BOSTON (State House News Service) – Warren Tolman, a Watertown Democrat and candidate for attorney general, for years has been incorrectly described as a lobbyist in paperwork filed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199, according to the Tolman campaign and the union.
Between 2005 and 2013, SEIU Local 1199 paid $950,000 to a company called Etain LLC, according to U.S. Department of Labor filings, known as LM-2s. Tolman, an attorney and former state lawmaker, is listed as the head of the company.
The public filings, made by staff in the multi-state union’s New York office, vary over the years in their description of what Tolman’s company was paid for, ranging from “Lobbying” to “Advocacy” and “Strategic Consulting.”
SEIU 1199, which endorsed Tolman last week and boasts 47,000 members in Massachusetts, said Tolman was crucial to the union’s growth over the last decade.
“Warren Tolman was a strategic advisor who over nine years played a key role helping healthcare workers build a statewide, grassroots organization of caregivers to promote quality care and quality jobs in the healthcare industry,” SEIU 1199 spokesman Jeff Hall said after a News Service inquiry about the Department of Labor filings. “Steps are being taken to ensure the [Department of Labor] amends the clerical errors within the inaccurate LM2 filings. In this instance, the relevant Massachusetts state filings are accurate.”
SEIU 1199 in Massachusetts has regularly relied on Paul Pezzella as its lobbyist, according to filings with the secretary of the commonwealth’s office.
Tolman unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002 as the state’s first “clean elections” candidate who sought public financing. Before launching his run for attorney general last November, he remained active publicly and behind the scenes, appearing on FOX25 as a pundit and playing the role of former City Councilor John Connolly during debate prep sessions for Martin Walsh, the former state representative and eventual winner of the Boston mayoral race.
Tolman is facing off against Maura Healey, a fellow Democrat and former assistant attorney general, in September’s primary. Tolman and Healey will meet on Monday for a debate in Lowell. The debate, co-sponsored by the Lowell Sun and Middlesex Community College, is set to start at 1 p.m. at the college’s Lowell campus.
Republican John Miller is also running for attorney general. The seat is open this year because Attorney General Martha Coakley, the state’s top law enforcement official, is running for governor.
According to the union’s filings with the Department of Labor, Tolman’s company was paid for “Lobbying” in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2013. The filings said Etain LLC was paid for “Advocacy” in 2007 and 2008, with an additional note saying “Lobbying Consul.” In 2010 and 2012, Etain LLC was paid for “Strategic Consulting” and “Professional Services.”
The payments varied, ranging from a low of $40,000 in 2005 to a high of $140,000 in 2010.
Tolman campaign spokesman Alex Bloom said Tolman is “proud of his work helping 1199SEIU organize in order to protect and fight for health care workers and patients throughout Massachusetts.” Echoing SEIU 1199’s statement, Bloom said Tolman’s work for SEIU included assisting them “in their efforts to support and grow their membership.”
Asked if Tolman had ever been registered as a lobbyist, the Tolman camp said he was registered at the federal level in 2006 and 2007 by his employer at the time, the law firm Holland & Knight.
When he became aware in November 2007 that Holland & Knight had done that, he asked to be unregistered, since his duties did not include anything that would have required him to be registered, his campaign said. The lobbying database run by the U.S. Senate lists the Greater Jamaica Plain Development Corporation and the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads as his clients for those two years.
SEIU 1199 is part of an umbrella group that announced its endorsement of Tolman on May 13. A SEIU 1199 endorsement is highly sought by candidates for public office, in large part due to its members’ canvassing prowess.
In its press release on the endorsement, the SEIU Massachusetts State Council, which includes Locals 1199, 32BJ, 509, and 888, among others, referred to Tolman as a former “paid advisor to the healthcare workers of 1199SEIU during several campaigns, including efforts to improve the quality of life for caregivers and patients in Massachusetts hospitals, nursing homes, and home care programs.”
In a statement put out by his campaign after the endorsement, Tolman called it an “incredible honor.” He added, “I know the fight that working families face every day to put food on the table, to secure a home, to gain access to health care and medical services, and above all, to live with dignity and to build a stronger and more just society. Actively protecting and standing up for these values will be one of my top priorities and will influence every action I take as Attorney General.”