Former US attorney lobbied for nonprofit under investigation
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A former U.S. attorney from Oklahoma has kept his lobbying contract with a health care nonprofit that is under federal investigation for alleged corruption linked to several Arkansas lawmakers.
Steve Lewis, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, lobbied on behalf of nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare for years while also serving on its board of directors, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Federal prosecutors have alleged in court filings that the Missouri-based nonprofit concealed its lobbying expenses and spent more money than permitted. The nonprofit was formerly known as Alternative Opportunities and has since transformed into a health care giant, collecting tens of millions of dollars annually from government sources.
Prosecutors have said that unnamed conspirators led the charity to misapply money toward lobbying, according to court filings. Tax exempt-organizations such as Preferred Family are limited in how much they can spend on lobbying, which must be reported.
The organization paid Lewis more than $450,000 over a nine-year period, an average of about $50,000 per year, according to court filings. Lewis hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.
Lewis said his share of lobbying fees meet federal regulations. He resigned from the board in April in order to keep the nonprofit as a client.
“I don’t think there’s a bright line on the percentage (of total activity nonprofits can dedicate to lobbying), but certainly they weren’t even close to the percentage that would be allowed to be spent on my lobbying services,” said Lewis, who was also speaker of the Oklahoma House from 1989 to 1991.
Three lobbyists connected to the nonprofit have been accused of paying former Arkansas lawmakers for favors and conspiring to defraud the tax-exempt charity.
Two of the lobbyists, Milton Cranford and former state Rep. Eddie Cooper of Arkansas, also worked for the nonprofit.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com