Dynastic Forces May Have Made Scott Brown Balk at a Third Race for Senate

Thursday, February 28, 2013

When Scott Brown announced he would not be a candidate in the special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts to choose a replacement for John Kerry, he said, “…I was not at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time.”
“At this time” refers generally to the current year, and, particularly, to the span of months required to fill the vacancy created when Kerry became Obama’s Secretary of State.  The special election will involve an April 30th primary and a June 25th final
But what if Brown had a longer timetable -- and other considerations -- in the back of his mind?
For example, he could also have decided against running for Senate because a victory in the special election would be short-lived, and the next regular election would be a killer.
The special election winner will serve the unexpired part of Kerry’s Senate term, which runs through 2014.  If he wants to remain in the Senate after that, he will have to start campaigning again only months after taking the seat on June 25.
If Brown had decided to run, and if Brown had prevailed in the final over Ed Markey or Steve Lynch, the candidates for the Democratic Senate nomination, wouldn’t he have been favored for re-election in the fall of 2014?
Yes, except for two big factors:
·         The overwhelming numerical and financial strengths of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, and
·         Joseph P. Kennedy, III, the newly minted Congressman from the Fourth Massachusetts District.
A former legislator brought it into focus for me the other day when he said:
“Scott knew he could win this year, but so what?  As soon as he’s back in the Senate, the Democrats will be tuning up Joe Kennedy for 2014.  This is not a knock on Scott.  Beating a Kennedy in Massachusetts is practically impossible.  And this Kennedy has a lot going for him beyond his name: he’s young and earnest, handsome, smart, articulate, and squeaky clean.”
He was thinking, no doubt, of how Joe the Third holds degrees from Stanford and Harvard Law, served in the Peace Corps in the Caribbean, speaks Spanish fluently, and has never touched alcohol.
It must be something to be young Joe Kennedy! 
You’re the namesake of the founder of the Kennedy dynasty.  You’re 32 years old.  You’ve barely set foot in Washington, D.C., and other men are already hearing your footsteps in their heads. 
LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT SCOTT BROWN: Brown and his family are members of a large Protestant church in Franklin, but also have ties to a community of Roman Catholic nuns at Mount St. Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, their hometown.   Over the years, the Browns have raised more than $5 million for the Trappistine order, money that has funded solar panels, a wind turbine and a candy manufactory at the abbey.

