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It is perfect, really. A Massachusetts politician suspected of complicity in the illegal strong-arming of public employees for campaign contributions suddenly lands a $200,000 sinecure with his hometown Chamber of Commerce and a quiet exit from Beacon Hill that will save his boss some embarrassment should an indictment be forthcoming.
No undue influence there. He didn’t seek the position, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray said; the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce approached him.
The man who once openly toyed with succeeding Gov. Deval Patrick must leave in the middle of his term despite a long “punch list” of unfinished business, he said, because shilling for business interests in the state’s second city is his dream job. His departure will create an enormous hole in the administration, Patrick insisted, even as he ducked a reporter’s repeated question of whether he had tried to talk Murray into staying.
It is not cynicism that prompts skepticism about the abrupt timing of Murray’s resignation; it’s experience.
All of this is about as credible as Murray’s shifting explanations for the predawn crash in 2011 in which he totaled a state car while driving 100 miles an hour without a seatbelt. As credible as his insistence that he was blindsided by fundraising efforts on his behalf by Michael McLaughlin, the man with whom Murray spoke regularly by phone and who will be sentenced on June 14 on federal charges of concealing the $360,000 salary he was paying himself as chief of the Chelsea Housing Authority. As credible as Murray’s claim last January that his motive for abandoning a delusional run for governor was his desire to spend more time with his family.
It is not cynicism that prompts skepticism about the abrupt timing of Murray’s resignation; it’s experience. Who could forget House Speaker Tom Finneran’s insistence in 2004 that his departure from the Legislature only weeks before Election Day had nothing to do with what turned out to be his imminent indictment and conviction on federal perjury charges. “On a scale of one to 10, it’s zero,” Finneran said of the role his legal troubles played in his exit. Echoed the equally incredible Murray: “It had nothing to do with this decision.”
Perhaps it is purely coincidental that the former Worcester mayor will have vacated his State House office — and camera proximity to Patrick — before McLaughlin is sentenced under a plea deal that requires him to cooperate with ongoing state and federal investigations into his campaign fundraising activities for Murray. But the 45 miles between Boston and Worcester might not be distance enough for Democrats if Murray is indicted before next year’s gubernatorial election.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance thinks there is evidence of wrongdoing. In a letter to Attorney General Martha Coakley last September, the director, Michael J. Sullivan, said evidence “indicates that McLaughlin, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, and the Citizens Committee to elect Tim Murray did not comply with section 7 of the campaign finance law, which prohibits the solicitation or receipt of contributions not raised in accordance with the campaign finance law.” Murray could face jail time and hefty fines if convicted of knowingly accepting illegal contributions.
The choice would seem to be between whether Murray was cravenly duplicitous or merely dim.
The lieutenant governor once again waved away any suggestion that McLaughlin’s misdeeds had anything to do with him. “He misled a lot of people and organizations, including myself,” said the man who has hired Donald Stern, the former U.S. attorney, to represent him in the ongoing investigations. “People are going to believe what they are going to believe.”
The choice would seem to be between whether Murray was cravenly duplicitous or merely dim. “More often than not my judgment is good,” he said, a track record that might not hearten the board of directors at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce about their choice of a new president and chief operating officer.
Whether or not people believe a criminal indictment is likely in Murray’s future, the outgoing lieutenant governor did neatly sum up his once promising political career. “I’m from Worcester,” he said. “I’m always going to be from Worcester.”
This program aired on May 23, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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