State House News Service

State House Roundup: Summer’s Page Turner

BOSTON — The approaching unofficial end of summer ushered in a spirit of cleansing to Beacon Hill this week, a chance to clear the decks, tie up loose ends and look ahead to an immediate future pocked with 2014 table setters.

We’re talking about you, Charlie Baker. And you too, Martha Coakley, Mike Capuano and Dan Wolf. But more on them later.

It started with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino who triumphantly announced the end to prolonged and private negotiations with Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment. The newly inked host community agreement with the city would deliver, at a minimum, $32 million a year to Boston if developers win the right to build a casino in the shadow of Logan Airport.

With a similar deal announced days later with Revere, Suffolk Downs has promised scores of goodies for the residents of East Boston and Revere provided they sign off later this year on the casino proposal at the ballot box, including new football fields, youth centers and bike paths.

Then it was Attorney General Coakley’s turn. After suing Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua for campaign finance violations, Coakley closed the book on former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray’s highly scrutinized relationship with former Chelsea Housing Authority Director Michael McLaughlin.

Already a federal felon for falsifying federal documents, McLaughlin was indicted on 16 more counts of illegally soliciting campaign donations for Murray and lesser-known Lawrence mayoral candidate Israel Reyes. While authorities said he actively sought McLaughlin’s support, Murray continued to maintain he knew nothing about McLaughlin’s fundraising activities, but admitted that failed oversight led to his accepting $50,000 in illegally solicited contributions by McLaughlin and MassDOT highway administration E. Bernard Plante.

Murray, now ensconced in his new, higher-paying job as CEO and president of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, agreed to massive civil penalties, including a $10,000 personal fine and $70,000 in committee fines and forfeited donations.

“If I knew in 2006 what I know today about McLaughlin, I would have never had any association with him at all,” Murray said.

Though part of his settlement agreement calls for Murray to dissolve his political committee and abstain from political fundraising for two years, the Worcester pol’s people insist the one-time mayor had no idea where Coakley’s investigation would lead when he opted against running for governor in 2014 and then left politics altogether. Some think Murray got off easy. Just ask Tina Cahill.

While Murray’s political career is over for now, Dan Cullinane’s appears to be just beginning, and if he is successful on Sept. 10 in overcoming two independents he could arrive in the House of Representative as one of most heralded rank-and-file Democrats to ever occupy a basement office.

Cullinane, the favorite to win now-Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry’s Boston-based House seat, held a unity breakfast Tuesday morning in Mattapan, and drew no shortage of party royalty to the American Legion on Blue Hill Ave. It was, after all, a slow, mid-week morning in August.

The Democratic nominee’s guests included mayoral candidates, lieutenant governor candidates, House members, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, Coakley and Gov. Deval Patrick, who ended his capital hiatus for croissants and party organizing.

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“I hope and I’m counting in this final round, in this general election, that you go to work for Dan because it’s important not just that you see him but that we elect someone who sees you when he is in elected office and Dan will do just that,” said Patrick, making his first public appearance in about a month after retiring from the State House for much of August.

Sen. Brian Joyce, a Milton Democrat, also served up kind words for Cullinane before introducing Coakley. “Everyone’s waiting with baited breath to see what she does,” Joyce said, goading Coakley who made no mention of her consideration for running for governor.

Capuano, for the record, was equally circumspect. “Soon. I’m getting close,” the Somerville Democrat said about his own decision whether to run for Patrick’s job.

Coakley, Capuano and Republican Charles Baker are the three biggest names still hanging out there as undecided for 2014, their decisions keeping other dominoes further down the chain at bay for now. Baker may very well be the first to the quiet the pontificators, teasing on Boston Public Radio this week that he may let his announcement “slip” past Labor Day, but likely not much later.

The Mattapan breakfast was Patrick’s first of several events Wednesday mostly centered around the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall.

Sen. Dan Wolf also went into the long Labor Day weekend with loose ends still unresolved, but like his colleagues in the Legislature he will still have a job on Beacon Hill to return to when the seersucker suits are traded in for more traditional business blues next Tuesday.

Wolf, who had planned to resign on Thursday, got a reprieve from the state Ethics Commission until Sept. 19 when he will present a petition to the commission at their meeting for an exemption that would allow him to continue to serve in the Senate despite Cape Air business agreements with Massport.

Republican Rep. Daniel Winslow is joining Wolf on the petition that will seek to relax the conflict of interest rules that prevent business owners with financial interests in state government contracts to enter public service. By not directly challenging the Ethics Commission’s opinion in his case and instead asking for a regulatory change, Wolf has given the Ethics Commission a chance to back off without reversing course.

But will they take it?

Patrick joined the chorus of critics, calling the ethics opinion “practically odd” even if it might be legally correct, and also cast new shade during his lengthy press conference Wednesday on the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.

Entergy’s decision this week to shutter its Vermont Yankee plant put fresh wind in the sails of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station foes. Despite the company’s resistance to drawing comparisons, Patrick turned heads when he said it’s “unclear” whether the Plymouth plant, an energy system fixture, is necessary to meet the region’s power needs.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Tim Murray cops to fundraising faux pas and pays dearly, while Suffolk Downs gets casino bid on track.

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