Governor Zinged by Champions of Freedom, i.e., the Freedom to Die in a White-Out

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

At least one member of the state legislature is on record saying the governor’s travel ban during the recent blizzard infringed on our rights.
That would be our right to risk our lives for trivial reasons, or no reasons at all, during weather disasters, I guess.
And our right to put the lives of emergency medical technicians at risk when they have to extricate us from vehicles that have plunged into ditches, splintered utility poles, and rammed snow plows during white-outs.
And our right to lose control of our cars on icy roads, jump sidewalks and crush hapless pedestrians -- hardworking folks, most likely, who are walking to their jobs in deference to the prohibition on driving.
“Restricting our rights based on a weather forecast.  Only in Massachusetts,” tweeted Rep. Jim Lyons, Republican of Andover, according to a State House News Service article published earlier this week.
A former legislator, Steven Levy, Republican of Marlborough, went Lyons one better. Levy, the State House News Service discovered, had posted the following on Facebook:
“Just heard about this ban…We have an idiot for a Governor…Jawohl mein Fuhrer!  Last time I looked, I still lived in America.  Only in Massachusetts would they threaten up to a year in prison for driving, but go rape a child and you won’t see a day behind bars.  Truly sad what’s happening to our country.”
Levy served one term in the House before his defeat this past November at the hands of the young Democrat he had defeated two years before, Danielle Gregoire.  Messages like the one above may help explain why he’s now referred to as Former Rep. Levy.  He lacks a certain touch in expressing himself, you might say.  Probably can’t tell a joke either.
I would put opponents of storm-induced travel bans in the same category as motorcyclists who campaign for the abolition of the Massachusetts law requiring them to wear helmets.  You know, the guys who can get all outraged because the state won’t allow them the freedom of having the wind blow through their hair as they pass you doing 80 on the interstate, but who have no qualms about accepting Medicaid for life after they’re paralyzed in a crash.
By the way, a bill repealing the requirement that motorcycle riders wear helmets has once again been filed in Massachusetts.  Rep. Marc T. Lombardo, a two-term Republican from Billerica, is sponsoring House Bill 3095, An Act Relative to Motorcycle Helmet Choice.  If it were to pass, riders over 18 would no longer have to protect their heads.  In many sessions past, similar bills have failed to gain traction.
GIFT FOR GLOBE READERS:  My spirits rose upon hearing the other day that the Boston Globe has hired former State House News Service (SHNS) scribe Jim O’Sullivan to write its Political Intelligence column.  In the days he toiled in the cramped SHNS clubhouse at the State House before decamping to Washington, D.C., a few years ago, O’Sullivan was the most incisive, most original, flat-out funniest political reporter in the Commonwealth.  Anything that had his byline on it I always read first.  For a taste of the O’Sullivan wit, try this excerpt from his Weekly Roundup column of July 23, 2010:
“The East Boston Times-Free Press is not a word-wasting outfit, an admirable quality evinced thoroughly in Tuesday’s editorial predicting agreement and signage of the (casino) gambling bill.  ‘After all, it can’t be any other way,’ the paper decided.  ‘Everyone has to walk away from the negotiating table feeling that the right thing was done and that all parties were treated fairly.  What Speaker DeLeo cannot afford is to become the guy who buried the expanded gaming bill because he was unwilling to alter his position like President Woodrow Wilson did with the U.S. Senate over ratification of the Treaty that ended World War I and kept America from participating in the League of Nations that many considered sowed the seeds for World War II.’  Well.  That is what’s known within the industry as ‘muscular prose.’  The League of Nations tie-in is applicable in only a few state legislative situations, and expanded gambling is most certainly one of them.  Equally relevant historical links include the Battle of Jericho, the Reformation, and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  It was unclear at press time whether the Eastie paper was seeking to take the whole Woodrow Wilson thing a step further and imply that DeLeo was a far-seeing bespectacled leader who let a strong woman run the show.”

Meet the New Boss: Gene O'Flaherty at Judiciary. I Will Get Fooled Again!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

