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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, January 09, 2009

I beg your pardon

Former House Speaker Tom Finneran is angling to become the poster child for a massive ethics overhaul on Beacon Hill.

To paraphrase what Ted Koppel once said to a Massachusetts politician who signed a letter supporting Finneran's request for a presidential pardon, frankly Tommy, you just don't get it.

Finneran, you recall, was the tough, law-and-order Democrat who ran the House with an iron fist for eight years. He was so thoroughly full of himself and his power that he lied to a federal grand jury about his role in a redistricting plan. That netted him an obstruction of justice and perjury rap.

As speaker, he was disdainful of the "loony left" for things like going easy on criminals. He was the exemplar of the "if you do the crime, you do the time" lunch bucket voter.

Apparently until the shoe is on the other foot. Now he is asking for special favors, enlisting four former governors -- including one he probably called "loony" -- to support his request to George Bush.
Finneran has already been "severely punished," the governors wrote, citing the loss of his state pension, the suspension of his license to practice law, and his firing from a lucrative private-sector job.

"And he has suffered daily taunts and ridicule of those who believe that every elected official is the equivalent of a common thief," the governors told the president in their letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe. They assured Bush that Finneran has "seen the error of this episode" and is truly sorry.
Memo to former Govs. Michael Dukakis, Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift: Finneran is not the equivalent of a "common thief." He stole the public trust.

And the idea that a man who now hosts a daily radio talk show -- home to those who toss "daily taunts and ridicule" at those in the public sector who violate trust -- might seem like an appropriate punishment. Except that he gets paid to do it.

It's true Finneran has paid a substantial price in losing his pension, his license to practice law and being fired from a lucrative job he got thanks to the influence he wielded on Beacon Hill. That was all part of the plea agreement to avoid jail time.

The penalties might seem excessive for a "common thief" but that certainly doesn't describe the glib, intelligent Finneran.

As we sit in the middle of yet another ethics imbroglio involving yet another House Speaker (whose alleged "crimes" don't even begin to come close to Finneran's actual one), do we really want to let someone off the hook -- particularly someone who is seeking yet another special favor by asking Bush to waive the normal five-year waiting period?

Here's another rare moment to note: I applaud Mitt Romney for his decision not to sign the letter as much as I question Dukakis for his decision to do so.

Finneran is guilty of something far worse than a white collar crime. He sat before a federal jury and lied about how he used his influence and authority in conducting the public's business.

What message would we be sending by letting him say "I'm sorry" and go back to practicing law and collecting his pension as if nothing had happened?

I guess the left is loony because it believes that all criminals stand a chance to be rehabilitated. Tommy apparently thinks that only applies to those who wear white collars.

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