Smearing Deval Patrick

Plus, Ned Lamont’s Connecticut victory rewrites the rules for Democrats on Iraq
By EDITORIAL  |  August 11, 2006

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY: After his experience with Ameriquest, Patrick should get out in front of coming stories about his work with Coca-Cola and Texaco
Deval Patrick, who was once seen as a long-shot — if not a marginal — challenger to Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Attorney General Thomas Reilly and is today the Democratic front-runner in the governor’s race, has been the subject of a string of daily newspaper stories that, if taken together, suggest Patrick was a tool of giant corporate interests and a hypocrite for running his once insurgent campaign under a progressive banner. It’s a compelling story line, but it’s rubbish.

We are among those who believe that Patrick, so far, has been more than a little tone deaf when discussing issues of general corporate practice, such as locally based Gillette’s sell off of itself to Proctor and Gamble. And we would still like greater clarity — or at least greater candor — about his thoughts on the predatory-lending practices of Ameriquest Mortgage. Patrick was, until earlier this year, a well-paid member of the board of directors of ACC Capital Holdings, which controlled Ameriquest. His stock response has been that he joined the board to contribute his considerable expertise as a civil-rights lawyer to reforming companies like Ameriquest. And that, no doubt, is a believable and truthful explanation. Patrick, after all, served as President Clinton’s assistant deputy attorney general for civil rights. We’re just sorry Patrick doesn’t go further in statements about his corporate ties.

While Ameriquest won’t go away, it is yesterday’s story. Tomorrow’s news is that Ray Rogers, a man described as a New York–based labor activist, is coming to town to torture the Patrick campaign with stories that Patrick was an evildoer when he served as general counsel first at Texaco and then at Coke.

It’s difficult to imagine a multinational corporation with a pristine operating record; big rarely equals nice. But that doesn’t make everyone who works for such businesses bad men or bad women. And, if Rogers’s past history is any guide, that’s how he is going to portray Patrick.

The annals of corporate history are not exactly replete with examples of business bigwigs who went on to make their marks as agents of positive and progressive change in the public arena. But let’s consider two: Felix Rohatyn, the son of French immigrants who, while a successful investment banker, brokered the financial survival of New York City during a particularly perilous municipal money squeeze in the 1970s. And then, closer to home, there was Louis Brandeis, scion of Jewish immigrants, who was a brilliant Boston corporate attorney before he was infected with the bug of political reform. Brandeis more or less invented consumer law before being appointed to the US Supreme Court. And when he was appointed, it was to the hoots and howls of those who claimed Brandeis was a traitor to his former clients.

Is Patrick a man of the same stature as Rohatyn or Brandeis? That remains to be seen.

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