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Attorney Kevin Sheehan is Mentioned in Reference to “Unregistered Lobbying” Found by NJEDA Task Force

Emails obtained by WNYC and ProPublica show that lawyers connected to political powerbroker George Norcross III may have influenced lawmakers during the formation of the NJEDA tax incentive program to benefit clients and friends.
  • Kevin Sheehan, an attorney at a law firm registered with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission as a government affairs entity, has been mentioned in connection with a a criminal referral to law enforcement authorities by the NJ Economic Development Authority’s Task Force.
  • Last month, the NJEDA Task Force reported that it had uncovered evidence of “unregistered lobbying on behalf of special interests,” which materially affected the legislation and regulations governing NJ’s tax incentives granted to businesses.
  • Sheehan’s role in editing and revising drafts of a 2013 bill that would lead to large tax breaks for clients of his firm are now being called into question.
  • The task force was formed by Governor Phil Murphy to investigate the awarding of tax incentives to businesses during former Governor Chris Christie’s administration.

The name of Kevin Sheehan, an attorney at Parker McCay, has surfaced in the wake of a criminal referral to law enforcement authorities by a Governor’s Task Force examining the state Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) awarding of tax incentives during the tenure of Governor Chris Christie, InsiderNJ has learned.

Parker McCay is the law firm of Philip Norcross, brother of South Jersey Democratic Party Power Broker George Norcross III.  The firm is registered with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission as a government affairs entity, but according to ELEC, an individual must formally register as a lobbyist if he passes the threshold of 20 hours of lobbying.

Philip Norcross is registered as lobbyist.

Sheehan is not.

Last month, Governor Phil Murphy’s task force, which meets formally for the second time tomorrow, reported that it had uncovered evidence of “unregistered lobbying on behalf of special interests,” which materially affected the legislation and regulations governing New Jersey’s tax incentives granted to businesses.

At that time, Special Counsel for the Task Force, Jim Walden, outlined the evidence of these potential criminal violations in a referral letter, which was sent to law enforcement with Chairman Ronald Chen’s permission.

A source on Tuesday described Sheehan’s activities on behalf of Parker McCay as questionable.

On Parker McCay’s website, Sheehan of Haddon Heights is identified as representing “clients with regard to all aspects of projects seeking GrowNJ and Economic Redevelopment Growth Grant incentives from the NJEDA.”

His biography goes on to note that he “works with clients to prepare applications and counsel them through the approval process, the completion of the project, certification of the project, issuance of tax credits, and the sale of the tax credits to third parties. He has also represented financial institutions that purchase credits allowing businesses to monetize their award upfront. He has worked on projects and obtained approvals that will bring over $1.6 billion in investment and more than 8,000 jobs to Camden.”

According to ELEC, going back to 2011, Parker McCay has filed eight annual reports listing Philip Norcross as its governmental affairs agent. They document the firm’s representation of the Casino Association of New Jersey in Atlantic City, and M&M Realty Partners in Cherry Hill.

According to a WNYC story published today concerning tax incentives for Camden, “Philip Norcross and his law firm, Parker McCay, have consulted for a string of tax break applicants that have won some of the biggest awards approved under the tax incentive program. That’s in addition to the work done by his lobbying firm for American Water.”

That full story can be read here.

A source noted to InsiderNJ that given the firm’s history of hundreds of millions of dollars for clients, including a $40 million tax break for the Camden Campus of Cooper Health System, the absence of more ELEC documentation indeed raises questions.

The New York Times has more detail on the story here.

Sheehan did not respond to an email by InsiderNJ asking for him to comment.

This from the Times story:

It was called the Economic Opportunity Act, a measure intended to kick-start the sputtering post-recession economy in New Jersey, particularly in its struggling cities. The state would award lucrative tax breaks to businesses if they moved to New Jersey or remained in the state, creating and retaining jobs.

But before the bill was approved by the Legislature, a series of changes were made to its language in June 2013 that were intended to grant specific companies hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks, with no public disclosure, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

Many of the last-minute changes to drafts of the bill were made by a real estate lawyer, Kevin D. Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and legislative leaders in New Jersey.

Mr. Sheehan was allowed by lawmakers to edit drafts of the bill in ways that opened up sizable tax breaks to his firm’s clients, according to a marked up copy of the legislation obtained by The Times, which identifies Mr. Sheehan’s changes.

 

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