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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Winning a battle

House Speaker Sal DiMasi won an important legal battle just days before his colleagues are set to vote him in for another term, but I can't help but wonder about the overall direction of the war.

The state Ethics Commission has dropped a lawsuit that would have compelled DiMasi to release documents they want to see in their investigation of his relationship with accountant/lobbyist Richard Vitale. The victory mirror the arguments offered here last November by Rep. Dan Bosley.

But as I argued then, the court of public opinion is where DiMasi continues to lose the battle. And while the public doesn't vote for Speaker the appearance of anything less than full transparency is not good for the DiMasi cause.

Nor are the circumstances surrounding the delayed arraignment of Vitale on charges he failed to report $60,000 he received from an association of ticket brokers to lobby for their legislation.

The Herald reports the delay stems from Vitale's vacation. And then there is the matter of Vitale's attorney, Martin Weinberg, asking to seal the record to prevent additional details from emerging two days before the speaker vote.

Although Vitale is charged with misdemeanors and not felonies, delaying an arraignment to avoid having to cut a vacation short does not look good. Nor does the the timing and effort to withhold details.

It's a safe bet DiMasi was not consulted by Weinberg and has no role whatsoever in those two courtroom maneuvers. But once again, in the court of public opinion, the verdict is harsh.

If I were advising DiMasi I would urge him to say "now that I have upheld an important legislative prerogative that enables robust debate, I will voluntarily give the Ethics Commission what it has been asking. We have far too many pressing issues -- like the budget -- to continue to spend time on this matter."

Of course, I'm not one of his advisers and I suspect he's pretty happy about that state of affairs.

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