Back in November, Doug Richards of WXIA/11 Alive originally reported on a trip taken by Attorney General Sam Olens to Florida. He took a free plane ride to Palm Beach with an Altria executive, Sean Collins. The correct forms were submitted by the proper parties. Don’t get your knickers all in a knot, at least not yet.
AG Olens was traveling to a Republican Attorneys General Association conference. He used his flight time there and back again to basically lobby the lobbyist. Tobacco companies are trying awfully hard to reduce the settlement payments to states required by the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Olens hoped to convince Altria not to challenge the Georgia settlement (and subsequent cash flow). The jury is still out on whether he made a difference.
The Daily Report contacted Olens’ office and got basically the same answer from his communications officer, Lauren Kane.
Now here is where the tobacco side of the story gets more interesting. The month before Olens’ free plane ride to Florida, Altria donated $40,000 to Casey Cagle’s PAC. Who, by the way, came out against raising taxes on tobacco just a few weeks ago.
Again, all the proper forms were submitted by the proper parties. But don’t you find it interesting that the lobbyist provided travel was reported at the state level, as required, whereas the MONEY was… not. And is NOT required at that level, since it is a donation to a PAC. Just that handy little IRS form will do.
Loop-hole? You betcha. The size of New Jersey.
In the meantime, Doug Richards, you keep right on scooping the rest of us.