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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Knight in tarnished armor

Once upon a time Luther Scott Harshbarger was the man they turned to right wrongs. He stood up against the back room deals that have long characterized government, particularly in Massachusetts.

Yet here he is, calling Deval Patrick on his cell phone to try and engineer a face-saving out for former Chelsea Housing Authority boss Michael McLaughlin, who was paid a king’s ransom to run the authority and tried to snag all his unused vacation and sick time as he headed out the door.

The anti-casino crowd has been fairly quick to say it’s pay back by Patrick for Harshbarger’s visible role in opposing legalized gambling. And maybe it is. But the larger question is: so what?

Harshbarger, according to accounts obviously leaked by the Patrick camp, failed to address the fact he was acting as McLaughlin’s counsel when he dialed up Deval, a fact he also initially didn’t tell the Globe. The former attorney general, a champion of open government was trying to cut a quiet backroom deal for a man caught with his hands deep in the public till and Patrick exposed him.
“The fact someone would try to cut a backroom deal over this pension is infuriating,’’ said one official briefed on the conversations between Harshbarger and the governor’s office.
Score one for Deval.

I’m no great fan of the casino culture that is about to ensnare Massachusetts and make life busier for Martha Coakley, Harshbarger’s successor once removed. Coakley has said the state’s current statutes are not up to the task of effectively prosecuting the problems likely to emerge – including the backdoor deals involving elected officials.

Harshbarger has seriously damaged his reputation for knowing right from wrong – and apologists who see only his anti-casino stance ought to think twice about their own priorities if they condone this tacky backroom maneuver.

POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE: This post was delayed for hours by Nstar's planned power outage that was supposed to end at 11:30 a.m., but came in closer to 5 p.m. More coming.

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