News broke this morning, via the Department of Justice US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, that “former President of the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM) [Dana Pullman] and the union’s former Massachusetts lobbyist [Anne Lynch] were arrested today on charges of fraud and obstruction of justice,” and “charged in a criminal complaint with wire fraud, honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud and obstruction of justice.” From the DOJ:
SPAM acted as the exclusive bargaining agent between its members and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts regarding the terms and conditions of SPAM members’ employment … It is alleged that, from at least 2012 until Pullman resigned as the President of SPAM in September 2018, Pullman, Lynch and others were involved in a conspiracy to defraud SPAM members and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of their right to honest services from Pullman through fraud and deceit. This included illegal bribes and kickbacks that Pullman received from Lynch and her firm.
It gets worse. According to the complaint, in 2014 Pullman negotiated for the state to pay SPAM $700,000 for expenses “SPAM claimed it had incurred in pursuing [a labor] grievance [against the state].” When a representative from the Commonwealth requested “documentation and receipts evidencing SPAM’s expenses” though, Pullman reportedly “told the representative that he was going to ‘stalk’ the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff about this issue.” Eventually, the state relented and agreed to pay SPAM $350,000 without having to provide any receipts. After SPAM received the full payment, its then-treasurer told investigators that Pullman demanded a check for $250,000 for Lynch Associates, pounding the table and yelling “Stop breaking my f**cking balls and give me the check!” when the treasurer questioned him. After the treasurer relented and handed one over, Anne Lynch allegedly received a $50,000 cut from her former lobbying firm, and the following day cut a check for $20,000 to Pullman’s spouse.
There’s also a much more salacious aspect of the charges, with prosecutors alleging, “Pullman used the SPAM debit card to pay for thousands of dollars of meals, flowers, travel, and gifts for an individual with whom Pullman was having a romantic relationship.” But beneath it all, there appears to be a lot more that is rotten than a single lobbyist and former union honcho. Since last year, our team at the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism has examined hundreds of state purchasing agreements for everything from body armor and silencers to stun guns. So our ears perked up upon learning that the US attorney is additionally charging that “Pullman, Lynch and others were also allegedly involved in a scheme to defraud two different companies that sought to do business with the Commonwealth.”
A closer read of the complaint reveals who at least one of those companies are: “Between in or about April 2015 and Feruary 2016, a regional sales manager for an Arizona-based company whose primary product was a smart weapon attempted to market and sell smart weapons to both the MSP and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections [sic].” Now align that with our reporting from February:
As Taser’s business with the Commonwealth and its cities and towns began to run into the million-dollar range, the amount the company spent on lobbying started to hit six figures. In 2015, Taser spent $102,000 retaining Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, which was paid to provide services related to “Massachusetts government relations regarding public safety.” Additionally, in 2015 and 2016, Taser paid another firm, Lynch Associates, more than $100,000 for “relationship development in the Public Safety sector.”
In terms of the potential for peddling political influence, Taser apparently made prudent choices. In Lynch, it picked a firm that also happened to be lobbying for Taser’s biggest Massachusetts client, the state police. In Rasky, it was assigned a lobbyist who has personally given more than $30,000 to campaigns in Mass over the past 10 years, with gifts having gone to pols ranging from House Speaker Robert DeLeo to Gov. Charlie Baker. And that’s just at the state level.
Now we know why Taser brought on the second firm. As the criminal complaint states, “Despite the fact that [Taser] already had a Boston area lobbying firm on retainer, Pullman pressured [Taser] to also hire [Lynch]. Based on Pullman’s words and actions, [the Taser employee present at the meeting] believed [Taser] would not be able to sell smart weapons to the MSP.”
The complaint also shows Pullman working with Gov. Charlie Baker’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, and allegedly taking various kickbacks along the way. Still, one has to wonder if this will be excused as another bad apple scenario, as opposed to a larger institutional problem. Should the public, or the media, or prosecutors wish to explore the depths of the problem, we recommend some of these threads we also began to unwind in our research:
- Mass spends millions every year replenishing and bolstering its arsenals, plus adding advanced equipment and technology. As do municipal police and other taxpayer-funded public safety outfits. These purchases often have little to no oversight beyond the procuring departments, and have as a result spurred certain impropriety.
- One dealer of military gear who has been entangled in two separate controversies involving giving questionable gifts—guns, as well as other favors—to state purchasing agents has sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods to Mass in the last three years. Other active sellers include a shop that the AG recently caught selling guns that are banned in this state.
- The state is spending more than it’s supposed to on these weapons. On one contract alone that was slated to total $1.5 million over its initial three-year term (2015-2018), or double that ($3 million) since its extension three more years through 2021, the state police, with some help from the Department of Correction and Environmental Police, spent more than $3 million—twice the initial allotment—in just the first three years, from 2015 to mid-2018. This is a theme that has repeatedly come up in our research.
According to the Department of Justice, the “charges of fraud and conspiracy each provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and [a] fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater.” While “the charge of obstruction of justice provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.”
Whatever their fate, the alleged actions appear to have helped foster a costly flood of Tasers for law enforcement statewide. And those Tasers remain in place. As we reported, “Though MSP attorneys redacted descriptions and amounts from hundreds of pages of purchase orders and other documents they returned in response to Freedom of Information Act requests made for this story, BINJ was able to ascertain that over the past four and a half years, the department has spent in excess of $3 million on Taser ECWs and related consumables and accessories.”
This story is developing.
READ OUR REPORTING ON THE STATE POLICE AND TASER PROCUREMENT HERE
This is an installment of a multipart collaboration on weapons use and procurement in Massachusetts by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, Emerson College’s Department of Journalism, MuckRock, and the Engagement Lab. Support for this story was made possible by the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. This project is administered by the Online News Association with support from Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Knight Foundation,the Democracy Fund, Rita Allen Foundation and the Scripps Howard Foundation.”
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.