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The House majority leader said Friday he plans to be a future candidate for speaker as the current officeholder, Salvatore DiMasi, tried to tamp down speculation he will resign next week.
Rep. John Rogers, D-Norwood, said that if and when DiMasi steps down, he will try to succeed the Boston Democrat.
"I pledge a new era of leadership dedicated to efficiency, transparency, accountability and overall effectiveness," Rogers said in a statement that indirectly damned DiMasi's four years of leadership.
"It's time we finally put to rest all of the outside distractions that have been counterproductive so that we can refocus our efforts on the many important issues facing the commonwealth," said Rogers.
He himself paid $30,000 last year to settle a state investigation that found nearly $100,000 of his campaign funds went to a friend who made the mortgage payments on a Cape Cod vacation home owned by the representative and his wife.
The statement laid bare a succession battle that has been waging in the background for months between Rogers and Rep. Robert DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat who serves as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. DeLeo has told members he has already secured enough support in the 160-member chamber - 81 votes - to succeed DiMasi.
DeLeo issued his own statement Friday night, alluding to the Statehouse rumors and adding, "the Speaker, to my knowledge, has not issued any statement indicating his intentions."
"I am very encouraged by the increasing and growing support I have among the membership," DeLeo said. "I have been working with members for a long time, especially over the past several months, as we tackle the budget and global economic challenges we face, and look forward to continuing that work in the days and weeks ahead."
The public release of the statements also was a sign of just how weakened DiMasi has become at a time when the state is facing another $1 billion in budget cuts, the construction of a 2010 budget and a massive plan to overhaul the state's vast transportation network.
DiMasi has been fending off ethics investigations after friends have been accused of benefiting financially from their relationship with him. The speaker, who metes out office space and committee posts, had indicated he would punish anyone defying his order to stop rounding up votes to succeed him, but both DeLeo and Rogers have retained their posts since DiMasi was re-elected earlier this month.
In a statement, DiMasi spokesman David Guarino did not directly respond when The Associated Press and other news organizations asked if the speaker was planning to resign. DiMasi was not in the Statehouse the latter part of the week, ostensibly because he was sick.
"The speaker is focused on the important work before the House and won't be distracted by the latest round of Statehouse rumors and gossip," Guarino said.
The spokesman and other top members of DiMasi's staff did not respond to further e-mails or phone messages seeking elaboration.
DiMasi is being investigated over whether he supported legislation and a state contract on behalf of friends who were representing ticket brokers and a Burlington software company. DiMasi has denied any wrongdoing.
His former campaign treasurer, Richard Vitale, has been indicted on charges he illegally lobbied DiMasi on behalf of the brokers. He contends he didn't have to register as a lobbyist.
On Thursday, The Boston Globe reported Vitale paid off $7,500 in legal bills accumulated by the parents of the speaker's wife at the same time he was working for the ticket brokers. They sought anti-scalping legislation that passed the House in 2007 but failed in the Senate.
The newspaper previously reported that Vitale also gave DiMasi a $250,000 third mortgage on his North End condominium. DiMasi subsequently repaid the money.
The Globe also reported in December a federal grand jury is also investigating the state's awarding of a multimillion-dollar computer software contract to a Burlington firm that made $1.8 million in payments - sometimes undisclosed - to three friends of DiMasi.
The Patrick administration ended up canceling the $13 million contract with Cognos ULC.
This program aired on January 24, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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