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AP: DuPont R.I. Campaign Gift Questioned

June 29, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Attorney General Patrick Lynch accepted campaign contributions from the chief negotiator for DuPont Co. at the same time he was in talks with the company to drop it from the state’s landmark lawsuit against former lead paint companies, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Attorney Bernard Nash, who represented DuPont, negotiated the deal reached with the state in June 2005 to drop it from the lawsuit in exchange for DuPont donating about $12.5 million to three charities. Campaign documents filed with the state show that both before and after the settlement was reached, Nash contributed at least $1,500 to Lynch’s campaign committee.

The deal allowed DuPont to drop out of a lawsuit that now may cost other companies in the industry billions of dollars. A jury in February decided that three of the remaining companies in the lawsuit were liable for creating a public nuisance by manufacturing and selling toxic products.

On Thursday, the campaign of Bill Harsch, Lynch’s Republican challenger in the November election, filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission alleging conflict of interest and influence peddling, campaign coordinator Tom Shevlin said.

Lynch’s spokesman, Michael Healey, said he would not comment until he had seen the filing. Nash did not immediately return a phone message left at his office in Washington.

The deal with DuPont dismissed the company from the lawsuit in exchange for its donations to the Children’s Health Forum, a nonprofit group that works to prevent lead poisoning, Brown University Medical School and the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in Boston.

Nash first made contact with Lynch’s office to work out a deal for DuPont in 2003, according to court documents related to the lead paint case. Depositions from January of Lynch and his chief of staff, Leonard Lopes, show Nash was DuPont’s primary contact with the Attorney General’s office as the deal was negotiated. The deal was announced June 30, 2005.

Documents filed by Lynch’s campaign with the state Board of Elections show Nash gave Lynch donations totaling at least $1,500.

The first, for $500, was on June 30, 2004. On Dec. 20, 2005, Nash gave Lynch’s campaign $1,000, the maximum individual political donation allowed in Rhode Island per calendar year.

According to campaign records, Lynch also accepted a $250 donation from Olivia Morgan, executive director of the Children’s Health Forum, which stands to receive millions of dollars from DuPont’s deal with the state. Her donation was recorded Dec. 20, 2005, about six months after the settlement was reached.

Morgan did not immediately comment when reached by telephone Thursday morning.

Lynch is seeking a second term as attorney general. He was sworn in as Rhode Island’s top law enforcement official in 2003.


On the Net:

DuPont: http://www2.dupont.com/DuPont_Home/en_US/index.html

R.I. Attorney General: http://www.riag.state.ri.us/

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