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State House Roundup: Prayer For Relief

This article is more than 12 years old.

Welcome, Massachusetts voters, to Insider-Fest 2010: when shadowy advisers working for gubernatorial running mates you’ve never heard of upend the political process at the direction of out-of-state forces.

It’s a quadrennial ritual when names you’ve never heard before – Meldrum, Weaver, Yob and Zanetti – matter as much to the state’s political future as the ones you know. And the names that never pierce public consciousness – Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour – exert outsize influence on the Massachusetts electorate.

In fact, Barbour, chair of the Republican Governors Association, has his fingerprints all over this week’s bombshell news – captured in e-mails released by Tim Cahill’s independent campaign for governor – that Republican operatives in Washington and beyond were maneuvering aggressively, and from within Cahill’s campaign, to undermine the first-ever viable unenrolled bid for the Corner Office.

It begs the question: Will an organization headquartered in a suite on Pennsylvania Avenue that’s spending at will to influence this year’s governor’s race actually change the outcome?

Barbour’s RGA has dropped millions into mailings and TV ads portraying Cahill as a profligate spender of taxpayer dollars who sells influence to political donors. According to a lawsuit filed by the Cahill campaign, the RGA also courted Cahill’s paid advisers – GOP operatives who worked for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 – and ultimately brought them back into the fold.

As disclosed this week, their subterfuge, which ultimately netted Cahill’s running mate, former GOP state Rep. Paul Loscocco, too, appeared aimed at landing a death blow to the Cahill campaign, and sending Republican Charles Baker surging into a first place finish over Democrat Deval Patrick.

That strategy unraveled faster than the Minnesota Twins’ World Series hopes.

Baker’s camp has denied a role in the defections and claimed Cahill’s operatives provided no “written” campaign material, and the plan’s architects appeared to undervalue or not see that Massachusetts residents would feel some sympathy for Cahill’s unusual circumstances. Baker sought to turn the story on its head, his campaign charging that Cahill’s litigious gambit was really an equally underhanded cover up for his own indiscretions with taxpayer dollars at the State Lottery he oversees. Cahill denied that.

The frenzy only escalated Friday when Loscocco interjected to protect his besieged reputation, alleging that he dropped out of the race because of his disgust with Cahill’s cozying up to the Patrick camp.

“The moment my running mate looked me in the eye and essentially admitted that his campaign was coordinating efforts with the Patrick campaign and the Democratic Governors' Association for what I considered to be the sole purpose of defeating Charlie Baker served as the defining moment for me in making the difficult decision to withdraw from the Cahill-Loscocco ticket,” Loscocco wrote, a week after he quit the Cahill campaign and endorsed Baker.

Silence from the Patrick camp seemed intended to taunt Cahill and Baker, the governor winning a high profile PR battle by doing nothing, hovering above the sleaze while Baker played defense and Cahill – champion of tort reform – took his hemorrhaging campaign into the courtroom. Is this what Cahill meant when he said Loscocco’s departure could be a “magic moment” for his campaign?

In short, it was an ugly week to be a voter, one crammed with the politics of insinuation and innuendo, another week featuring little in the way of promising new ideas to create things like jobs or shave the staggering health insurance bills that are suppressing economic growth, unless you work in health care.

Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, Charlie Baker’s running mate, touched off a defensive frenzy among Democratic leaders when he told reporters he’d heard “talk” of a “major” post-election tax hike.

“Blasphemy!” the Democrats shouted in unison, with Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo taking turns deriding Tisei’s suggesting as “hallucination,” “nonsense,” and “electioneering.”

Tisei shrugged off the charges calling the governor as “taxoholic” and arguing that Patrick’s tax-hiking history, assisted each time by the Legislature, was more than enough to constitute “talk” of an increase.

And while Patrick was accusing his rivals of “scaring people,” he went on to allege that Baker and Cahill’s proposed income, sales and corporate tax cuts would lead to property tax, toll and MBTA fare hikes – a suggestion the Baker camp also described as “scare tactics.”

A Baker administration, according to a spokesman, would not raise taxes, tolls, fees or fares, a declaration that raised some eyebrows in the Patrick camp about just what kind of promises Charlie Baker is making, given that the state is facing a $2 billion-plus structural deficit that Baker’s tax cut proposals could only widen. Alas, Baker stuck by his grand plan to fix the state’s ills and get the economy humming and budget balanced in three easy steps: cut taxes, slash regulations and impose government reforms

Apparently dissatisfied with the pace of her old boss’s pledge to cut the property tax, Democrat Suzanne Bump took matters into her own hands, the public learned this week, a revelation unmasked by a Northeastern University investigative reporting team and published in the Boston Globe. Bump, it was discovered, claimed property tax breaks on her “primary” home in great Barrington and her “principal” home in Boston, declining, it seems, to consult Roget before defending herself.

Bump maintains that she is legally eligible for both tax breaks, but she coughed up $5,875 for the city of Boston, just in case.

As a wise man once said: There’s only one October.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Bombshell fatigue.

REDRAWING THE LINES: The Senate’s gambling guru has put down the dice and picked up his cartographer’s pen, telling the News Service this week that he plans to devote the next year-plus to redrawing the state’s political boundaries. “Every expert believes we’ll lose a [Congressional] seat, so that will create some dynamics. Outcomes of Congressional elections will create dynamics,” Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said during an interview in his State House office, apparently leaving Census overseer and Secretary of State William Galvin off his list of experts.

Rosenberg, picked by Senate President Therese Murray to chair the Senate’s redistricting committee, said he and his House counterpart, Rep. Michael Moran, will spend the rest of this year sorting out “contracts, hiring legal counsel, picking computer systems, identifying and training staff” in connection with the redistricting effort. Rosenberg said the state’s next governor may weigh heavily on the outcome, depending on the makeup of the Legislature. In 1990, he noted, Gov. Bill Weld banded together with a new class of Senate Republicans and a couple recalcitrant Democrats to give the governor a veto-proof majority he used to create two Congressional districts won by Republicans.

Rosenberg warded off the notion that Democrats would seek to redistrict out a Republican – assuming one wins this November – if the state loses a Congressional seat. “There’s no magic formula,” he said. “It’s much too early to do that kind of speculation. That’s back of the envelope, crystal ball speculation that I don’t engage in, especially as chair of the committee. There is no end of criteria that will be applied.”

Rosenberg said redistricting would get “really hot” by mid-2011 and could extend into early 2012, but it must be completed in time to permit 2012 candidates to being gather signatures for office, and to leave breathing room for any legal challenges.

DEJA VU: Assuming she’s caught her breath, Republican candidate for treasurer Karyn Polito appears poised to return to the spotlight next week. A $420 million spending bill that the Shrewsbury rep blocked for a week returns to the House Tuesday after receiving a bipartisan blessing from the Senate on Friday. A Polito spokeswoman said Friday that Polito “continues to be concerned about adding spending this fiscal year, and she especially thinks it is inappropriate to fund pay raises in the bill. We’ll have more to say next week about what Karyn plans to do on Tuesday.”

Polito is a lonely actor in the Legislature – even her staunch GOP ally Rep. Jeff Perry has opted against blocking the bill. The plan funds homeless shelters, home care for the elderly, health care for low-income residents, services for people with developmental disabilities, State Police drug and gang units, and two corrections facilities that officials say would be forced to close without additional funding. The bill, funded entirely by onetime federal stimulus funds, also boosts the state’s rainy day fund by $195 million, a provision Polito has supported.

This program aired on October 10, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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