State House Roundup: Messing Up, Badly
THE STATE HOUSE — Degrees of malfeasance, from the potentially criminal to the downright juvenile, stoked an already fiery Senate campaign this week and turned a probing spotlight on the unfolding drug lab crisis and the den of dysfunction that was Tim Cahill’s campaign for governor.
And it’s not even October, when still more surprises are likely to come.
Speaking only for herself, former state drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan told police investigators, “I screwed up big time. I messed up. I messed up bad.”
The signed confession was revealed in police reports and shared unorthodoxly by prosecutors with defense attorneys this week out of recognition that pending drug cases handled by Dookhan and currently in the courts may have been compromised. With 34,000 cases already under the microscope, including those of 1,140 current prisoners, no need to add more to the pile.
But Dookhan wasn’t the only one whose alleged misdeeds warranted front page coverage.
Former Treasury official and investment banker Neil Morrison cost Goldman Sachs $16 million in fines to settle with the state and the Securities and Exchange Commission for what emails showed to be a sketchy relationship at best between Morrison and the Cahill campaign for governor.
According to the SEC and Attorney General Martha Coakley, jobs and contracts all appeared to be on the table in 2010 in exchange for political and fundraising support for Cahill’s gubernatorial bid, an ethical line Cahill campaign manager Scott Campbell admitted to “strattling” in an email to Morrison, poor spelling apparently the least of Campbell’s problems.
And MassGOP staff Brad Garrett and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s constituent services counsel Jack Richard were caught on a video that surfaced this week channeling early 90s Atlanta Braves fans by doing a “tomahawk chop” and making whooping Native American war calls to mock Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
Gov. Deval Patrick aptly described their actions as “childish and juvenile,” and Brown reportedly gave his staff their “one and only warning that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.”
By Friday, Dookhan was in custody and being arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on two counts of obstruction of justice and for falsifying her resume by claiming to have a graduate degree in chemistry from UMass Boston that she never earned.
Coakley suggested the charges against Dookhan were just the tip of the iceberg in the state’s case against the now notorious chemist who told investigators she acted alone, the only hint at a motive being her drive to do more and more work.
Morrison’s alleged transgressions were, perhaps, a little easier to understand, concealing donations and furthering a “pay-to-play” culture that would not only benefit Cahill’s ill-fated designs on the governorship but win him and his employer Goldman Sachs a few lucrative state contracts along the way.
While the bank had long ago fired Morrison for doing campaign work on company time and agreed this week to settle, the SEC opened its administrative case against Morrison and Coakley was mum on whether further criminal charges against the former assistant treasurer might be forthcoming.
Cahill and Campbell have already pleaded not guilty to unrelated, but similar, allegations that they coordinated the use of state Lottery advertising funds to bolster Cahill’s campaign.
Gov. Deval Patrick also found himself straddling a line, this one dividing a core constituency and his support for gay and transgender rights and the U.S. District Court ruling ordering the state to pay for a sex change operation for convicted murder Michelle Kosilek.
The Department of Correction ultimately announced that it would appeal Judge Mark Wolf’s ruling, arguing that the judge did not give enough credit to the state for the care the prison is providing Kosilek for her gender identify disorder and disregarded the safety concerns that could arise for other prisoners if the surgery is performed.
A week after squaring off face-to-face, Brown and Warren sniped from their respective corners this week as the spin cycle was driven largely by the aforementioned videos and new reports about Warren’s work defending conglomerate LTV Steel in their Supreme Court challenge to avoid additional payments to a health care trust fund for mine workers.
As Brown accused Warren of hypocritically portraying herself as a defender of the middle class, Warren found herself trying explain legal nuance and how her representation of giant corporations actually was for the benefit of the little guy. Assuming he was paying attention, Meet the Press’s David Gregory got plenty of material from the clippings this week for next Monday’s rumble in the Mill City when UMass Lowell and the Boston Herald play host to the second Senate debate.
When she wasn’t answering questions about her legal work, Warren was busy basking in the glow of the organized labor support she will likely need if she is to win in November.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry hit the trail for the Warren, and was joined by as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, in Southie no less.
Ed Kelly, who leads the firefighters’ union, suggested that firefighters still like Brown, but unlike in 2010 when Brown had no Congressional voting record they’re no longer convinced he’s the best choice to represent their interests.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Menino, Kerry and Trumka had Warren’s back, Warren had the backs of the firefighters, nobody had Annie Dookhan’s back and Neil Morrison left Tim Cahill’s back exposed.