Fiscal Policies Championed by Tom Finneran Helped See Us Through the Great Recession

Thursday, December 29, 2011

As 2011 becomes history, there are definite signs the economy of Massachusetts is moving in a better direction. For example:

- Some 5,000 new jobs were created in November, (the second straight month of employment gains), pushing the state's unemployment rate down to 7%.
- On Jan. 1, the Massachusetts income tax rate will drop from 5.3% to 5.25%, a change that will put an extra $110 to $115 million in taxpayers' pockets next year. (Income taxes are coming down because tax receipts rose in 2011 at a sufficient pace to trigger a mandated decrease that went on the books in November, 2000, when voters passed a tax cut ballot referendum. If our economy had not improved, the rate would have stayed at 5.3%.)

So maybe this is a good time to recognize one of the unsung heroes of the Bay State turnaround: Tom Finneran, former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. How, you rightly ask, did someone who left office in 2004 help our state rebound from an economic crisis that began in 2008 and quickly led to the worst economic conditions our nation has experienced since the Great Depression? The answer is found in three words: Rainy Day Fund.

During the 1990s, and particularly in the second half of the decade, the Massachusetts economy was booming. Revenue flowed into the state treasury like a surging river in springtime. Every year seemed to produce surpluses in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the budget of the Commonwealth. As tax revenue proliferated, so did the ideas for spending that windfall -- every penny of it -- in the legislature.

However, Finneran, who had mastered the intricacies of the budget as House Chairman of Ways and Means before being elected Speaker in 1996, always insisted that a truly significant portion of those surpluses be set aside in the Stabilization Fund, or Rainy Day Fund, as it is more commonly known. His strong and principled voice on this matter, coupled with the formidable powers of the speakership, which Finneran showed a knack for making progressively more formidable, were enough to carry the argument year after year. Eventually, the idea that Massachusetts should have the largest possible Rainy Day Fund became Beacon Hill orthodoxy, to the point that the fund topped $3 billion by the time Finneran left office.

At the end of Fiscal Year 2008, (July 1, 2007-June 30, 2008), as the Great Recession was just starting, the Rainy Day Fund stood at $2.3 billion. Over the next three years, the state spent that account down to $700 million as it made up for recession-driven revenue declines and dealt with a host of problems related to the poor economy.

Had the state not had $1.6 billion available to deal with the Great Recession, conditions in Massachusetts would have been far worse than they actually were, which were quite bad enough as they were. Cuts to vital programs, such as Medicaid, would have been devastating, and employment in the public sector would have been slashed much deeper than it actually was. There are literally thousands of teachers, social workers, police officers and firefighters who kept their jobs, and thus their ability to care for their families, because Massachusetts had a big Rainy Day Fund when the economy tanked in 2008-09.

Since Tom Finneran was more responsible than any other elected governmental leader for embedding the Rainy Day ethos in modern state fiscal policy, it is no stretch to credit him with helping to save the state from economic ruin and to make it possible for the state to set a course toward economic recovery, whose signs we discern at the dawn of 2012.

Finneran was never a really popular statewide figure. There are many who consider him to have been an ironfisted, autocratic and needlessly pugnacious. And there are some who relished his fall from grace in the years after his speakership, considering it his just desserts. But there is no critic who can take an ounce of credit from him for having been right in a huge way on how to build a budget and plan for the future. No critic can diminish the satisfaction he is entitled to for having created the circumstances that allowed so many citizens of Massachusetts to dodge the worst blows of the Great Recession.

As Michael Cahill, the former rep from Beverly who served in the House with Finneran, puts it, "He (Finneran), more than anyone else, deserves the credit for enforcing on us the right things -- so many of the right things -- we did on the budget in the 1990s and the early-2000s. You cannot overstate the positive impact Tom Finneran had on the fiscal health of Massachusetts."

So if you and your family are breathing a little easier, feeling a little more confident about the future, this New Year's Eve, consider raising a glass to Tom Finneran.

For Purposes of Prognostication, View Senate Race Through the Prism of High School

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Running for public office is no different from running for senior class president in high school," I remember a legislator telling me years ago.

In reply, I said something intelligent like, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Do you have anything between those big ears of yours? Popularity! It's simple: every election is a popularity contest."

