State House Roundup: Old Wounds
THE STATE HOUSE — What politician wouldn’t like a do-over every once and awhile?
If elected officials could simply hit the reset button at least once during their political careers, Gov. Deval Patrick would surely take another stab at his first few months in office. Attorney General Martha Coakley might bundle up and shake some hands outside of Fenway. And newly indicted former Treasurer Tim Cahill? Well, we have a pretty good idea what decision he’d take back.
In his new “MINDSETTER” column for the golocalworcester website, Cahill paid tribute a week ago to Eric Fehrnstrom’s now infamous Etch-A-Sketch comment on resetting Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy with his own list of regrettable moments in political history.
“Two words: Paul Loscocco. Shake and Erase please,” Cahill wrote March 27. Six days later the former Democrat who became an independent to run for governor in 2010 was charged by Coakley with public corruption for conspiring with his campaign to spend $1.5 million in Lottery advertising money to boost his faltering candidacy.
Cahill said this week he would authorize the ad campaign again if he had the chance, defending the decision as a necessity to preserve a source of local aid in the Lottery that was under attack by the Republican Governors Association. But choosing former Republican Rep. Paul Loscocco as his gubernatorial running mate might be the decision causing sleepless nights.
Flashback to those turbulent final months of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign: If Cahill had not chosen Loscocco, he could have avoided the embarrassment of his running mate defecting mid-campaign to endorse Republican Charlie Baker. He then might not have sued three of his former advisors for conspiring to get Loscocco off the ticket and leaking sensitive campaign information to Baker’s team, which led to a counter lawsuit by those same advisors claiming Cahill was trying to silence them because they knew too much about the alleged collusion between the Lottery and the Cahill campaign over the advertising campaign.
Cahill, along with his former campaign manager Scott Campbell, pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court this week to charges that they illegally conspired to use $1.5 million in public funds from the Lottery on an ad campaign designed to bolster his 2010 campaign for governor. A third defendant, former Lottery chief of staff Alfred Grazioso, also pleaded not guilty to witness intimidation.
For Campbell, it’s another exercise in justice. He’s already been charged by Coakley for disguising contributions for Cahill’s campaign and trading a job at the Lottery for former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien’s wife in exchange for an O’Brien-organized fundraiser.
Reading a hand-scrawled statement from a spiral notebook outside the courthouse, Cahill apologized to reporters for being out of practice before defiantly proclaiming his confidence that his name and reputation would be cleared.
His attorney, E. Peter Parker, had the spider sense not to let Cahill take questions, lest he be asked about the emails circulated among his campaign staff about the script and timing of the ads, unbeknownst according to Coakley’s office, by the Lottery officials who opposed the idea.
Meanwhile, the First Family of Twitter (Tim, Tina, Makena, Nicole, et al) predictably hit the social media circuit to both defend the patriarch, and also crack a few jokes about a law-and-order themed wedding for Makena’s upcoming nuptials.
While Cahill defended his reputation, Coakley tried to tamp down criticism from the Massachusetts Republican Party and others that she was engaged in her own extreme image makeover. Some Beacon Hill observers wondered whether Coakley could make the charges stick under the new 2009 ethics law, suggesting she may have overreached to seem tough on corruption in the eyes of voters in preparation for a run for governor, herself, in 2014. Coakley told the News Service that her current intention is to seek re-election in 2014.
As the new political corruption drama started playing out in court, the Senate quietly passed a bill considered by its sponsors to be the “Green Communities Act: Part Deux” that would introduce competitive bidding for renewable energy, and allow homeowners and business to sell more of their home-generated power back to the grid.
Though the energy bill cleared the Senate unanimously 39-0, an attempt to quickly ram through complicated legislation known as “Right to Repair” faltered as Sen. Susan Fargo tabled the Ways and Means-drafted bill for a week. The bill would force auto makers to reveal additional repair data to body shops and aftermarket parts dealers.
Without warning, the Senate on Tuesday teed up the controversial proposal that has failed to advance for years on Beacon Hill – or in any other state – for debate two days later in an apparent attempt to prevent the excessively lobbied bill from giving rise to all-out warfare this election season if the question proceeds to the ballot as scheduled.
Sen. Stephen Brewer basically said voters are not to be trusted. “We are down to less than a month and we need to try and advance this discussion. We need to kick the discussion up a notch. It’s almost always unwise to do complicated policy by bumper sticker mentality.”
Just as the auto bill proponents mashed complicated public policy into a snappy catchphrase, so did the Occupy Transit protestors, who chanted “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” outside Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office until they were granted an audience.
The protesters were angry that the MassDOT board voted 4-1 this week to approve a fare hike for the T that included some service cuts to bus routes and weekend commuter rail to the South Shore. With the average 23 percent fare boost solving only part of the T’s budget problem for next year, board member Ferdinand Alvaro was the lone dissenting vote, calling the plan a “disgrace.”
The occupiers, who at times employed a brass band and large paper mache “Charlie on the MTA” to bring attention to their cause, have been sleeping on the State House steps since Wednesday.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Tim for Treasurer headed for trial.
DON’T HATE THE PLAYA, HATE THE GAME: In electoral politics, the question of whom would voters rather have a beer with is usually a hypothetical. U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is upping the ante. In a tightly contested race against likely Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren, Brown sent out a fundraising appeal Friday afternoon offering one winner the chance to spend a day with Brown, including lunch at Kelly’s Roast Beef and a beer at J.J. Foley’s in Boston. So who would you rather have a beer with, Warren or Brown?