Humane Society of the U.S. Maine state director Katie Hansberry is a relatively recent transplant to the state, taking the job in 2012 after being a Boston lawyer for several years. She was recently tapped to run HSUS’s 2014 state ballot campaign to ban forms of bear hunting and trapping. And she’s already gotten off on the wrong foot.
Last month, the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices fined Hansberry after finding she failed to properly file monthly reports on her lobbying activity for HSUS, in accordance with state law. The Commission opened its investigation in June after a state representative filed a complaint.
Hansberry’s reaction to being contacted by the Commission in June was to tell investigators that “she had never lobbied before [and] did not know about the monthly reporting requirement.” Maybe not the best excuse for a lawyer. Perhaps she forgot the principle ignorantia legis neminem excusat. In any case, Hansberry apparently tried to register online as a lobbyist earlier in the year, but she didn’t complete the process or pay the registration fee. Oops.
It’s a technical violation, but it also begs the question: Just how many lobbyists does the “nonprofit” HSUS have, and how many more have failed to properly report? HSUS also employed the group Maine Street Solutions to lobby on its behalf. So that’s (at least) two lobbyists in Maine. And there are 49 other states—and 45 HSUS state and regional directors.
Ironically, Hansberry runs the HSUS front group “Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting” even though she herself hails from Andover, Massachusetts, and spent her legal career in the Boston area. (But she did summer in Maine growing up, she reveals.) We’re skeptical that Mainers—real Mainers, that is—are going to look kindly upon a D.C. animal rights group shoving a question on the ballot and appointing a Massachusetts lawyer to run the campaign. (The locals have a not-so-flattering term for people from the Bay State.)
Voters already rejected a similar 2004 initiative, so we imagine this will be a real battle for HSUS. And with 15 months to go until the election, there’s plenty of time for things to get interesting.