She has said herself that she will pull no punches with the powerful and influential, whether in prosecution or advocating for the consumer. When National Grid and Keyspan announced merger plans last month, Coakley immediately sought an investigation into its impact on consumers. “She went after the biggest utility in the state,” says one lobbyist, “and whacked them between the eyes.”
As attorney general, Coakley has also impressed many by dumping many of Reilly’s top aides, and bringing in top-notch recruits such as David Friedman, from former senate president Robert Travaglini’s office; Kevin Conroy, from Gloria Larsen’s Foley Hoag circles; and Jeffrey Clements, who now runs the public-protection and advocacy bureau. To head the Civil Rights Division, she hired Maura Healey, who challenged the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, and helped investigate alleged violations in Suffolk County’s jails.
“A lot of people were worried that, because of her loyalty to Reilly, she would keep his people,” says a Coakley critic, who gives her credit for the staff she’s compiled. It remains to be seen, he adds, whether she listens to them. “The test will be whether her staff stays there.”
Coakley is also making some forward-looking changes in the office. She created a new health-care division that will, among other things, try to anticipate the effects of the new reform legislation — trying to head off insurance fraud, for example.
Plus, she launched a massive information-technology overhaul of the notoriously stone-age office systems — badly neglected by the technophobic Reilly. (The office has already switched from Lotus Notes to Outlook, the e-mail program made by Microsoft Corp., which Reilly crusaded against for alleged antitrust practices.) That’s going to make it easier for Coakley’s investigators to do their jobs, and for residents to lodge complaints and get consumer-protection information, she says.
Some of her other pledges — to crack down on drug dealers and on employers who exploit immigrant workers, for example — seem to be slower coming, according to close observers, who suggest that Coakley’s goals have had to take a back seat, understandably, to newly-arising issues.
Besides, it’s early in her term — although Coakley knows that she was expected to hit the ground running. “I had an easier job transitioning” than new governor Deval Patrick, she says, ever aware that the intense interest in the new governor has given her some breathing room from the press and the public.
That’s given her the ability to draw attention to her office on her own terms, when she wants it — a gift that has helped her negotiate these early decisions.
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Daily updates at David S. Bernstein's Talking Politics blog: http://www.thephoenix.com/talkingpolitics