INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — As part of its pitch to represent Indiana's
microbreweries, a powerful lobbying group proposed hiring an executive
director with business smarts, knowledge of alcohol laws and who
currently works for the same government he would be trying to persuade.
It's hardly uncommon to go from being employed by Indiana's government
to lobbying it, but an increasing number are making the jump without
sitting out the customary one-year "cooling-off" period.
Davey Neal, chief of staff to Secretary of State Connie Lawson, was
granted a waiver Thursday allowing him to become a lobbyist almost
immediately, should his perspective employer, The Corydon Group, land
its $171,000-a-year contract with the brewers.
Corydon Group officials made their pitch to the Brewers of Indiana Guild
in a March 4, 2013, business plan obtained by The Associated Press. Neal
followed up with the brewers two months later, touting his expertise
with other members of the lobbying powerhouse, according to a person who
attended the meeting but requested anonymity to discuss the contents of
a private meeting.
Neal "as an attorney and a MBA, is perfectly suited to lead (Brewers of
Indiana Guild) BIG's external affairs," the lobby shop wrote in the
Neal said the brewers guild first approached him about helping and said
he followed all proper ethics rules in seeking the new job.
"I am pleased to have received unanimous confirmation that I may move
forward with further discussions," Neal said Thursday, in response to
His potential move raises questions about the effectiveness of that law
at a time when a rising number of former state officials are being
granted waivers from the cooling-off period. In the last year, a handful
of top state officials have received approval to leap directly from
government work to outside employment, including former Gov. Mitch
Daniels, who became Purdue University's president in January.
The ethics commission cleared a trio of Daniels' top aides to leave
state jobs overseeing Indiana's transportation, economic development and
government facilities departments to take jobs with Daniels at Purdue
with no waiting period. A top Pence administration official also was
cleared to return to an Indianapolis law firm after six months with the
new governor but returned to Pence's office roughly a month later.
In each case, the state's ethics panel pointed out the law does not
apply to their situations, largely because they would not be directly
working on projects or programs they worked on while in state
government. But government ethicists say the cozy relationships still
raise other questions of favoritism.
Stuart Yoak, executive director of the Poynter Center for the Study of
Ethics and American Institutions at Indiana University, said he would be
concerned about Neal potentially misusing his government position or
improperly relying on his insider knowledge of government to get hired.
Corydon Group managing partner Chris Gibson wrote in an email response
to a phone call that there had been "no formal negotiations" with Neal
and that all conversations with him regarding the job were "prospective
But according to the business plan obtained by the AP, Neal would be
hired as a vice president for the firm if it wins the brewers guild
contract. He also would serve as executive director for the guild.
The guild expects to take up the proposal when it meets next Wednesday.
The case offers a rare look inside the cozy relationship between
Indiana's publicly paid staffers and the lobby shops they often depart
for after working for the state.
The brewers group represents Sun King Brewing Co. in Indianapolis, Three
Floyds Brewing Co. in northwest Indiana and 17 other brewers. The lobby
shop noted in its business plan that Neal previously worked as executive
secretary for Indiana's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, where he
"advised the Commission on all manner of legal concerns and provided
legal interpretations for the alcohol industry."
The Ethics Commission ruled Thursday that Neal's previous work on the
alcohol commission should keep him from lobbying executive branch
employees for a year. But the panel didn't bar him from plying lawmakers
immediately and approved his move to the lobbying group.
Clay Robinson, owner of Sun King Brewing, told the AP in an email
Thursday that he met Neal at a Wabash College alumni event last summer
and was impressed with his knowledge of Indiana alcohol laws. He said he
approached Neal about helping the guild transition from a loosely
structured group to a "bona fide trade organization" and that Neal then
approached The Corydon Group.
Robinson said The Corydon Group proposal is one of several the brewers
guild is considering. He said he had no concerns about Neal's
involvement in the proposal while working for the state.
"I don't see where anything that has transpired would constitute a
breach of ethics and it appears that the ethics committee agrees," he
Ted Miller, vice president of the guild, noted the craft brewing
industry has been growing rapidly in Indiana and, as a result, members
have been looking at increasing their influence at the Statehouse.
"The industry is growing at a breakneck pace. So we'd like to make sure
the legislation follows that, but they don't work quite that fast down
there," Miller said.