Update: In an interview, Ferguson says the NYT piece contained critical omissions. In particular, Ferguson said it failed to mention that he was one of the attorneys general who did file a lawsuit against 5-Hour Energy. He said the NYT also failed to mention he’d returned the campaign contribution referred to in the story, from a firm linked to 5-Hour Energy, in July after realizing its connection to the company his office was investigating.
“I don’t want that appearance,” Ferguson said. “I am sensitive to that.” He said he has also returned campaign contributions received from other companies his office is investigating, to avoid any appearance of conflict-of-interest.
The New York Times published an extensive investigative report Wednesday detailing how corporate lobbyists and lawyers influence state attorneys general, using “campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators.”
According to the NYT, Ferguson, a Democrat, personally sought campaign contributions from the company that distributes 5-Hour Energy, at a time when the company was under investigation in many states, including Washington, for deceptive marketing. The company likened such fundraising demands to “ransom.”
Ferguson’s office at first denied that charge but backed down after the NYT provided a copy of a Ferguson fundraising invitation that listed 5-Hour Energy as a sponsor.
The role of McKenna, a Republican, also comes under scrutiny. Since he joined a private law firm last year, McKenna and a top former deputy have pressed their former colleagues in the attorney general’s office on behalf of clients including T-Mobile and Microsoft, the NYT reports.
There’s much more, including similar revolving door and lobbying ties in other states. The NYT investigation also includes a trove of emails and other records from McKenna and Ferguson.