OLYMPIA - The state attorney general's office is suing a prominent lobbyist and his former law firm for allegedly misreporting more than $100,000 spent wining and dining lawmakers.
The state, in a complaint filed yesterday in Thurston County Superior Court, is seeking to revoke or suspend the lobbying registration of Geoffrey Gibbs, a veteran Olympia lobbyist who once represented grocers, oil companies, stockbrokers and accountants.
The filing comes less than a month after the Public Disclosure Commission, faced with the biggest case in its history, turned over its investigation to the attorney general's office. While the commission generally can levy fines of only $2,500 per violation, far larger penalties can be sought in a civil court action.
Also named as a defendant in the suit is the Seattle law firm of Ogden Murphy and Wallace. The firm, in which Gibbs was a partner, was the officially registered lobbyist for most of the clients.
Gibbs claims the firm is responsible for any reporting violations that might have occurred. Managing partner Doug Albright, however, contends that Gibbs had complete control over the firm's lobbying operations.
Kim O'Neal, assistant attorney general, said: ``We do believe Gibbs was responsible for the violations. But that doesn't mean (Ogden Murphy) can be dismissed.''
Most of the alleged violations occurred while Gibbs was representing the Washington State Food Dealers Association, according to the complaint.
Gibbs stepped down as director of the food dealers after the group charged in a lawsuit last year that Gibbs had misspent more than $300,000 of its money, much of it on personal expenses and lavish entertainment. That suit later was settled out of court.
According to the PDC investigation, more than $109,000 in political contributions, lobbying fees and entertainment expenses were improperly reported or not reported at all.
Items that weren't fully reported included free skiing trips for legislators, chartering a plane to fly lawmakers to an Oregon dance hall and nearly $27,000 in lobbying fees paid to a trade group representing stockbrokers.