Montgomery said she was unaware that the Center for State Courts was Hunter’s only lobbying client when they signed up, and Hunter did not sign another client until earlier this year, when he registered to lobby for Mercer University. Hunter filed paperwork with the Georgia Secretary of State on Jan. 15, 2008, to register his company, MH Strategies, which is also the name of the firm that Gingrey is paying for consulting services. No other federal campaign has paid MH Strategies, according to FEC records.
Shortly after Hunter was hired by the state courts association, Chesshire retired in the wake of allegations of sexual improprieties. In August 2008, a special investigator hired by the county issued a report alleging that Chesshire engaged in sexual activity with young employees, including having sex with an intern in a judge’s chambers, according to news reports. Chesshire was never charged with wrongdoing, and his attorney, Diane Woods, said he was not fired and did not resign. “He was up for retirement anyway,” Woods said. Chesshire “totally denied everything, and nothing ever came of it.”
Hunter said he was not involved at all in Gingrey’s 2007 earmark request for the court managers association. “That is a long-standing earmark that had gone back several years,” he said.
Hunter left Gingrey’s office in January of that year and had gone to work in finance. He was not involved with Gingrey again until early 2008, when he resumed consulting for the campaign, Hunter said. Hunter said he is a strategic consultant, not a fundraising consultant for Gingrey.
When he signed on to lobby for the state court center, “they had the need for someone who is going to put a lot of time into building relationships with them on the Hill ... to help the Congress become aware of how they serve the public,” Hunter said. “It was something that I put countless hours into.” The 2008 earmark “was a national effort,” Hunter said, with support of several state chief justices and U.S. Senators as well.
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said Hunter’s arrangement with Gingrey is unusual. “Plenty of lobbyists hold fundraisers for Members, but they are not the official fundraiser for the campaign,” he said.
Sunlight Foundation director Bill Allison said the arrangement “makes it awfully hard to maintain a Chinese wall” between campaign operations and earmarks.