The Louisiana Capitol Building, April 8, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).
A politically-connected Louisiana lobbyist who was arrested for domestic violence has been visiting the Capitol this week, even though one of his alleged victims works in the building and has a protective order in place against him. The circumstances have raised red flags for domestic violence prevention advocates who question why the accused man isn’t facing more restrictions inside the statehouse.
The incident has also brought attention to the accused’s lobbying clients who have stuck with him in spite of his arrest. One law enforcement group didn’t cut ties with him until this week after The Illuminator started asking questions about their status.
Kevin Hayes, who owns Hayes Strategic Solutions, has been a lobbyist at the state level since at least 2009 and previously worked as a staff attorney for the Louisiana Senate. He is the past president of the Baton Rouge Bar Association. His more prominent clients used to include the Louisiana Press Association and the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, though they both dropped him after the arrest.
Hayes was booked with allegedly attacking his now estranged wife and 15-year-old stepson in their home on Dec. 30. He faces two misdemeanor charges of domestic abuse battery and up to six months in prison for each count if convicted. He goes to court over the charges on March 17.
The protective order bars Hayes from coming within 100 yards of the woman, but that restriction is complicated by the fact that Hayes and the woman both work in the state Capitol.
As a lobbyist, Hayes spends a lot of time talking to legislative staff and lawmakers in the building, especially during the annual lawmaking sessions like the one that starts next week. The woman is a state employee who works on one of the upper floors of the Capitol.
Hayes said the woman sought a protective order not because she felt unsafe, but because she wanted an advantage in the couple’s divorce proceedings. SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
“If you Google ‘How to get leverage in a divorce?’ it talks about restraining orders and protective orders,” Hayes said in a phone interview Tuesday. “That’s what this is about. She was trying to take my house.”
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Louisiana Illuminator does not identify alleged victims of domestic abuse by name. The woman declined to comment for this article.
In a recent court filing for divorce, the woman said Hayes became drunk at a party the night he was arrested, started to be “irrationally angry” and cursed at her on their drive home. When back at their house, Hayes held a pillow over her face for several seconds, and then attacked her teenage son when the boy attempted to check on the woman after hearing her scream, according to her divorce court documents.
Hayes then allegedly punched the son and shoved him against a hallway wall. He and the son ended up on the floor, with Hayes “looming” over the teenager, which prompted the woman’s daughter to call the police, according to divorce court records. Shortly thereafter, officers came to the house and arrested Hayes.
Hayes’ behavior often escalates after he has been drinking, and the incident on Dec. 30 was only one of “several verbally and/or physically aggressive altercations in the week prior to the defendant’s arrest,” the court records said. Hayes allegedly brandished a gun a few days before his arrest, according to WBRZ-TV. He also frequently got into fights with the woman’s children, she said in her divorce documents.
Hayes denied, through his lawyer, that he had ever brandished a gun at the woman as reported.
Domestic violence prevention advocates described the protective order as unusual and worrying. Such arrangements typically prevent an alleged abuser from going near his alleged victim’s place of work, but an exception for the Capitol has been carved out in the order that applies to Hayes.
“This just seems like a very non-restrictive protective order,” said Kim Sport, an attorney who lobbies in the state Capitol frequently for victims of domestic violence. “I don’t see how this is really protecting her.”
One lawmaker also expressed reservations about having the lobbyist in the Capitol near his alleged abuse victim.
“I think it sounds unsafe for the victim and I think it sounds unsafe for all of us who are in the building,” Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, said. “I am not comfortable working with him. Period.”
The court put a yearlong protective order in place for the woman and against Hayes on Jan. 4. GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Under the order, Hayes is not allowed to contact her or post about her on social media. He’s been subjected to drug tests twice since his arrest and has to wear an ankle monitoring device. He temporarily turned over all of his guns – nine weapons in total – to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.
Hayes has agreed to have his Louisiana law license voluntarily suspended last month, though he said he felt forced into that decision because the woman formally complained to the state bar association about Hayes’ drinking.
A judge concluded the woman’s protective order should not interfere with Hayes’ ability to earn money, so Hayes is allowed in the Capitol, albeit with restrictions, said Hillar Moore, district attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish.
Hayes is supposed to stay on the first floor and in the basement of the building – where lawmakers typically meet – and should not go to the floor on which the woman works. Every time Hayes enters the Capitol, the woman receives notification in advance that he will be in the building.
The arrest has not been good for Hayes’ lobbying business. About a dozen clients cut ties with him in January, according to state records, and he has lost more than 70% of his business, according to his divorce filing.
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Not everyone has decided to part ways with him though. Hayes still represents 11 clients, including the Louisiana Assisted Living Association, Louisiana Homecare Association, Pediatric Day Healthcare Providers and Verbatim Reporters of Louisiana – an organization that represents court reporters.
The Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police was also still using Hayes as one of their lobbyists until this week. The group’s chairman, Grambling Police Chief Tony Clark, said the association voted to end its contract with Hayes the day after the Illuminator had reached out asking about the organization’s relationship with Hayes.
Clark said he had not known Hayes was “charged with some kind of offense” until Tuesday, when it came up at an association conference.
Earlier in the week, advocates for survivors of domestic violence expressed concern that the police chiefs hadn’t ended their affiliation with Hayes immediately following his arrest, like several of his other clients did.
“How can a law enforcement group have this man lobbying for them in the state Capitol?” Sport said. “Any victim who knows about this would start to wonder whose side they are on.”
Sport said she still worries Hayes poses a danger to the public at the Capitol, especially since he isn’t being screened for weapons when he enters the building.
As a registered lobbyist, he’s typically allowed to bypass metal detectors that are used to screen members of the public. In spite of restrictions on him inside the Capitol, Hayes and his alleged victim have also already run into each other once this week.
Hayes was in the hallway outside a House Appropriations Committee meeting at which the woman’s boss was scheduled to speak this week. When the woman’s boss approached the hearing, Hayes stopped the boss and shook his hand. Hayes later saw the woman, who was attending the hearing with her boss, and said he immediately walked away from the area in which she was standing, as he is required to do.
Hayes said if he sees the woman in the Capitol again, he will handle it as if he ran into her by accident. He will immediately walk away and avoid making eye contact with her.
In an interview, Hayes blamed the woman for the downturn in his lobbying business. In his divorce filing, Hayes said the woman conspired with a Baton Rouge television reporter to ruin Hayes’ reputation. Court documents show he is seeking spousal support from her following the divorce to make up for the loss of clients following his arrest.
“It is Kevin’s intention to establish that none of [the TV reporter’s] articles [about Hayes’ arrest] were based upon his independent reporting but instead were based on information fed to him by [the woman] to do the greatest damage to Kevin possible,” reads one of Hayes’ divorce filings.
During an interview with The Illuminator, Hayes took credit for getting the woman her current job in the Capitol and a previous job at another state agency.
In legal documents, he also pushed back on the assertion that his drinking alarmed the woman. Hayes said the woman gave him a bottle of whiskey as a Christmas present last year, and the woman’s sister had given him bottles of wine.
“[The woman] and Kevin attended numerous parties, dinners at restaurants and dinners at home throughout November and December 2021 and drank alcohol together,” according to Hayes’ divorce documents. “These actions make [the woman’s allegations] of Kevin’s alleged inebriation and her alleged fear for her safety and well-being entirely false.”
Correction: Information about Hayes brandishing a gun was initially attributed to the incorrect source.
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