Make no mistake

Letters to the Boston editor, March 6, 2009

Please note that David S. Bernstein's February 27 story "Capuano Cornered?" contains some inaccuracies. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (S.1) and H. Res. 895, which established an Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), are two completely separate pieces of legislation.

Congressman Capuano was named chair of the Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement in January of 2007 and was charged with considering whether to establish an independent ethics entity within the House for the first time in history. That task force, which Representative Capuano chaired, released its report in December of 2007 and the resolution establishing the OCE passed the House on March 11, 2008. That measure is H.Res. 895.

Congressman Capuano's task force played no role in drafting the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (S. 1), despite your efforts to establish a link. S. 1 passed the House in July and was signed by the president in September 2007, months before the Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement even released its final report.

Therefore, the premise of your piece is misleading. You assert hypocrisy, arguing in your sidebar that Representative Capuano's task force "did ultimately draft a requirement for lobbyists to disclose their 'bundling' of contributions to candidates." In fact, Representative Capuano's task force had no role whatsoever in drafting that legislation.

You go on to write: "But perhaps most damning is Capuano's sheer hypocrisy in soliciting and accepting so much money from lobbyists, and getting earmarks for their clients, while heading the effort to reduce lobbyist influence. It's not illegal — heck, it isn't even out of the ordinary — but it sure makes it easy to tar Capuano as the Democrats' lead ethics hypocrite." Again, this section is simply not accurate.

I respectfully request that you correct the record.

Alison Mills
Press Secretary
Office of Congressman Mike Capuano

EDITOR'S NOTE Congressman Capuano's office is correct. The Phoenix did get its facts wrong. One fact that remains, however, is that as chair of the Special Task Force on Open Government, Capuano was a lead player in house Democrat's ethic-reform efforts. Calling Capuano a "hypocrite," as the story did, was pushing the facts too far. We apologize for that and for misreporting. But it remains mighty awkward that Capuano has had some associations with lobbyists now under investigation — and that was the larger point of the story.

"Capuano cornered?" smacks of a premature witch hunt of Congressman Capuano. Mr. Bernstein seems to be out on an accusatory limb in the same way he went after Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray over her support for budget line items in the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism a few years ago. Murray was found innocent of those charges.

Clearly, Bernstein does not understand the 12th congressional district of southwest Pennsylvania, which sends Jack Murtha to Capitol Hill. Bernstein said Murtha's 2008 re-election was "tough," when in fact he won with 58 percent.

Murtha will be 78 at the end of his term. If he leaves the House, it will be for retirement, rather than for having been rejected by the electorate in his commonwealth.

Matt L. Barron

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