Republican, Democrat Frenemies Always Ready to Slip Their Knives In

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The working relationship between our Republican governor and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate is a beautiful thing, so beautiful you might be lulled into thinking partisanship in Massachusetts is practically extinct. 

Don’t be lulled.
Yes, Charlie Baker is sincerely committed to working well with others in the legislature.  You’re no more likely to hear him criticize House Speaker Robert DeLeo or Senate President Harriette Chandler -- or any legislator for that matter -- than you are to hear President Trump apologize for a Tweet.  The same goes for DeLeo and Chandler vis-a-vis Baker.

They all want to get things done, they all fundamentally agree on many issues, and they’re all glad to work together on a positive agenda for the Commonwealth.
However, while valuing, and occasionally extolling, the benefits of bi-partisanship, both parties still know they are enemies.  They know they’re obligated by the conventions of politics to act like foes in public, sometimes ferociously so.  

For proof of that, you do not have to look far.
In a Feb. 5 fundraising letter, for example, Kirsten Hughes, Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman, said:

“Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have run a transparent, accountable administration that has put taxpayers – not Beacon Hill politicians – first.
“But for all of this progress, there are still those who want to take our state back to the dark days of one party rule and all the ugliness that went along with it…like sky high taxes, uncontrolled spending, cronyism, and corruption.

“Just to name a few.
“The Beacon Hill status quo politicians will fight tooth and nail against the Republican agenda of keeping taxes low, creating jobs, building stronger communities, and supporting education."

Now consider a Feb. 19 press release from the Massachusetts Democratic Party regarding a big donation from disgraced ex-casino mogul Steve Wynn to the Republican Governors Association.
Headlined, “Outrageous Emails Show Gaming Commission Ducking Responsibility on Wynn," the press release featured a statement by Democratic Chair Gus Bickford in response to emails by Gaming Commission board members and staff.  Those emails, Democrats allege, “demonstrate a shocking lack of commitment and direction regarding allegations against Steve Wynn.” 

Here’s the core of what Bickford said:
“The growing scandal over the Commission’s botched review of Wynn’s suitability for a Massachusetts gaming license will not just go away.  The Commission must investigate the $2 million donation that Steve Wynn funneled to Charlie Baker through the Republican Governor’s Association in 2014.  It violates the law that established this Commission and threatens the integrity of the gaming industry in Massachusetts.

“Both Wynn and Governor Baker have a long history of relying on dark money to try and get what they want.  The Steve Wynn ‘stink bomb’ is right up there with Charlie Baker’s ‘nothingburger.' ”
So, we have Republicans conjuring “the dark days of one-party rule” on Beacon Hill and “all the ugliness that went along with it.” 

What?  Might they be referring to the immediately prior administration of Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, who held sway at the State House with House Speaker DeLeo, the same speaker whose hand Governor Baker is eager to clasp?
And, we have Democrats playing their variation on the darkness theme, wherein Wynn and Baker allegedly have a “long history of relying on dark money to try and get what they want.”

What? That $2 million donation from Wynn, isn’t that the same donation previously blessed by the chief enforcement lawyer for the Gaming Commission, a donation this lawyer determined did not violate state campaign finance laws because Wynn gave the money to the Republican Governors Association after the commission had decided to grant his company the Eastern Massachusetts casino license?
To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time in Massachusetts for Republicans and Democrats to work together, and there is a time for them to work each other over.

Footnote #1. I gave Kirsten Hughes and Gus Bickford the titles they themselves use in documents.  Hughes prefers Chairman; Bickford prefers Chair.
Footnote #2. The term “Charlie Baker’s ‘nothingburger’ " refers to a mini-controversy that erupted late in the summer of 2016.  When it was reported that the chair of the state’s elementary education board, Paul Sagan, had donated $100,000 to a referendum campaign to authorize more charter schools, some Democrats called upon Sagan to resign.  Baker dismissed the situation as a “nothingburger.”




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