In that context, consider the 2012 election for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts as a way to answer the question, "Would Elizabeth 'Professor' Warren have beaten Scott 'Centerfold' Brown for senior class president?" Ask yourself, "Who would have won if Warren and Brown had been in my senior class," and you'll have the answer that everyone else will have to wait until the night of Nov. 6, 2012, for.

I grew up in a city where Republicans were as rare as nuns in a nudist colony, but I'm pretty sure Brown would have beaten Warren at my school pretty easily. And judging by what I heard historian Doris Kearns Goodwin say yesterday on "Morning Joe," I'm inferring that Brown would have beaten Warren at Kearns Goodwin's school, too.

"...we need Scott Browns in this world," said she, who once worked for Lyndon Johnson and used to teach at Harvard, and who is, let's face it, pretty much a liberal darling. "If there were more Scott Browns in more states and more cities, then perhaps this partisanship (in Congress) would not be as dysfunctional as it is because he's able to cross party lines, he's able to think independently."

Within hours of Kearns Goodwin's appearance on "Morning Joe," the Scott Brown for U.S. Senate Committee had issued a press release drawing attention to her comments and using them as a starting point for a proclamation of Brown's bona fides as an Independent with a capital I. The release quoted "Brown's aides" (unnamed) as saying the former state lawmaker "has shown an independent streak since the day he defied political oddsmakers and won a January 2010 special election to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion who had kept the seat in Democratic hands for 46 years."

Elsewhere, unnamed "campaign aides" were quoted as saying, "It's about more than politics for Brown. The moves are part of his campaign promise to be an independent voice and moderate voter in the Senate...Aides rattle off a laundry list of examples showing Brown bucking his party from his earliest days in the Senate: he voted for the new START treaty with Russia, voted to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy banning gays in the military. He also voted against Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan and an effort to defund Planned Parenthood."

And if clueless readers had somehow missed the point that Scott Brown is an Independent guy with a capital I, the release ended on this note: "Scott Brown has never been a right-wing ideologue," said one campaign aide. "He has always approached each issue with an open mind and independent manner, and votes in the best interests of his constituents and state, regardless of party affiliation."

Brown didn't go from the Massachusetts Senate to the U.S. Senate in 2010 because all the Republicans voted for him, and Warren won't move from Cambridge to Washington, D.C. next year if all the Democrats vote for her. There are not enough registered Democrats or Republicans in the Bay State to tip an electoral contest to any of their respective statewide candidates. Independents rule! As of this past spring, 36.5% of all registered voters were Democrats and 11.3% were Republicans, whereas 51.9% were "unenrolled," which is to say they consider themselves independent. And that's a category that has been growing every year for a long time now.

According to the Elections Division of the office of the Massachusetts Secretary of State, Bill Galvin, independents are heavily concentrated in the central and western parts of the state, and are least likely to be found in urban areas. Every suburban community seems to have a high percentage of unenrolled voters. For example, in Plymouth, the largest community in the state, territory-wise, 60% of voters are independents.

You're bound to see Scott Brown in his pick-up truck cruising the burbs next year, but you'll also see him stuck in traffic in Boston a lot because that's where there are tons of Democrats. He'll want to keep them in tune to his song of independent political expression or persuade them to join his cool kids choir.

Judging by what Boston Mayor Tom Menino, long a poohbah of the Democratic Party, has said this year about Brown, Ted Kennedy's successor has made serious inroads in the Hub. Please recall Menino emerging from a breakfast meeting with Brown at the Parkman House in January and telling reporters, "He's a Republican and I'm a Democrat, but those days are over." And don't forget Menino telling the Boston Globe in early September, "Scott Brown has something about him that people gravitate to," and then wondering if Elizabeth Warren's candidacy is "saleable." He said, "Do I know she can be saleable? I don't know that. But there are some people -- who have greater political minds than mine -- who believe so. But I think you have to be out there and squeeze the flesh and see how they feel."

Saleable. Isn't that a synonym for popular?

The Money We Could Safely Not Spend on Health Care Is Beyond Belief

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In retrospect, it was probably a mistake for President Obama to nominate a former Harvard School of Public Health professor and former Harvard Community Health Plan vice president as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS), formerly known as the Health Care Financing Administration, in Washington, D.C.

