DiMasi’s sheep

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  June 15, 2011

DiMasi’s techniques, or those of his inner circle, certainly seem designed to keep members in line. Take the transportation-bond bill, for example, which had been carefully crafted by two joint House/Senate committees. DeLeo, citing the time crunch to meet deadlines for federal matching funds, unilaterally stripped it of funding for dozens of local projects — considered crucial by the individual representatives from those districts — and said that they would be revisited in May.

“This was just a power grab by [DeLeo], to make the members come to him for their earmarks,” says one rep. Now, that rep adds, the leadership can hold those pending projects over their heads, ensuring that they’ll behave themselves while the budget sails through, and not make any waves — if they want their particular district’s bridge or road project to survive “revisiting.”

DiMasi denies there was any hidden agenda behind the way the transportation bill advanced, and says that members are typically given plenty of opportunity for input. As an example, he points to a one-hour caucus earlier this week to discuss tax legislation. “By the time we get to the floor, their ideas are incorporated into the bill,” he says.

And members will frequently tell you that DiMasi never personally leans on them for votes. But, some say, that’s because he keeps his hands clean while letting subordinates do the dirty dealing.

On this past year’s gay-marriage debate, for instance, it’s true that DiMasi made no deals for votes. But he dispatched nine “handlers” with directives to win over a member assigned to them — and another nine to oversee the handlers. DiMasi was kept at arm’s length from details of how the vote-flippers were persuaded.

Indeed, DiMasi is said to be angry with Daniel Bosley — loyalist extraordinaire, who has “voted off” just a single time in the past two sessions — for failing to secure the needed committee votes against the casino bill, which forced the Speaker to get personally involved.

Bosley is chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, to which DiMasi sent Governor Deval Patrick’s casino legislation to die. Despite support for the bill among the committee’s senators, the “antis” appeared to have more than enough votes for a fatal negative recommendation (which would preclude compromise amendments from being added on the floor). DiMasi had virtually assured success in January, by reassigning pro-casino rep Koczera off the committee, along with frequent “off” voter Demetrius Atsalis (of Barnstable). With a few weeks to go, the Boston Globe reported that 12 of the 19 committee members were leaning against the bill, with another three undecided.

By the time of the committee vote, that number had fallen to nine, one shy of a majority. DiMasi, according to several sources, first called pro-casino Democrat Harriett Stanley of West Newbury into his office. But Stanley, who is known to stand up to the leadership, declined to change her vote. Then he turned to a Republican, Richard Ross of Wrentham — who had flipped for DiMasi before, helping kill the gay-marriage ban after voting the other way on the issue at every previous opportunity.

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