The Friends of Sal Dimasi
The Massachusetts blogosphere was in high dudgeon earlier this week over a Herald story that Diane Patrick's name was on a client "alert" about a new Massachusetts law regarding damages in wage cases. "Did Deval step in it again?" was the operative question.
Today's Globe headlines a much bigger ethical question, focusing on how a pro-consumer ticket bill aimed at ending scalping emerged from the House as a pro-industry measure. And all the industry needed to do was hire a friend of Sal DiMasi, his financial adviser who also brokered a below-market rate third mortgage for Mr. Speaker.
And who, by the way, is not a registered lobbyist.
We're all aware of "DrapeGate" and "CaddyGate" and now "BookGate." The governor has been lambasted from the left and right (not helping himself with stupid tactical moves). His poll numbers are sagging and his ethics and competence are being questioned.
Meanwhile, DiMasi bumps along from one questionable encounter and deal to another without so much as an eyebrow raised on the public scene.
Part of the difference of course is that Patrick was elected statewide with a promise of changing business as usual. DiMasi represents one district in the North End, runs the Massachusetts House and is business as usual.
And he's been winning -- casinos, corporate tax reporting. You get the picture.
Patrick's latest "blunder" was allowing a bill to become law without his signature. It's credible to suggest he did that to avoid any appearance of conflict with the law firm for whom his wife works in the labor practice.
It was a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't situation" and he was indeed damned on both scores.
The latest DiMasi matter is far more complex and troubling. Here are the Globe's nut grafs:
But because [Richard] Vitale, a Charlestown accountant with the firm of Vitale, Caturano & Co., was not registered as a lobbyist when he helped the brokers with their bill - and because of his financial ties to the speaker - the episode raises questions on how DiMasi and his political allies conduct business on Beacon Hill.Admittedly a lot of ifs there. And DiMasi, surrounded by his spokesman, House legal counsel and chief of staff, denied he was aware that his accountant/friend Vitale was involved in working for legislation to lift regulations on the ticket resale business.
If Vitale was paid more than $5,000 to influence lawmakers - and several brokers briefed on his fee arrangements said he most certainly was - he would have had to register as a lobbyist. And if he was working as a lobbyist, his ongoing financial relationship with DiMasi - namely, the loan - would have run afoul of state conflict of interest laws that prohibit lobbyists from granting anything of value to a public official.
"I had no idea that he was working for them or what his relationship was," said DiMasi. "He's never talked to me about any legislation at all."Good thing he didn't make that statement under oath. It was that sort of broad denial that got Tom Finneran an obstruction of justice conviction.
I suspect this will capture the attention of the state Ethics Commission and Secretary of State Bill Galvin's Public Records Division. Not to mention the Republican United States Attorney for Massachusetts.