If I advise you to invest in Apple, buy Samsung instead.  If I predict the Red Sox will win the pennant, bet the Orioles.  If I agree with Punxsutawney Phil that spring will arrive early, buy a bigger snow blower tomorrow.
For I am the savant who said last April, “There will almost certainly be a new House chairman of Judiciary next January.”
I couldn’t even get the month right.
Last Wednesday, February 6, House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced the appointment of committee chairs and other legislative leaders for the 2013-14 session.  Prominent on that list was the name of Eugene L. O’Flaherty, who was given a new term, his sixth, as House chairman of the legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
In my defense, I have to point out that O’Flaherty himself said he was not interested in remaining as Judiciary chairman. 
On March 21, 2012, he conveyed that surprising information, via email, to Kevin Cullen, a Boston Globe columnist, who had criticized him for allegedly blocking legislation that would end the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children.
“There is a general consensus that there should be no statute of limitations for murder, and the law reflects that,” Cullen had written.  “There is a growing consensus that there should be no arbitrary hiding place for those who murder children’s souls by sexually abusing them.  That consensus does not include Gene O’Flaherty.”
Politics is a bare-knuckled, merciless business, but even in politics, one is rarely accused of sanctioning the murder of children’s souls.  Maybe only genocide could be worse.
O’Flaherty wasted no time in responding.  “Your article, and its depiction of me as unconcerned about the ‘murder of children’s souls,’ has resonated with me since I first read it,” he told Cullen.  “So much so that I will be resigning my Judiciary Committee chairmanship after I complete the important work assigned to me this session.”
O’Flaherty also told Cullen, with admirable restraint, that the soul-murderer depiction was “very unfortunate.”  Then he added, “Thankfully, my family and constituents know me to be someone that cares deeply about children and their safety.”
I am good friends with a couple whose special needs adult daughter has attended a vocational and social program in O’Flaherty’s district every day for years.  They tell me that no public office holder has been more supportive of this program than O’Flaherty.
Coming as it did after his ostensible resignation-in-advance, O’Flaherty’s reappointment tells us some important things about this House of Representatives.
First and foremost, it tells us that O’Flaherty has a solid relationship with the Speaker. 
DeLeo “inherited” O’Flaherty as Judiciary chair from the previous Speaker, Sal DiMasi.  If ever DeLeo seriously questioned the decision to keep O’Flaherty in that powerful position, now would have been the time to act on those doubts.   “Gene, old pal,” he could have easily said, “I know you’re sick of that job, so I’m going to let someone else do it for a while.”  Instead, DeLeo stepped around the shrinking rubble of the statute of limitations controversy and basically announced, “What we need more of now in Judiciary is Gene O’Flaherty.”
Second, it tells us that a majority of House members quietly stand arm-in-arm with O’Flaherty on a host of hot-button issues that have come before Judiciary -- everything from gay marriage to penalties for drunken drivers, from transgender rights to parole for violent criminal offenders -- even though it sometimes appeared as if the chairman was sitting by himself on a limb, way up in the air.
Third, it tells us that most members of the  House: (a)  appreciate that O’Flaherty has often taken flak for them in public, shielding them from controversy and electoral harm, and (b) want to recognize O’Flaherty for his stoical team play by giving him another term as chairman.  (“You can’t quit, Gene, we need you there.”) 
In a way, O’Flaherty’s reappointment is an acknowledgement of the “complexity” of the legislative process.  He once observed to the State House News Service, “It seems that it’s become quite fashionable to say that the only reason things aren’t moving is because of me,” before pointing out that “many of these matters are complex.  Many of these matters don’t take into consideration that there are many, many reasons why some pieces of legislation move and others don’t.” 
Fourth, it tells us that O’Flaherty really is the best person for the job at the end of the day. 
When the Speaker heard O’Flaherty talk of quitting, one may infer that DeLeo took a good look around a House chamber filled with attorneys and didn’t see a convincing replacement.
Thus did O’Flaherty’s semi-famous e-mail to Kevin Cullen become inoperative.

Explore This! Reasons for Senate Campaign Are in Winslow's Pocket. Still He Searches

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dan Winslow, former counsel to Governor Mitt Romney, former district court judge, and current state rep from Norfolk, is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
As soon as I heard he was forming an exploratory committee today to help him assess the race, I knew he was in. 
No one explores a candidacy, at least in a public way, without having first made up his mind to run.  Otherwise, we would have observed someone sometime concluding his explorations by announcing he didn’t have the stuff and wasn’t going to do it. 
Have you ever seen that?  Have you ever heard a candidacy-explorer or a listening-tour-taker say he found out that the public had zero desire to see him in office, and therefore he was unable to mount a credible campaign? 
Of course not.
The only reasons to form an exploratory committee are to force the media to provide you with free publicity, and to generate suspense around your decision and when you are going to decide.
Will Winslow be the one to take on Ed Markey or Steve Lynch?  Gee, I don’t know, but a race like that could be interesting.  Better keep watching for Winslow in the news.
“Today, I’m taking the necessary steps to form an exploratory committee to test the waters for the U.S. Senate,” Winslow stated in a press release.  “We need to fix a broken Washington where progress is being hampered by partisan gridlock.  If we continue to elect the same Washington politicians, we cannot expect different results.”
The release continued with this quotation from Winslow, “The people of Massachusetts and all Americans deserve solutions from their elected officials.  Washington needs to focus on problem solving and implement ideas that will create jobs and grow our economy,” before concluding:  To follow the progress of this testing the waters effort, sign up for Dan Winslow’s mobile messaging by texting DAN to 68398.
Who are the members of Winslow’s exploratory committee?  The release doesn’t say.  They must feel they can do their work better under cover.
I like Dan Winslow and I’m glad he’s in the race to succeed John Kerry.  He’s smart, good-hearted, and filled with ideas on how to improve government.  His candidacy will serve the public interest.
Winslow knows that two of the most successful candidates of 2012, Elizabeth Warren and Joseph P. Kennedy, III, burst on the scene with exploratory committees and listening tours.  If it worked for them, he’s thinking, maybe it will work for me.
This being politics, there’s always someone in the opposition party ready to stop an explorer and a listener in his tracks.  Thus, we had John Walsh, state Democrat Party chair, blasting Winslow right away for being “a member of Mitt Romney’s inner circle who spent last year as one of the former governor’s apologists and political attack dogs.  Winslow will work just as hard to stop President Obama’s agenda in the Senate as he did to deny him a second term and send Mitt Romney to the White House.
“During his time on Beacon Hill, Republican Winslow has shown that he is more interested in grabbing headlines than getting work done for the people of the Commonwealth.  Even if Winslow has a long list of excuses for why he has been ineffective, it’s hard to imagine that he will get anything done in the U.S. Senate with such a lackluster record in the Massachusetts legislature.”
I think this means Winslow will not be exploring a better professional relationship with Walsh any time soon.  

