COMMITTEE ON JOINT RULE 36 COMPLAINT
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The documents referenced throughout this summary are provided in a notebook available at the Legislative Council Office.
07:11 AM -- Witness Testimony
Senator Morse called the committee to order.
07:12 AM -- Representative Acree came to the table. Senator Morse asked Representative Acree to tell the committee about the events in question. Representative Acree explained that the events took place December 13 and 14, 2008, and throughout the following week.
Representative Acree said she had been contacted over the weekend by many members of the House of Representatives about the leadership election. The first time she heard from a lobbyist was on Monday, when she had several messages from citizens and from a lobbyist, who said his organization was supporting a specific candidate in the House Minority Leader election, and who mentioned campaign donations. She said she was disturbed that outside party said he had a check for her and wanted her to support a candidate for House Minority Leader, and was taken aback that the party was involved and wanted to know what the proper procedure was. She did not return the call. She spoke with her chief of staff, her campaign manager and another state representative about the call. Representative Acree explained that as she took the messages off her phone, she deleted them as is her normal practice.
Representative Acree said she got a call from the Speaker of the House and Representative Mike May who asked if she had been approached by anyone. She said she had, and Representative May asked her to meet him at the Capitol to discuss the matter. She met with him and typed a statement in his office. When she left his office, she explained, she went to her office, and Mr. Groves came in, but she did not recognize him and thought he was a constituent. Representative Acree said they talked about church and he helped her to move a filing cabinet, and then he asked to talk about the leadership elections. She said when she realized who he was, and when he said he had some campaign donations for her, she told him she could not talk about her campaign in the Capitol, so he suggested they meet off-site before the leadership election. She told him it was inappropriate for her to discuss the leadership race with him. Representative Acree said Mr. Groves indicated to her that his organization had supported her campaign and that gave him the right to talk to her about the leadership election and that they were supporting Representative Balmer. At that point, she explained, she asked Mr. Groves to leave her office, which he did. She asked for his business card, which he provided, and she took it to Representative May's office.
Senator Morse asked Representative Acree to fill in some details, including details about the other phone messages she had received. Senator Cadman said he would like to hear specifically about what other messages Representative Acree received. Representative Acree said she had one message from Mr. Groves who said he had some campaign donations for her and also said he would like to talk to her about the leadership election and indicated that his organization was supporting Representative Balmer. Senator Morse asked Representative Acree to clarify the wording of the message.
Senator Cadman asked Representative Acree if she was aware, before that weekend, that either the chiropractors political action committee (PAC) or Mr. Groves had donations for her. Representative Acree explained that they had offered to raise money before the election. Senator Cadman talked about an email exchange between Terrance Snyder and Mr. Groves about PAC money and 527s. He described an October 28 email in detail. Senator Cadman said he inferred from that email exchange that the PAC was not going to continue to raise money for Representative Acree before the election.
Representative Acree said she had two other calls from doctors who belong to the Chiropractors Association. One doctor mentioned that Representative Acree was in a position to become chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and saying he supported Representative Balmer and would like her to support him as well, and another who said he had a check for her and was supporting Representative Balmer. She clarified that the messages were left before 4:00 p.m. on Friday, December 12. She said that evening she discussed the matter with Representative Bradford, trying to determine how to respond.
Committee discussion continued, with additional questions from Senator Cadman about the Chiropractors Association's promised campaign support.
Senator Morse asked for clarification about the call from Mr. Groves. Representative Acree provided that clarification, discussing further the message from Mr. Groves. Senator Morse asked for context and background around Mr. Groves' visiting Representative Acree in her office on Tuesday, December 16. Representative Acree provided details about her activities that morning, and said the visit occurred sometime after 10:00 a.m. Representative Acree explained that she was in her office, Mr. Groves came in, and she thought he was a constituent. She said she did not realize who he was until he said he wanted to talk about the leadership elections and that he had donations for her. Representative Acree told him she could not talk about donations at the Capitol. Mr. Groves, she said, asked to meet off-site to talk about the donations sometime before Friday. She told him she could not talk about the leadership elections, and Mr. Groves told her the association was supporting Representative Balmer. Representative Acree said Mr. Groves told her he worked for a law firm and it was okay for them talk about and that the Chiropractors Association had given her donations and had a right to talk to her about the leadership election.
