Power hungry?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  June 7, 2007

Murray, for her part, is known to hold a grudge, and to reward loyalty, but she consolidated the power needed to become president this year in large part by promising not to wield a heavy hand, Senate Democrats say. Murray has also pledged not to kill the amendment procedurally, a promise her staff has recently reiterated to several media outlets.

Since DiMasi and Murray can’t or won’t order legislators to change their votes, they are relying more on carrots than sticks to sway the increasingly valuable holdouts.

“When you get the governor, the Speaker, and the Senate president on your side, there’s certainly a wide range of things they can offer,” says one person close to the lobbying effort, who tells the Phoenix that, as the ConCon approaches and potential vote-flippers become more valuable, “they’re being offered more stuff.”

That includes positions in Patrick’s administration, as has been reported in the Boston Globe. Committee chairs are “absolutely” under discussion, says another gay-marriage advocate close to the lobbying effort.

And then there’s the opportunity for pork in the state budget, which is currently under negotiation. “The rumor is, whoever is coming out good in the budget, that’s whose vote is changing,” says a staffer for a pro-gay-marriage senator. “It’s coming down to arm-twisting.”

But the political leadership is hamstrung in its ability to offer rewards. The current fiscal crisis precludes much budget generosity, says lobbyist Arline Isaacson.

Besides, Patrick got elected on the promise to run an open, above-board government that would shun closed-door dealings — and on the promise to specifically eliminate the culture of earmarks. Murray has enough of an image problem with defending those earmarks against Patrick’s proposed cuts, and is under investigation by both the state auditor and inspector general for allegations of inappropriately awarding millions of wasted state-tourism dollars.

Journalists and marriage-ban proponents will be watching closely for evidence of quid pro quo deals for ConCon votes, as representatives Brian Wallace of South Boston and Paul Kujawski of Webster discovered this past week. Howie Carr mentioned them in a Herald column warning of such deals — an outing seen by many on the Hill as a warning shot by the anti-gay-marriage movement to potential vote-flippers. At the very least, they can expect to be embarrassed in the press. They’ll probably get an expensive challenge in their next election campaign, as well, and may be painted as having been bought by the gay lobby. That was the fate of Christopher DiBella, who this past year lost a Democratic primary for an open Methuen House seat to Linda Dean Campbell.

Most legislators don’t want that aggravation. “The ones who want to switch want it to be the quietest switch in history,” says Moran. “They’ll say to MassEquality, ‘I don’t want you to recognize me, I don’t want you to do a mailing for me.’ ”

And they especially don’t want to be known as the vote-switcher who changed the outcome. “None of them want to be the next John Slattery,” says Isaacson, referring to the former state representative from Peabody, whose 11th-hour reversal prevented passage of a death-penalty bill in 1997.

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