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Former Insurance Company Lobbyist Convicted of Violating State Ethics Laws

March 3, 1995

BOSTON (AP) _ A former insurance company lobbyist was convicted of federal charges of wining and dining state legislators and even sending one lawmaker and his wife to the Super Bowl in New Orleans in 1986.

William Sawyer, former chief lobbyist in Massachusetts for the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., illegally spent more than $30,000 over eight years on at least 25 legislators.

A federal jury on Thursday found Sawyer guilty on 28 of 30 counts of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and interstate travel to aid racketeering. He was acquitted on two counts of mail fraud.

The verdict ``means the Massachusetts Legislature is not for sale ... via wining and dining, golf outings and trips to fancy resorts,″ said Jonathan Chiel, head of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office.

Sawyer violated state ethics laws, which prohibit spending more than $100 a year on a legislator or more than $50 on any one occasion. A state law that took effect Jan. 1 prohibits lobbyists from giving or spending anything on public officials.

``It is an inning. It is not the end of the day. We will appeal,″ said Thomas R. Kiley, one of Sawyer’s attorneys.

Sentencing was scheduled for May 2. Sawyer could be sentenced to at least two years in prison.

John Hancock settled civil charges stemming from Sawyer’s lobbying practices by paying more than $1 million in fines to the federal government and the ethics commission. The company also agreed to cooperate in prosecuting Sawyer.