Senator Morse asked Representative Acree whether she ever received the donations. She said she had not. Senator Morse asked about a lunch referred to in the email documents. Representative Acree said the lunch had nothing to do with her.
Representative A. Kerr asked for clarification to an earlier statement about the "right to talk about leadership." Representative Acree said she remembered Mr. Groves using the word "right."
Richard Kaufman, attorney to Mr. Groves, came to the table. At the committee's meeting on January 9, 2009, it was agreed that Mr. Kaufman could pose questions to the committee, and the committee would decide whether to ask witnesses to respond to those questions.
Mr. Kaufman referred the committee to an email of October 29, 2008, that bears on the situation of fundraising. He read the email, which was from Representative Acree to Mr. Groves, saying she would talk to Mr. Groves after the election. Mr. Kaufman also referred to another email dated October 29, 2008, from Mr. Groves to Representative Acree saying the he would mail a check to her. Mr. Kaufman asked whether there was an expectation on October 29, 2008, that there would be another donation. Senator Cadman and Mr. Kaufman discussed this issue.
Senator Morse asked for clarification about Representative Acree's conversations with Mr. Groves. Representative Acree responded, saying she talked in October with the Chiropractors Association about a fundraising lunch and that she got a number of checks from individual members, but the lunch never happened. Mr. Kaufman talked about Mr. Groves' intent to give Representative Acree donations long before Representative May stepped down. Senator Cadman explained his focus on those October dates and the activity around donations again on the 14th and 15th of December.
Mr. Kaufman said it is his understanding that when Mr. Groves came into Representative Acree's office on December 16, 2008, Representative Acree said she could not talk about leadership elections and so they did not. Senator Morse asked Representative Acree to clarify this point. Senator Morse noted that Mr. Groves had already told Representative Acree that the Chiropractors Association supported Representative Balmer before she told him they could not talk about leadership elections. Representative Acree clarified and responded to questions from Senator Morse about what Mr. Groves said and when he said it.
Senator Cadman asked whether Representative Acree realized, when she was talking with Mr. Groves, that Mr. Groves had already talked to her chief of staff, Brent Jones, and scheduled an appointment. Representative Acree said she suggested to Mr. Jones that he should not keep that appointment. Senator Cadman read from Mr. Groves' statement that he spoke with Mr. Jones and told Mr. Jones he wanted to talk about the leadership election. Representative Acree clarified the time frame of her conversation with Mr. Jones.
Senator Morse asked Representative Acree to talk about her conversations with Representative Bradford, Mr. Jones, and Tory Brown. Representative Acree described her conversation with Representative Bradford, who had been contacted by legislators but not lobbyists about the leadership election. She said she spoke to Mr. Jones and Mr. Brown that evening about whether she should return the calls she had received regarding the leadership election.
Mr. Kaufman asked whether Mr. Groves indicated the donations were contingent on her vote in the leadership race. Representative Acree said he had not. Senator Cadman asked about other calls from the Chiropractors Association. Representative Acree said she received calls from Dr. Steve Schuster and Dr. Nelson Vetanze. In response to a question from Senator Cadman, Representative Acree said neither doctor referenced Mr. Groves in his message to her. Senator Morse asked for clarification about some handwritten notes contained in the documents. Representative Acree clarified the contents of the notes.
07:43 AM -- Mr. Jones came to the table. Senator Morse asked Mr. Jones to provide a narrative of the events.
Mr. Jones said that on December 15, 2008, he received an email from Mr. Groves, who said he wanted to catch up with Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones explained that he has known Mr. Groves since 2005 as members of the same church, but had not seen him for some time. He said Mr. Groves indicated he found Mr. Jones' contact information on Representative Acree's campaign website.
