Back in January, Governor Deval Patrick declared a "season of significant government reform" on Beacon Hill. Well, apparently that season was neither winter nor spring. This week, as we head full on toward summer, and our thoughts turn to sweltering beaches and white-hot barbecues, it's as good a time as any to put our pols' feet to the fire — and roast them.
The Senate version of ethics-reform legislation does nothing to prevent lobbyists from collecting and bundling large wads of contributions from clients to key lawmakers. Here’s my suggestion: allow bundling, but require that the money be presented in the form of a giant novelty check. With press invited for photos, of course.
So let's take a good look at some of your noteworthy Bay State elected officials, who promised to clean up campaign financing, ethics, pensions, and, of course, the bloated, broke, dysfunctional transportation agencies. Drummer: prepare your rim shots. While we wait for meaningful reform, we can only laugh to keep from crying.
First up for a zinger, surely, must be Senate President Therese Murray. Her mantra, "reform before revenue," has already gone up in smoke. Perhaps a more realistic timetable would be "reform before Rapture."
Since taking over for her mentor, Robert Travaglini, Murray hasn't exactly cleaned up the old revolving-door lobbyist/legislator relationships. But Travaglini is cleaning up — in his new job of high-priced, all-purpose lobbyist.
All those fundraisers for Murray at Joe Tecce's Restaurant are now paying off for Travaglini, whose access to the president helped him earn nearly $300,000 last year in lobbying fees. That included $60K from Suffolk Construction Company, which hired him to help secure an $8 million contract to renovate Logan Airport's E Terminal. Suffolk got the contract — undoubtedly as the result of a fair and open process!
Who needs lobbying-and-ethics reform when things are working that smoothly?
And the Senate's ethics-reform bill guts the pesky State Ethics Commission, which tries to investigate, you know, ethics allegations.
That office, you'll recall, had the temerity to ask former Speaker Sal DiMasi for materials relating to his own alleged improper backroom deals. DiMasi refused, under the legal theory that it's none of your damn business how a sweetheart provision for ticket brokers got tucked into a bill, or how a big contract was awarded, both benefiting clients of DiMasi pal Richard Vitale.
Of course, if we're roasting DiMasi for that, we'll also have to take a shot at his successor Robert DeLeo — along with the rest of the House Democrats, who kicked off "reform season" by voting to reward DiMasi's secretiveness with another term on the throne.
DiMasi is now gone, but his documents remain carefully guarded from prying investigators; I have not heard one House Democrat publicly call for them to be released. Sunlight being the best disinfectant, the representatives are courageously protecting the rights of the germs.
Is anyone responsible?
Perhaps the biggest mystery, though, is how Governor Patrick managed to be the one to lose the public trust, in the midst of all this cowardice and inaction by the legislature.