It didn't matter that Professor Donald M. Berwick, M.D., a longtime resident of Newton, MA, was a well respected pediatrician, that he had distinguished himself as a medical researcher, and that he had spent 19 years as head of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nationally respected organization. His Harvard connection probably doomed him from the start with the Republicans in the U.S. Senate, where Dr. Berwick's nomination had to be confirmed.

The Senate Republicans are led by a man from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, who has said his main job is to make sure Obama is a one-term president. They dug deep into Dr. Berwick's record, decided he was not sufficiently enamored of free-market, entrepreneurial health care, and closed ranks against his nomination. To avoid a nasty confirmation fight he might lose, Obama installed Dr. Berwick on the top perch at CMMS in a "recess appointment," meaning the president waited until Congress recessed and gave him the job by executive order. A recess appointment, however, is always limited in duration; Dr. Berwick reached his limit at the end of November, seventeen months after he started.

During an interview granted to the New York Times while preparing to leave Washington and return to Massachusetts, Dr. Berwick was asked what percentage of health care spending in the U.S. he considered wasteful? Between 20 and 30 percent, he said, defining waste as any expenditure that produces no benefit to a patient.

Dr. Berwick enumerated five reasons for what he termed the "extremely high level of waste" in the U.S. system: overtreatment of patients, the failure of health care providers to coordinate all the care given to a patient, the administrative complexity of the system itself, burdensome rules, and outright fraud.

If all that waste were to be eliminated, the federal government could save up to a quarter of a trillion dollars ($250 billion) on the Medicaid and Medicare programs!

Of course, it's unrealistic to think that all of the waste in our health care system could ever be eliminated. But billions of dollars in savings are there for the taking -- and should be taken, if we can finally get serious about critically examining how and what we spend on health care.

CMMS officials should be able to talk, for example, about Medicare reimbursements for treatments of dubious value to terminally ill patients without being accused of setting up "Death Panels." And they should be able to talk about the costs of defensive medicine, i.e., diagnostic tests ordered by physicians worried about protecting themselves from malpractice suits, without plaintiffs' attorney groups crying about the erosion of patient rights.

Ask any adult you know over the age of 40 who has good health insurance if he has ever been sent for a medical test that was, in retrospect, not needed or justified, and the chances are high the answer will be yes. My own personal favorite concerns the time I was given an ultrasonic scan of my carotid artery during a follow-up assessment for an episode of vertigo, a problem that had initially resulted in an extensive work-up, including a CT scan of my head, in the emergency department of a prominent Boston teaching hospital. The co-pay I had to make on that ultrasound was well over $200, which has served to prevent this memory from fading in my mind.

"Unnecessary" is a term that also covers a lot of the medical treatments routinely given to insured people today. Consider, for example, the report in the September, 2011, edition of the American Journal of Public Health, ("The Prophylactic Extraction of Third Molars: A Public Health Hazard").

Ten million third molars, or wisdom teeth, as they are commonly known, are extracted from approximately five million patients in the U.S. per year, at an annual cost of over $3 billion, yet two-thirds of those extractions are medically unnecessary, according to the author of the article, Jay W. Friedman, a retired California dentist.

If Dr. Friedman is correct, we could save $2 billion a year on wisdom tooth extraction surgery, and spare millions of patients needless pain, complications, and the unintended (and sometimes permanent) injuries to the jaw associated with this procedure.

To talk about such a thing would risk the ire of the oral surgeons who make a very good living yanking wisdom teeth from the backs of people's jaws, just as Dr. Berwick incurred the wrath of Mitch McConnell for once having dared to say something favorable about the national health system of Great Britain.

It's a Brain-Killer We Can't Wish Away: Controlling the Cost of Health Care

Friday, December 16, 2011

Five years ago, when Massachusetts made history by becoming the first state to adopt a system of universal health coverage, every mover and shaker at the State House acknowledged the system would last only if they could somehow find a way some day to control the cost of health care. Governor Deval Patrick would like that day to be in January.

"The building is full of good intentions," he told the State House News Service (SHNS) back in October. "We need action."

To show that the public wants action immediately, the governor cited a survey by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation indicating that 78% of respondents considered the high cost of health care to be a "crisis" or a "major problem," and that 88% described it as important for state government to deal with.

