Speaker DiMasi Speaks Out

House Speaker Sal DiMasi is speaking out. After keeping a low profile recently, DiMasi is now saying that he expects to be re-elected speaker next year and is cracking down on colleagues campaigning to take his place.

The Speaker told members in a letter yesterday that he is "outraged" by allegations he has violated state ethics. WBUR's Martha Bebinger reports.

MARTHA BEBINGER: A string of articles has suggested connections between Speaker Sal DiMasi, friends who lobby him officially or unofficially, and deals at the State House. In the most recent example, DiMasi received, then repaid a $250,000 loan from his accountant, who was helping ticket brokers with a bill that passed the House.

DiMasi's committee chairmen have come to his defense. DiMasi, usually through a spokesman, has refuted each conflict of interest claim. Finally yesterday, the Speaker spoke out.

SPEAKER SAL DiMASI: When they came out with these articles and these complaints, I was outraged because, they're utterly baseless and they're just plain wrong. The decisions I make were based on what is in the best interests of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

BEBINGER: DiMasi says he wrote the letter to end speculation about these allegations and his future. He says the vote tally between potential successors, Majority Leader John Rogers and Ways and Means chairman Robert DeLeo is a distraction.

DiMASI: I'm staying, and there is no Speaker's fight. John Rogers and Bobby DeLeo both support me. My members all support me overwhelmingly. And since there is no speaker's fight there shouldn't be any jockeying or soliciting votes for the next Speaker and that won't be tolerated. That's what the message is as well with this letter.

BEBINGER: Supporters say it was time for DiMasi to answer questions about his character and ability to lead the House...and that the letter does that. Byron Rushing is a member of DiMasi's leadership team.

REP. BYRON RUSHING: Those that represent the minority of members who were anxious; this was a calming letter for them. Calming in the sense that it is reasonable, truthful, and that they can quote this letter to their constituents.

BEBINGER: But some skeptical Democrats and House Republicans argue the Speaker is not in the clear yet. Minority Leader Brad Jones says members are wondering...will another shoe drop?

REP. BRAD JONES: If this is everything, then my guess if the Speakers continues on, maybe with somewhat less power than he once had. If there's other stories, then obviously, I think you have to judge at the time. Then it there becomes the death by a thousand cuts.

BEBINGER: The state Republican Party has filed four complaints against DiMasi with the State Ethics Commission, where a full investigation, hearing, and decision routinely stretch into a year.

For WBUR, I'm Martha Bebinger.

This program aired on May 13, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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Martha Bebinger Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.



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