Massholes

A timeline of modern-day state house corruption
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  June 17, 2009

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AUTO TUNE Whether working under the leadership of a conservative Speaker like Thomas Finneran (above left), or a moderate like Robert DeLeo, many in the Massachusetts House have been singing the same insular, out-of-touch song since the mid ’90s.

Mass betrayal: How House progressives have let you down — and why they'll do it again. By David S. Bernstein.

Weakened watchdogs: If the Globe shrinks, will Beacon Hill run amok? By Adam Reilly

Scandal and accusations of corruption are nothing new to Massachusetts state government — precedent runs as far back as the 1770s and royal governor Thomas Hutchinson. Hutchinson was accused of enforcing the much-despised Stamp Act and Tea Act in part because his brother-in-law was stamp master, and two of his sons were designated tea consignees.

Imagine what talk radio would have done with him.

For his alleged transgressions, Commonwealth citizens ransacked Hutchinson's home, dumped a shipful of tea in the harbor, and listed his offenses in the Declaration of Independence. Contemporary comeuppance for corruption has been somewhat less violent.

Our modern-day Hutchinsons have, however, occasionally found themselves answering for their behavior in court. Here are some examples of when the long arm of the law reached into the halls under the Golden Dome.

1964 House Speaker John F. Thompson indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges. The allegations involved lobbyists for the small-loan industry who were seeking to prevent state regulation. More than two dozen people were charged. Thompson died before the case went to trial. Former Speaker Charles Gibbons, accused of perjury in the same case, eventually had the charges against him dropped.

1977 State Senators Joseph DiCarlo and Ron MacKenzie convicted of extortion and conspiracy, related to the McKee-Berger-Mansueto (MBM) company's construction of the UMass-Boston campus. They each served a year in prison.

1980 The Ward Commission, established in the wake of the MBM scandal to examine the public-construction process, concludes in a multi-volume report that "corruption is a way of life in Massachusetts."

1996 Speaker Charles Flaherty pleads guilty to tax-evasion charges, receiving two years probation and agreeing to pay $50,000 in penalties and fines. This came at the end of a three-year investigation alleging that Flaherty received contributions and favors — including free use of vacation homes — from lobbyists and businessmen currying his favor.

2005 Former Speaker Thomas Finneran indicted on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges, the result of allegations concerning his role in the 2001 redistricting process. Finneran pleaded guilty to obstruction in 2007, and served no jail time.

2008 State Senator Dianne Wilkerson arrested and charged with extortion in federal court, for allegedly receiving cash payments from businessmen in exchange for political assistance. Wilkerson is awaiting trial, as is Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, arrested in the same sting.

2009 Speaker Sal DiMasi indicted on charges that he accepted monetary payments from software company Cognos, in exchange for his assistance obtaining state contracts. DiMasi is free on bail awaiting trial.

Related: Chaos Theory, Bay State's top lobbyists, Patrick's paradox, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Salvatore DiMasi, U.S. Government, U.S. State Government,  More more >
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