Mr. Jones said he called and left a message for Mr. Groves, and later that same day they spoke with each other, talking about their families and the campaign and Mr. Groves' interest in contacting Representative Acree to give her some campaign contributions. Mr. Jones told Mr. Groves he did not know when Representative Acree could meet, as she had a full schedule. Mr. Groves also asked about the leadership race, Mr. Jones said. Mr. Jones told Mr. Groves he did not know much about what was going on with the leadership race, saying that Representative Acree had not talked about it, or any upcoming votes, with him. Mr. Jones set up a breakfast meeting for December 23, 2008, with Mr. Groves.
Senator Morse asked Mr. Jones if he had cancelled the breakfast meeting, and Mr. Jones said he had. Mr. Jones talked about emails between himself and Mr. Groves with regard to the breakfast. In response to a question from Senator Morse, Mr. Jones said that after talking with Representative Acree, he cancelled the meeting because it was inappropriate for him to meet with Mr. Groves given the situation.
Senator Cadman asked for clarification of the conversation between Mr. Jones and Mr. Groves on December 15, 2008. Mr. Jones explained that Mr. Groves said the Chiropractors Association supported Representative Balmer, but did not ask Mr. Jones to comment on how Representative Acree was going to vote in the leadership election. Senator Cadman asked if Mr. Jones thought that conversation was inappropriate, and asked whether Mr. Jones talked to Representative Acree about it. Mr. Jones said he did not fully understand the nuances of what was okay to talk about. Mr. Jones explained that he was thinking of Mr. Groves as a friend, not a lobbyist, and he did not know the pertinent rules. Senator Cadman clarified his question, and Mr. Jones said that between the time he spoke with Mr. Groves and the time that Mr. Groves visited Representative Acree at the Capitol, Mr. Jones called Representative Acree to let her know there were people trying to contact her at the Capitol. He said he told her that Mr. Groves was interested in talking to her, but does not think he told her that Mr. Groves wanted to talk about the leadership race, rather that Mr. Groves wanted to give her some donations on behalf of the Chiropractors Association. Mr. Jones said he does not believe he told Representative Acree that Mr. Groves wanted to talk about the leadership race.
Senator Cadman asked whether there was mention of mailing the donations rather than meeting in person with Representative Acree. Mr. Jones said there was not.
Senator Morse asked whether the conversation about leadership race raised red flags. Mr. Jones said it did not. He explained his background and his working relationship with Representative Acree. He said it is not uncommon for him to touch base with people he has not heard from for awhile, and said he was not familiar with lobbying regulations. Senator Morse and Mr. Jones discussed Mr. Jones' later conversation with Representative Acree, during which Representative Acree raised the red flags and explained the regulations to Mr. Jones.
Senator Morse asked about Mr. Jones' friendship with Mr. Groves, and asked when Mr. Jones had last had contact with Mr. Groves. Mr. Jones explained that he and Mr. Groves are members of the same church and have known each other since 2005. Mr. Jones said he and his wife moved in late 2006, and stated that he had not heard from Mr. Groves since then.
Mr. Kaufman asked Senator Morse if Mr. Jones could talk about his understanding of whether the donations, were long-standing commitments. Senator Morse allowed the question, and Mr. Jones answered that he was not involved in campaign finance and did not know about the donations until Mr. Groves mentioned them. Mr. Jones said there was no discussion about whether the donations were based on earlier commitments or whether they were just made. Senator Cadman asked whether Mr. Jones knew how many donations were involved. Mr. Jones said he did not. Senator Cadman asked Mr. Kaufman how many donations were involved, and Mr. Kaufman said he thought it was one check from the PAC.
08:00 AM -- Representative Bradford came to the table to provide testimony to the committee. Representative Bradford said she received a call from Representative Acree during the late afternoon of Sunday, December 14, 2008, probably around 5:30 p.m. Representative Bradford explained that she received a huge number of phone calls that weekend from other Representatives regarding the leadership election. She said people were tallying up the votes going into Monday to predict whether Representative McNulty or Representative Balmer would be elected House Minority Leader. She explained that she had committed to Representative McNulty, and indicated in a conversation with Representative Balmer on Sunday that that was the case.
