARK JOHNSON the Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Railroad executive Walter Rich agreed to pay a $75,000 fine to settle an investigation into lavish Baseball Hall of Fame induction events he hosts annually for state officials, lobbyists and others at his Cooperstown mansion, his lawyer said Monday.

James Featherstonhaugh said Rich admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement with the state Lobbying Commission. The commission is slated to approve the settlement at its meeting Tuesday.

Lobbying commission Executive Director David Grandeau declined comment.
The commission was looking into whether Rich, president of the New York Susquehanna and Western Railway Corp., provided illegal gifts to state officials.

Included on the guest list for the past two Hall of Fame weekends were state assemblymen Peter Abbate and Steven Cymbrowitz; Gov. George Pataki’s senior policy adviser, Jeff Lovell; State University of New York Chancellor Robert King; state Transportation Commissioner Thomas Madison; and Steven Boggess, secretary of the state Senate, according to records obtained by the commission.

The railway spends about $100,000 each year providing lodging, lunches, dinners and tickets to baseball games to various politicians, lobbyists, state officials and others, according to a report from Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the state Inspector General’s Office. That report spurred the lobbying commission to begin its investigation last year.New York’s laws prohibit a lobbyist or client from offering or giving gifts valued at more than $75 per year to any individual.
Rich’s lawyers had argued that the events associated with the Hall of Fame weekend are exempt from investigation by the commission because they were political and charitable fundraising events, not lobbying.

Events in recent years have raised funds for Republican politicians including Pataki, state Sen. James Seward and U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert as well as the Salvation Army, according to a ruling by Acting Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara, who earlier this year ordered Rich to testify before the commission.