Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi on Thursday lost his appeal of Secretary of State William Galvin's decision to deny his application to become a lobbyist on Beacon Hill based on his past conviction in federal court on corruption charges.
The denial means his case will likely move out of an administrative hearing room and into the court system where the former Democratic leader and his attorney have said they intend to fight for DiMasi's right to lobby.
Galvin denied DiMasi's application to register as a lobbyist in March, citing a 2009 state law that calls for anyone found to be "in violation" of state ethics, lobbying or campaign finance laws to be automatically disqualified from lobbying for 10 years. DiMasi's attorney Meredith Fierro argued that the law spoke only to state crimes, and not violations of federal statutes. She said the legislature could have, but decided against included federal law in the list of crimes that would warrant automatic lobbying disqualification.
The hearing officer in the case, Peter Cassidy, ruled on the day after Christmas that the automatic denial was appropriate, and that the "narrow interpretation" argued by DiMasi's attorney was "at odds with the regulatory scheme established by the Lobbying Law, and the intentions of the legislature."
"The Lobbying Law is designed to protect the integrity of legislative process, public resources and citizens' trust in their government from the effects of dishonesty and abuse in lobbying," Cassidy wrote in his decision. "This law must interpreted in light of the problems it is intended to address and the objects it is intended to accomplish."
Cassidy, who works as an attorney with Galvin's Securities Division, said he was not drawing any conclusions from the Legislature's decision not to include federal crimes in the automatic disqualification section of the law. He also said that as a hearing officer said he was not "empowered" to address constitutional free speech issues raised by DiMasi's attorney.
In a separate ruling, Cassidy granted DiMasi's motion to dismiss Galvin's "alternate theory" that DiMasi had violated state lobbying laws while serving as speaker for failing to register as a lobbyist for the work he did on behalf of Cognos, the software company who benefited from contracts DiMasi helped secure in exchange for financial kickbacks that resulted in his federal conviction.