Representative Bradford said Representative Acree asked her whether she had received calls from lobbyists with regard to the leadership election. Representative Bradford said she had not, and further explained that Representative Acree had asked her opinion of whether she thought such calls were appropriate. Representative Bradford said she offered to make a couple of phone calls to find out whether the call from a lobbyist regarding the leadership election was appropriate. She said she left several voice mail messages, and the first person she was able to speak to was Melissa Baumgart in Representative May's office. Ms. Baumgart told Representative Bradford to call Marilyn Eddins, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives. Representative Bradford clarified that she did not use Representative Acree's name in her calls. Representative Bradford said Ms. Eddins told her the lobbyist's call related to the leadership election was inappropriate, pursuant to Joint Rule 36, and suggested she call Representative May. Representative Bradford was not able to reach Representative May, but she spoke with Senator Penry about the issue on Monday. She described her conversation with Senator Penry. Representative Bradford said that by Monday several people knew there was an issue.
Representative Bradford went on to explain that on Tuesday morning, December 16, around 9:30 a.m., Representative May reached her. She said she told Representative May that Representative Acree was the member who had received the calls from the lobbyist. Representative Bradford asked Representative May to call Representative Acree to talk about it. She said that was her final involvement.
Representative A. Kerr asked for clarification on the timeline. Representative Bradford clarified, saying her first contact with Representative Acree was late Sunday afternoon and they talked again late Monday after Mr. Groves came to Representative Acree's office. She indicated that Representative Acree also asked her at that time whether she had received any campaign donations from the Chiropractors Association. She said she had not. The committee discussion with Representative Bradford about the timeline continued, with clarification of the dates and times of various contacts, as Representative Bradford's memory of the dates differed from Representative Acree's testimony.
Mr. Kaufman asked whether there is a possibility, given the timeline discussed by Representative Bradford, that Representative Bradford's conversations with Representative Acree could have been about a lobbyist other than Mr. Groves. In response to a question from Senator Morse, Representative Bradford said she knew the lobbyist who contacted Representative Acree had a connection with the Chiropractors Association. Senator Morse asked if phone records could document when the call to Ms. Eddins occurred and asked Representative Bradford to look at her phone records.
Senator Morse asked Representative Acree to come back to the table to talk about the timeline. Representative Acree referred the committee to her phone records, which were in the committee's possession and document when the calls occurred. Senator Morse and Representative Acree discussed the timeline, including when she was contacted by Mr. Groves and when she met with Representative May.
Representative Bradford returned to the table to provide clarification to her earlier testimony about the timeline. She explained that she was mistaken in her earlier remarks and that the first calls occurred on Monday, not Sunday. Mr. Kaufman confirmed that Representative Acree's phone records reflect a call from Representative Bradford to Representative Acree on Monday, December 15, at 5:35 p.m.
08:22 AM -- Mr. Groves came to the table to provide testimony to the committee. Mr. Groves explained that he has been lobbying for about two years, and said he is glad to be able to provide his testimony.
Mr. Groves explained that he was not aware of Joint Rule 36(d), and did not realize he was violating any rule. Mr. Groves said he believed that leadership votes are like any other vote at the Capitol, and thought it could be discussed.
Mr. Groves said he was informed that Representative May was stepping down while he was out of town. He explained that on Monday morning he had several voice messages, including one from Dr. Vetanze, who is a supporter of Representative Balmer. Dr. Vetanze asked Mr. Groves how he could help Representative Balmer in the leadership election. Mr. Groves said he told Dr. Vetanze to call his Representative, who Mr. Groves believes is Representative Acree.
Mr. Groves said he also had a call from Dr. Schuster, and that he talked to later in the day on December 15, 2008. He explained that he had talked with Dr. Schuster earlier in the 2008 campaign about getting donations out to certain Republican candidates, including Representative Acree. Mr. Groves said he and Dr. Schuster agreed that they should deliver donations that they had been unable to deliver during the campaign. He said he was going deliver two donations, but he and Dr. Schuster did not discuss who would deliver the donation to Representative Acree. Mr. Groves said Dr. Schuster wanted to talk to Representative Acree on another issue, so Mr. Groves asked Dr. Schuster to take the donation to Representative Acree.
