Jeremy Hutchinson’s lawyer, Tim Dudley, was quoted again today as saying that Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson did legitimate legal work for lobbyist Rusty Cranford when he was pocketing a cool half-million in retainer fees for helping Cranford with, uh, “legal advice” for his lobbying and health services company.
As Dudley told me last week:
I have read Mr. Cranford’s plea agreement. It clearly mischaracterizes Mr. Hutchinson’s work as a practicing attorney and part-time legislator. Mr. Hutchinson has done nothing illegal or unethical.
Without replaying all the details, my position is still this: If this kind of sleazy practice is NOT illegal it SHOULD be.
Arkansas law prohibits a legislator from being a lobbyist. That law came along before further regulation of lobbyists, which said receipt of $500 or more to work to influence legislation made you a lobbyist. Hutchinson sponsored legislation for Cranford, who was paying him a good bit more than $500,000. He didn’t disclose those payments on his annual statements of financial interest under the theory they were in the form of fees to his law practice. Nor did he report any favors arranged for him by Cranford. Cranford’s guilty plea suggests his company arranged travel for Hutchinson to the World Series in St. Louis in 2013 as it had for convicted felon Jon Woods.
Said a Cranford e-mail to a company employee:
Can you book Senator Woods a room at the same hotel in St. Louis 2 nights identical to [Senator A].
Senator A is Hutchinson.
If you can legally get paid $500,000 for doing a lobbyist’s bidding without disclosure of any sort. Hutchinson won’t be the last on the gravy train. He’s not likely the first. And what’s the difference in this and the sudden growth of legislative consulting firms with income from unknown businesses in need of a special brand of consulting from lawmakers who otherwise hold no gainful employment?
If Hutchinson gets off it’s a template for a gold rush of corruption. Do you really think Hutchinson had his constituents in mind first when working on legislation Cranford favored?
By the wording of Cranford’s guilty plea, the U.S. attorney seems to think consideration paid to Hutchinson was a bribe. As yet, he has not been charged. Cranford’s guilty plea and his apparent willingness to cooperate might figure in future developments.