Ex-Abramoff Associate Boulanger Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy

Posted January 30, 2009 at 4:47pm

One-time Hill-aide-turned-lobbyist Todd Boulanger pleaded guilty Friday to a felony charge of conspiracy, acknowledging his role in providing multiple Congressional staffers with more than $35,000 in gifts in exchange for favorable legislation.

Boulanger, who resigned from Cassidy & Associates in late November, becomes the 17th individual to plead guilty or await trial in the federal corruption investigation centered on disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“I’d like to plead guilty,” Boulanger, dressed in a gray suit, said in open court.

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Boulanger, 37, along with lobbyist Kevin Ring and Abramoff, provided unnamed public officials with “all-expenses-paid travel; tens of thousands of dollars worth of tickets to professional sporting events, music concerts and other events; and frequent and expensive meals and drinks at Washington, D.C. area restaurants and bars.”

More specifically, allegations by the Justice Department state that the trio of lobbyists provided items to an unnamed Senate aide, “Staffer E,” identified by the Associate Press as Ann Copland. Copland, a longtime aide to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), left the Hill in 2008 to join Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

In his plea agreement, Boulanger acknowledged that he or his colleagues provided “Staffer E” with tickets to sporting events, concerts including Green Day, ’Nsync and Liza Minnelli, and the circus valued at more than $25,000 between 2002 and 2004.

According to Justice Department attorneys, during one event at the arena then known as the MCI Center, “Staffer E” contacted Boulanger to complain that no food had been provided in the box suite where she was located.

“If you pay, keep the receipt and I will reimburse,” Boulanger replied in an e-mail.

In exchange, Boulanger and his associates sought legislation favorable to an American Indian tribe in Mississippi.

In addition, Boulanger acknowledged providing more than $10,000 in event tickets, meals and drinks to another Senate staffer, an unidentified legislative director, during the same time period.

After procuring hockey tickets for the Senate aide, Boulanger issued an e-mail to the individual, stating: “You my friend are in debt to me.”

Similarly, the Senate aide, who was tasked with assisting Boulanger and associates with items in the Appropriations Defense spending bill, sent the lobbyist a thank-you e-mail for tickets Boulanger provided to a Boston Red Sox baseball game, writing: “Thanks for thinking of me. … Let me know if I can return the favor.”

Boulanger also acknowledged his role in procuring a 2003 trip to the World Series for both former Senate aide Trevor Blackann, who worked for Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), and another unnamed House aide, valued at more than $1,000.

Blackann pleaded guilty in late 2008 on a related charge of tax fraud for not reporting the gifts he received from Boulanger and lobbyist James Hirni, another member of “team Abramoff.” Hirni has also pleaded guilty on related charges. Both Blackann and Hirni are cooperating with federal prosecutors, and neither has been sentenced.

Although court documents in Boulanger’s case also allege that “certain” public officials concealed gifts distributed by Boulanger, Ring and Abramoff from financial disclosures forms, no individuals are identified.

Ring, a former aide to then-Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), has been indicted on similar allegations and is scheduled to go on trial in September. He has denied wrongdoing. Abramoff is currently serving a 60-month prison sentence at a medium security facility in Cumberland, Md., and is scheduled for release in late 2011.

Boulanger, a former aide to then-Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.), joined Abramoff at Preston Gates & Ellis in 1999, then followed him to Greenberg Traurig in 2001. He moved to Cassidy as a senior vice president in 2004.

Boulanger could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and fined up to $250,000, although under federal sentencing guidelines is likely to receive a term of 18 to 24 months. Boulanger has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, however, and could receive a lesser sentence.

No sentencing date has been set. Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to submit a status update in April.