Mr. Groves said he called Representative Acree and left a message about the Chiropractors Association's promised fundraising for constituent outreach, and also said on the message that he would like to talk with her about the leadership race, not realizing that was problematic. He explained that he saw Mr. Jones' name on Representative Acree's website and wondered if it was his old friend. As he was talking to Mr. Jones, he said, Mr. Groves found out Mr. Jones would be working at the Capitol. He said he mentioned the leadership election to Mr. Jones, but did not advocate for a candidate or get in to any details. He said he scheduled lunch with Mr. Jones, and the date of the lunch was after the leadership vote.
Mr. Groves said Dr. Schuster said he wanted to talk Rep. Acree about his desire to build an interdisciplinary health task force and public education group. Mr. Groves said he told Dr. Schuster that if was successful in reaching Representative Acree, that he (Mr. Groves) needed to talk with her too. Mr. Groves stated that Dr. Schuster did not mention the leadership race.
Mr. Groves said he had talked to Mr. Jones about how difficult it was to reach Representative Acree, and Mr. Jones told him that she was working at the Capitol during the day. Mr. Groves had a meeting near the Capitol on December 16, 2008, so he stopped by Representative Acree's office. Mr. Groves said, during his visit to Representative Acree's office, he told her he was trying to reach her regarding fundraising. Representative Acree told him, he said, that she could not discuss fundraising at the Capitol, so he asked her to call him offsite so they could discuss it. At that point, he said, he also asked her if he could talk to her about the leadership race. Mr. Groves said he was not advocating anyone, rather he wanted to get a feel for her position on the race. Mr. Groves said that if Representative Acree had asked him who he advocated in the race, he would have told her, but she asked him whether he was a lobbyist. He explained that he told her he was. Mr. Groves stated that he did not understand why she asked him whether he was a lobbyist. He said Representative Acree told him then that it was inappropriate to have a conversation about the leadership election. He said he moved on to another topic at that point, she asked for a business card, and he left.
Senator Cadman asked Mr. Groves about the donation and asked whether the check for the donation had been "sitting around" for awhile. Mr. Groves responded, explaining that he had tried to set up a luncheon with several members of the association at which the check would be presented. Mr. Groves clarified that he had never told Representative Acree that he had a check and he had never had a check in his possession. He said he had asked that the PAC write a $300 check, but he never had possession of the check. In response to a question from Senator Cadman, Mr. Groves said the check was written around December 15, 2008.
Senator Cadman asked Mr. Groves whether he had attended any of the lobbyist seminars that are offered. Mr. Groves explained that he had a lobbyist training session on his calendar for Wednesday, December 17, 2008, but did not attend as it was after the situation at hand "blew up."
Senator Morse asked about emails dated December 15, 2008, at 10:25 a.m. and 10:35 a.m., one to Mr. Jones and the other to Joyce Martello. Senator Morse read the email to Ms. Martello, which asked her to create a PAC check for $300 for Representative Acree. Mr. Groves talked about and responded to questions about the emails. He explained that, while the email indicated that he would pick up the check, there were subsequent conversations with the president of the Chiropractors Association, Dr. Schuster, and it was decided that Dr. Schuster would take care of the check. Mr. Groves explained that this is standard process within the association.
Senator Morse asked Mr. Groves if he had tried to count votes to determine who might win the leadership race. Mr. Groves said he had "chicken scratched" it out, based on whom he thought people were aligned with. He talked about his tally, saying he thought four votes were up for grabs. Mr. Groves said Representative Acree was one of his "unknowns" and he was curious about how she would vote. Senator Morse asked if she was an unknown or if Mr. Groves knew she was uncommitted. Mr. Groves said he was not sure, but thought she was uncommitted after he spoke with Mr. Jones.
Senator Morse clarified the timeline with Mr. Groves. Mr. Groves explained that he started getting calls soon after he spoke with Representative Acree on December 16, and said he looked at the Joint Rule at that point. Senator Morse commented on the timeframe of the contacts with Representative Acree and the promise of the check on December 15, 2008. Mr. Groves provided background on his contacts with Representative Acree prior to the election and explained that he and Representative Acree agreed to talk after the election.
