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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Indicted Speakers on display

There were three rather large elephants in the House Chamber when House Speaker Robert DeLeo declared he would end patronage as part of his ambitious agenda for the 187th Great and General Court.

Tradition and continuity are big parts of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds any legislative body. So it was only natural that the four living ex-speakers would be there for the opening rites.

Unfortunately, the last three carry the adjective "indicted" in front of their names. And the outsized personalities of Charles Flaherty, Tom Finneran and Sal DiMasi were right there, laughing and backslapping and generally making a mockery of DeLeo's words.

DiMasi is still awaiting his day in court on federal corruption charges stemming form a contract with a software firm. Flaherty pleaded guilty to tax evasion and Finneran copped a plea to perjury.

But a larger line on Finneran's resume today is that of patron to John O'Brien, the now-resigned chief of the Probation Department, who did unto others what Finneran did for him -- find a job for anyone connected to a politician who could walk and talk, if not necessarily do the job.

Nor did it help ease their awkward presence when House Dean Rep. Angelo Scaccia, the now longest-serving representative, defiantly offered DeLeo this piece of advice:
“Protect your members,’’ Scaccia said. “Shield them, as much as possible, from the outside world. . . . This institution is being battered from all sides, within and without, and we have to follow that leader.’’
Battered, yes. But by an "outside world" that elected them to do the people's business, to do it honestly and ethically and follow their own moral compasses and not a leader.

There's a lot of work ahead for the General Court, starting with closing a $1.5 billion budget gap. Yesterday was the time for tradition and boyo backslapping. Let's hope the presence of the Indicted Speakers was part of that tradition and not the beginning of an effort by DeLeo to follow Scaccia's bad advice.

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