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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why people hate politics

Politician supports cause. Business supports politician. Business supports politician's cause. It's a fact of life.

House Speaker Sal DiMasi joked that the House also wins when gambling is involved, but DiMasi and the House may not be as big winners as he joked at the St. Patrick's Day breakfast last week. And that's because he has an appearance problem on his hands.

The Globe reports that Cognos ULC, a Canadian software company that won a disputed contract after DiMasi's personal intervention, also happens to be the "platinum sponsor" of a golf tournament near and dear to DiMasi's heart.

There is no direct evidence of a quid pro quo and no reason, at this juncture, to dispute DiMasi spokesman Dave Guarino when he says "Speaker DiMasi had no control over the list, had no idea who received the letters, did no work to attract tournament sponsors, and did no follow-up solicitation."

But he did personally intervene on Cognos' behalf on a $13 million contract that was rushed through and ultimately violated state bidding laws. Wonder why the bureaucrats rushed?

It looks ugly and sadly, it's par for the course in cities, towns and states across the country, not to mention Congress. In Massachusetts, there's even a law against it -- when evidence can be obtained to show an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Coming on the heels of DiMasi dispensing committee vice chairmanships for votes to defeat the casino gambling bill, the Speaker has a definite appearance problem.

But at least he can be thankful for small blessings.

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Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

And DiMasi's charity might not even be a real charity.

It is not clear whether the Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Golf Tournament is approved by the IRS, enabling donors to deduct contributions from their taxes.

Neither the attorney general's office nor the Internal Revenue Service had records of any required annual reports for the organization set up in 1992 by the accounting firm, VitaleCaturano. An IRS spokeswoman, Peggy Riley, said the fund is not on its list of charitable, tax-exempt organizations.

March 24, 2008 6:48 AM  
Blogger davidguarino said...

Hey ML

Just thought it might be informative for you to see the entire statement I released to the Globe on this story. The Globe decided not to include significant portions of it. I hope you will take a look.

David Guarino
Communications Director
Speaker DiMasi


Speaker DiMasi has been chairman of the Officer Vitale tournament committee since this incredibly generous, worthy cause was founded by the Speaker’s longtime friend, Richard Vitale, to help families of law enforcement officers who, like Harold Vitale, died in the line of duty protecting and serving the Commonwealth.

As chairman of the tournament committee, the Speaker’s name is included among the committee listed on tournament letterhead and he signs a general solicitation letter sent to potential participants from the Officer Vitale fund. The Speaker has no control of the tournament participant or sponsor lists, he has no idea who receives the letters, played no role in attracting or working with tournament sponsors and has never done any follow-up solicitation beyond this general letter.

The Ethics Commission, through various opinions and advisories, has said that this type of work does not represent an appearance or actual conflict of interest.


• The Commission has said a legislator can write general solicitation letters unless they are sent expressly to those who have “special” or specific legislation “about to be voted upon” by the legislator.

• The Commission has also said officials can have their name and position used on letters like this as long as the letterhead lists all committee members as equals.

• The Commission has further said on numerous occasions that legislators can sign such a letter as long as there is no follow-up solicitation.

• And, finally, in an opinion regarding a state regulatory board member which applies to other elected officials, the Commission wrote, “If the solicitation letter you sign is sent to a broad mailing list that you do not control and is inadvertently received by a person subject to the board’s regulatory jurisdiction, you will not violate” ethics laws preventing an official from securing an unwarranted privilege.

Speaker DiMasi had no control over the list, had no idea who received the letters, did no work to attract tournament sponsors and did no follow-up solicitation. Beyond all that, the sponsors of this event had absolutely no influence on the Speaker’s decisions or actions.

The Speaker did nothing more here than help a good cause in a way that is within the bounds of the ethics laws.


March 26, 2008 10:00 AM  

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