The governor filed a comprehensive proposal for health care cost containment in February of this year.

"We've had a bill pending for a year," Patrick told the SHNS. "We've been talking about and worrying about and fussing about this issue for a long time and we need action. The legislature has been working very hard at the committee level on a bill. I've been briefed on where they are. They need to move it to the floor sooner rather than later, and we need to take this up.

"My point," he continued, "is we've been at this for a long time. The consensus in the market is building in favor of moving away from fee-for-service (health care) toward 'medical homes' or global payment, basically whole-person care. And the consensus seems to be not only is that cost-effective care, but better quality care."

Legislative leaders, however, say the House and Senate will not be ready to vote on the governor's bill when the legislature reconvenes in January.

"We're not ready," Lynn Rep Steve Walsh, House chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, told the SHNS. "It's a complicated issue. It affects people's health and it's our largest employer."

Walsh added, "The governor's advocating for something he feels is important. I applaud him. But that public support he's talking about for change will erode very quickly if we don't do this right. We should not put quality or substance off to get something done quickly."

While State House leaders are focused on improving the cost structure of universal coverage, which has resulted in 98% of Massachusetts residents having some kind of health insurance, other players are sharply criticizing the system and arguing it should be replaced by a single-payer system, or "Medicare for All," as it is sometimes called.

A report issued in October by Mass-Care and Massachusetts Physicians for a National Health Program asserted that rising costs tied universal health care have hit poor and middle class families especially hard and have burdened small businesses with expenses unique to Massachusetts, thus putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

The report also found that the new system had: (a) fattened the state's health care bureaucracy, (b) made the shortage of primary care physicians worse, (c) fed the growth of high-deductible health plans, meaning consumers have paid more out of their own pockets for care every year, (d) increased the number of people who are "underinsured," and (e) created a "financial crisis" for hospitals and clinics that care mainly for low-income and minority populations.

Mass-Care and Massachusetts Physicians for a National Health Program would like a single-payer system, i.e., one funded solely by government-collected revenue, to replace the Bay State's universal coverage system, which features a patchwork of private and public insurance products and rests on a mandate on all adults to obtain coverage, the same mandate found in President Obama's national health care reform bill of 2009, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and yes, the same mandate that White House-hungry Republicans will not stop shedding I-fear-for-the-future-of-my-country, crocodile tears over.

Yesterday, there was a hearing at the State House on four bills touching upon single-payer health care, including An Act Establishing Medicare for All in Massachusetts, sponsored by Senator James Eldridge, Democrat of Acton, and several other legislators. Everyone who spoke during the three-hour-long hearing was in favor of the bill, suggesting that most Libertarians, Tea Partiers and Republicans had better things to do that day, like Christmas New Hampshire.

Dr. Leo Stollbach testified to the growing support among physicians here for single-payer health care. Today, he said, 41% of Massachusetts Medical Society members favor such a system; two years ago, that figure was 34%. So the new world of Massachusetts health care, born in 2006 during Mitt Romney's governorship and destined to serve as Obama's template in 2009, hasn't made the docs a whole lot happier. (Question: Is an unhappy doc a less-effective caregiver?)

The most significant witness of the day, in my opinion, was Senator Dan Wolf, Democrat of Harwich, one of the most successful capitalists to serve in the Massachusetts legislature in modern times. As co-founder 24 years ago of Cape Air, a regional air line that cornered the market on summertime air travel to the Cape and Islands and currently employs more than a thousand people, Wolf could give lessons in entrepreneurism and job creation to Romney. One of the big reasons Wolf wants single-payer in Massachusetts is the liberating effect it would have on the small businesses that create by far the largest share of new jobs.

"The biggest single inhibitor, the biggest ball and chain around small business growth is the cost and complexity of health care," Wolf told his colleagues.

If a guy who built an airline can see that, why can't the Bain consultants and their ilk see it?

NEXT: Waste in Health Care Spending

With One Last Scheme in Him, Ex-Legislator/City Manager Didn't Get Far

Monday, December 12, 2011

A federal judge made the right decision early this month when he sentenced Bernard J. Tully, a former member of the Massachusetts Senate and Lowell city manager, to four months of home confinement for wire fraud and ordered him to pay $18,000 in restitution. There isn't much point in locking up a non-violent octogenarian who takes five different prescription meds a day.

