Sen. David Tomassoni, facing criticism for taking a job as executive director of an organization that lobbies the Legislature, is being represented in the matter before a state board by Michael Ahern, an attorney with the firm Dorsey & Whitney.
Ahern is also a registered lobbyist whose clients could have significant interests before the state Senate and the committee of which Tomassoni is chairman — the Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Committee.
Ahern's clients include Atomic Recycling, Great Lakes Gas Transmission Co., Northern Border Pipeline Co., Northern Natural Gas, Northern Tier Energy and Randy's Environmental Services, according to the state's designated lobbyist list.
Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, has asked the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board for an advisory opinion on his taking a job as executive director of Range Area Municipalities and Schools, or RAMS, which has interests before the Legislature and has traditionally lobbied on behalf of its members there.
Ahern is representing Tomassoni in the matter, his letterhead appearing in documents arguing that the senator's new job at RAMS does not constitute a conflict of interest.
E-mails and phone messages for Tomassoni and Ahern were not immediately returned.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, already critical of Tomassoni's new dual role as senator and executive director of RAMS, said, "He can hire whomever he wants as his attorney, but it continues to raise questions about the judgment he is exercising."
Tomassoni said previously he won't start in his new position until the end of the legislative session and will take an unpaid leave of absence during future legislative sessions. He will earn $45,000 per year for RAMS once the unpaid time is factored in.
Tomassoni said his dual role would only occasionally require him to recuse himself from voting. He said the job would be administrative, not lobbying, and that the RAMS board would hire a lobbyist if it so chose. The lobbyist would report to the board, not to him, he said.
He also previously said his new job would be no more a conflict of interest than a public schoolteacher voting on education issues.
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