Defendants in Probation Job-Rigging Case Try to Throw Judge Under the Bus

Monday, February 4, 2013

If I was doing something wrong, my boss should have stopped me.
That doesn’t strike me as the greatest defense when you’ve been accused of a crime by the federal government. If the need for a conscience arises, I'll borrow one. But you never know, it could work. 
We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out for John J. O’Brien and his co-defendants in the Probation Department job-rigging case, William H. Burke, III, and Elizabeth V. Tavares.
If anyone doubted that O’Brien and his former colleagues were going to throw court leaders under the bus, those doubts were erased in the lengthy brief filed recently in U.S. District Court, Boston, by lawyers for the trio.
The defense is trying, through this brief, to force the prosecution to turn over scores of documents compiled during the investigation into the Probation Department.  It asserts, in part: 

“The defendants’ actions comported with the trial court’s hiring policies and practices, were well known to the Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert Mulligan, and were consistent with CJAM Mulligan’s own hiring practices.”
Given that O’Brien and Mulligan couldn’t stand each other, O’Brien’s attempt to gain cover under Mulligan’s robes is, to put it mildly, rich.  Given Mulligan’s integrity and the generally high regard for him in the Commonwealth’s legal and political circles, it is also sensible.
Folks can (and do) argue all day over whether the hiring practices implemented by O’Brien, et al. violated the law or were simply a clever, new form of old patronage politics.  And they can argue over whether Mulligan should have used his authority more to quash O’Brien before the Boston Globe arrived on the scene.  It was the Globe investigation, remember, that led first to the Ware Report in 2011 and then to the indictments by the U.S. Attorney.
But you will find no one in Boston who knows Mulligan, who says the judge would ever have looked the other way if he believed O’Brien was doing anything illegal.
He is admired as a man who fought for his country as an Army infantry officer in Vietnam, as a lawyer who ably prosecuted tough cases as an assistant Attorney General and assistant U.S. Attorney, and as a manager who has handled two of the most difficult jobs in our court system: Chief Justice of the Superior Court (1994 to 1999), and Chief Justice of the Trial Court since 2003.
Mulligan is due to leave the Trial Court this summer when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
If the Probation hiring case goes to trial, you can be sure O’Brien’s lawyers will do their best to get Judge Mulligan on the stand and to get him to state what those who know him best say: he would never have looked the other way if he believed O’Brien was doing anything illegal.
I’m probably missing something here, not being a lawyer and all, but it seems that a statement like that, coming from a man of the presence and bearing of the six-foot-seven Mulligan, would likely leave a favorable impression on a jury.
I’ve always believed, in any case, that a jury would have a hard time convicting O’Brien, et al. as long as their lawyers could tell jurors that not one of the legislators whose constituents supposedly snagged jobs and promotions under O’Brien's allegedly rigged system has been charged with a crime.
The prosecution case rests on the argument that O’Brien, et al. worked hand-in-glove with legislators to hire and promote less-than-optimally-qualified individuals who had an "in" with an office holder.
As long as the prosecution remains in the de-facto position that only O’Brien, Burke and Tavares should be punished for those actions, the prosecution has a credibility problem and a fairness problem, both of which could prove fatal to its case.