If Tully had been sent to jail, however, he probably would have become a minor celebrity wherever they put him. The younger convicts, which is to say everyone else, would have admired his brass, if not his brains.

They might have even regarded him as an inspiration. (I can imagine one of them wrapping an arm around Tully the first week and saying, "Gramps, you're the best! Because of you, I now know there's no age limit to being a grifter. I know I can be making scores when I'm walking with a cane and shouting at people to talk into my good ear.")

It is an unusual tale -- the kind that would be dismissed as implausible if it turned up in fiction --that led to Tully pleading guilty to wire fraud in the U.S. District Court in Boston. According to the office of the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Tully admitted he devised a scheme to defraud a Boston area businessman out of approximately $18,000 by falsely representing that he and another co-conspirator were using the funds to bribe public officials to keep the Lowell office of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) as a tenant in a building owned by the businessman.

After the Registry announced in July, 2009, that it would be closing its Lowell office, Tully reportedly approached the businessman with an offer to be the intermediary in a scheme that would deliver payments to a certain public official in the Merrimack Valley in exchange for the official exerting influence on the agency to reverse its decision and keep the Lowell branch open.

It was a total bluff on the part of Tully, who served in the Senate from 1971 to 1979 and basically ran the city of Lowell as its appointed, professional manager from 1979 to 1987.

He had no connection with the public official in question, and had never approached that person about being part of a deal that prosecutors later dubbed "a perverse fraud."

As an engine of deception, the scheme quickly sputtered. And the hapless Tully had no idea it wasn't working. Shortly after his first meeting with Tully, the businessman contacted the FBI, told investigators everything, and agreed to play along until enough evidence could be gathered to charge Tully with a crime.

Sadly, this was not the first time Tully found himself on the wrong side of the law: in 1989, he was convicted of attempting to extort money from a Lowell car dealer who wanted to obtain a piece of municipally-owned land while Tully was city manager.

"It's like you didn't get the message the first time," Judge Patti B. Saris scolded him during sentencing on Dec. 1.

Like all of us, Tully is not a one-dimensional figure; he has a good side. You have to feel bad for him, at least a little bit, what with his poor health, his advanced years (he will turn 85 in January), and the burdens he carries as the primary caregiver to his disabled 59-year-old son, who suffered a bad stroke seven years ago.

Judge Saris made allowances for Tully's obligations when she ruled that he could leave his Dracut home between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. over the next four months only to visit with and care for his son.

With winter coming on, Tully probably would not have been going out much at night anyway, so that was a gentle restriction. Much harder for Tully will be that restitution of $18,000. My guess is, he survives on Social Security and has no money left, which is why he probably came up with the crazy idea of a way-over-the-hill political operative shaking down a landlord and pretend-bribing a public official in the first place.

Taking the Totality of DiMasi's Record, Was an Eight-Year Sentence Justified?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sal DiMasi grew up in a cold-water flat in the North End of Boston, sharing tight quarters with his parents, two brothers and his Italian grandparents, who had emigrated to the U.S. years before. He was a good student and a good athlete.

When he graduated from Christopher Columbus High School, a now-closed Catholic school in the North End, with the Class of 1963, he went straight to Boston College, a Jesuit school, and received a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1967. Three years later, he graduated from Suffolk University Law School and went to work as an assistant district attorney, prosecuting criminals in Suffolk County.

This was an unusual background for someone who would eventually become a champion of liberal causes in the Massachusetts legislature.

Look at the totality of DiMasi's legislative career, (1979-2009), however, and you see he was never afraid to take up a controversial or unpopular cause, nor reluctant to help someone simply because his heart ached for them, not because that person was a big shot or could do something for him in return. He seemed instinctively drawn to the little guy, the underdog.

Arline Isaacson, who co-chairs the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Caucus, remembers how DiMasi stepped bravely into the spotlight in 1983, when he was a member of House leadership by virtue of his chairmanship of the Committee on Banks and Banking, to advocate for the Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Bill. "This kind of legislation might not sound very controversial today," Isaacson wrote in a pre-sentencing letter to Judge Mark Wolf of the U.S. District Court in Boston, "but in the early-1980s, public officials who spoke on our behalf were frequently the target of scorn, derision and political attack by their colleagues, their constituents and the press."

