Lobbying reform comes to Delaware after booze industry scandal

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August 4, 2011

DOVER, Delaware:

The June conviction of lobbyist Christopher Tigani for violating federal campaign finance laws has resonated in Dover, where Tigani's work on behalf of his family's liquor distribution business has sparked calls for reform of state lobbying laws. The News-Journal reported on Sunday that Tigani plied a number of Delaware legislators with campaign contributions, free liquor, and tickets to entertainment events; the liquor industry subsequently received tax breaks, permission to sell on Sundays, and protection for competition. Tigani himself was allowed to lease land from the Delaware Department of Transportation for a token fee on behalf of his company, N.K.S. Distributors Inc.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Tigani and his family have given $71,841 in direct political contributions since 2002. He was, however, able to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars more to state and federal candidates by "bundling" -- the practice of rounding up donations from many individuals in a community, family, or organization to bypass contribution limits. According to the News Journal, Tigani and his cohorts bundled $108,000 to state campaigns and $110,000 to federal races.

Now, in the wake of Tigani's conviction on federal tax evasion and campaign finance fraud charges, Delaware legislators and community organizations are rallying round the flag of campaign finance reform. Sen. Michael Katz (D-Centreville) is working with his colleagues Sen. Karen Peterson, Rep. John Kowalko, Jr. and non-profit pro-transparency organization Common Cause to draft new, tighter, campaign finance restrictions.

There has been no word on details of the coming legislation, but, in the meantime, legislators have spared no ink insisting that they were never influenced by Tigani's corrupt dealings.

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