Senator Morse asked about the donation and why Representative Acree has not received the check. Mr. Groves said when the situation blew up, the Chiropractors Association voided the check. Mr. Groves explained why the check was voided. He said Representative Acree has handled the situation properly, and explained that he was ignorant of the rule.
Representative A. Kerr asked Mr. Groves whom he talked to about the vote count over the weekend. Mr. Groves said he called Ryan Call to ask about Representative May's resignation, but did not discuss who might replace Representative May as Minority Leader. He said he talked to Mr. Snyder about how a change in leadership would affect his clients. Mr. Groves said those are the only calls he remembers, and that he was not comparing notes with people.
Senator Morse commented on Mr. Groves working relationship with Representative Balmer and asked Mr. Groves to comment on that. Mr. Groves said his working relationship with Representative Balmer is excellent. He said the Chiropractors Association strongly supported Representative Balmer during the election cycle. Senator Morse asked if Representative Balmer knew that Mr. Groves was talking to Representatives about the leadership race. Mr. Groves said Representative Balmer did not know, and said Representative Balmer emailed him after the complaint was filed.
Senator Morse asked about a December 15, 2008, email referencing an emergency conference call. Mr. Groves confirmed that the call was about the matter at hand. Senator Morse asked about nicknames used in the email, and Mr. Groves explained the nicknames and said the email is to the executive board of the Chiropractors Association.
Senator Morse commented on a December 16, 2008, email that the committee received after the other materials were submitted, and asked why it was not included in the original submission. Mr. Groves said he did not think it was covered by the original subpoena because it was legal advice from John Zackham. Mr. Kaufman said Mr. Groves waived his privilege on the document. Mr. Groves said he handed everything over to his attorney. Mr. Kaufman explained which documents were not included in the submission.
Senator Cadman asked if Mr. Groves was working during the period of time at issue to get other promised donations to legislators. Mr. Groves responded, saying that there were a couple other checks, and explained that part of the issue with delivering the checks was procrastination on his part and that he was trying to get checks out before session began.
Senator Cadman asked Mr. Groves again about a December 16, 2008, email from Mr. Snyder. Senator Cadman asked Mr. Groves what prompted Mr. Snyder to tell Mr. Groves to "get his story straight." Mr. Groves responded, talking about how the situation escalated, and explained why he thought Mr. Snyder said what he said.
Mr. Kaufman asked if Mr. Groves could explain whether the PAC raised money during Representative Acree's campaign. Mr. Groves said the Chiropractors Association had given Representative Acree a PAC check during the election, and individual members had given her checks as well. He said the association's work for her during the election was extensive.
Senator Morse asked if Mr. Groves had talked to any other legislators about the leadership race. Mr. Groves said he had not.
Representative A. Kerr asked Mr. Groves what he would do differently now that he understood the rule. Mr. Groves said he would have avoided any appearance of impropriety. He said there is confusion among the lobby corps about the rule, and that technically he did not break the rule because Representative Acree stopped him from discussing the leadership election. Mr. Groves said he believes there is room for clarification in the rule.
Senator Morse talked about the role of the committee and its duty to make a recommendation to the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council. He asked Mr. Groves whether he thinks, for purposes of the report, he is guilty or innocent, and, if guilty, what the penalty should be. Mr. Groves said he regrets the situation and is contrite. He said he understands that this is affecting peoples' careers and livelihood and the institution. He said he is responsible for following the rules whether he is aware of them or not. Mr. Groves said the committee has to decide whether there is a technical violation of the rule, and has to define "active participation." Mr. Groves said he does not believe that what he did constitutes "active participation." Senator Morse noted that Mr. Groves mentioned Representative Balmer's name in conjunction with wanting to talk about the leadership vote. Mr. Groves said he did not mention Representative Balmer's name, just said "leadership vote." He said Representative Acree cut off the conversation before he mentioned Representative Balmer.
Representative A. Kerr asked about Representative Acree's testimony that Mr. Groves said he had a "right" to talk to her about the leadership election. Mr. Groves responded saying he does not remember using that language.
Senator Morse thanked Mr. Groves for his testimony.
Senator Morse said the next meeting will be posted in the calendar when it is scheduled. The committee adjourned.