Sal DiMasi, she told Judge Wolf, "was one of the few legislators in a leadership position willing to step up to the plate and advocate forcefully for the bill." The former House Speaker seemed to be especially attuned to the effects of discrimination, Isaacson came to believe, because of his experiences growing up "at a time when Italians in Boston were still the butt of jokes and ridicule."

For Judge Wolf, Isaacson recounted how DiMasi "was always willing, even eager, to help with legislation that increased affordable housing or supported programs for the poor and the needy" in the City of Boston -- "and not simply for those in his district, but statewide." DiMasi "could have limited his efforts only to those bills that affected his own legislative district," Isaacson noted. "Instead, he went beyond narrow parochial interests to assist with measures that helped the entire city, and most especially people in need, regardless of their address. He did not have to do that. He gained nothing from it. But he wanted to do the right thing."

Similarly, Isaacson said, DiMasi stood by the gay community in the mid-1980s, when the AIDS epidemic struck; voted in 1985 against a proposed ban on adoptions by gay parents; and fought hard to establish the right for persons of the same gender to marry in the mid-2000s. "He derived absolutely no personal benefit by working as tenaciously as he did," she wrote. "He used his political 'collateral' to help a community of strangers, not himself. He could have done significantly less and GLBTS would still have heralded him as a hero. One thing is very clear, we would not have retained the right to marry without Sal DiMasi."

Isaacson began her letter to Judge Wolf, who subsequently sentenced DiMasi to eight years in prison, by asserting the "portrait painted of Sal during his trial, as a legislator motivated by self-interest, varies markedly from my experiences with him," and ended by saying, "Sal was driven by a deep-seated caring and a fervent commitment to a kind of 'Tikkun Olam' -- to make the world a better place."

Last Wednesday, DiMasi entered a prison medical facility in Lexington, Kentucky. He probably won't see the outside for five-and-a-half or six years -- if he gets lucky. If, however, the kind of luck he had with Judge Wolf continues, DiMasi may never get out. He is 66 years old and has a history of heart ills. Eight years could be a death sentence for someone like him.

Is eight years too much for what DiMasi did? One can make that case, especially considering that DiMasi lost his reputation, savings and pension long before he lost his freedom. The government cannot make Sal DiMasi a more destitute or a more broken human being than he is today.

By repeatedly helping persons, organizations and causes far removed from his North End base, and by spending his political capital on unpopular causes and in battles that were not his own, DiMasi proved that he genuinely cared about others, that he had courage, and was not a selfish man. He deserved more compassion than he got in Judge Wolf's court. Better it would have been, in my opinion, for Wolf to sentence him to three years in prison, followed by five years working as a paralegal in an agency providing legal services to the indigent.

J.W. Carney, Jr., now a prominent Massachusetts defense attorney, encountered DiMasi in his (Carney's) early days as a public defender in Boston. Carney attested in a letter to Judge Wolf that DiMasi "was an excellent attorney, who always was well-prepared, knowledgeable about the facts and law of the case, and articulate in his presentations."

When Carney later became a prosecutor, he dealt with DiMasi lawyer-to-lawyer. "...his (DiMasi's) ethics were always of the highest order," Carney wrote. "My colleagues and I could accept his representations without question because they had been proven to be accurate in every instance."

Carney's letter for DiMasi tugs at the heart as it describes DiMasi's meetings with clients and family members in the hallways after court had adjourned. "It was clear," Carney said, that many of DiMasi's clients at that time "were indigent or close to it, and he was not representing them by court appointment."

Carney "often saw his (DiMasi's) clients and their families emotionally giving their thanks to him outside the courtroom after the resolution of a case," he wrote. "It was not unusual for the encounter to end with the family promising to pay Attorney DiMasi, and his replying in a warm way, 'Do what you can, don't worry about it.' "

Three years from now, the Commonwealth would be better served by DiMasi deploying his legal skills for the benefit of the poor of Boston, Springfield, New Bedford or Lawrence, as opposed to DiMasi going down, down, down in the mindless confines of a prison far from home.