It Happens in Massachusetts Politics That...

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

-It is just a matter of time before a casino rescue bill is filed in the Massachusetts legislature now that the Encore Boston Harbor resort casino has opened for business in Everett.  Within five years, I predict, Encore owners, likely joined by owners of the MGM casino in Springfield, will be asking their hometown legislators to file a bill to reduce the percentage of their gross receipts taxable by the state from 25 percent, its current limit, to somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.  Without that reduction, they'll be telling us, "Layoffs will begin."  Cue the march on the State House by several hundred vociferous, off-duty casino employees demanding enactment of casino rescue bill.

-The City of Revere is twisting in the wind, all leverage-less, asking in on the casino impacts mitigation game long after it declined to accept its game ticket.  Former Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo, you may recall, fully supported the company that proposed a resort casino for Suffolk Downs, the old racetrack on the East Boston-Revere line, and that was competing for the Eastern Massachusetts casino license against Wynn Resorts and its proposed site, the former locale of a Monsanto chemical factory in Everett.  After Wynn Resorts won the license, Rizzo refused to negotiate a mitigation package with the company to compensate Revere for hardships a casino in Everett might bring, such as increased traffic and smaller bottom lines at local restaurants.  He was holding out hope that the MA Gaming Commission would reverse its Wynn-favorable decision on appeal and grant the license to the Suffolk Downs group.  Today, communities as far away from Everett as Melrose have mitigation deals with Encore but next-door Revere has zip.  Encore execs say the ship sailed long ago for Revere, mitigation-wise.  Nevertheless, current Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo has formed a local Casino Advisory Commission "to track and review the impacts of the opening of Encore Boston Harbor on the local community and businesses."  Arrigo vows he won't stop looking for "alternative avenues to ensure impacts on Revere can be addressed and mitigated appropriately..."

-U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey delivered a statement pulsing with strong words in response to President Trump's authorization of military strikes against Iran for having shot down a U.S. surveillance drone and for Trump's abrupt cancellation of strikes 10 minutes before they were to be executed.  "Pushed by warmonger John Bolton and Secretary Pompeo," Markey said, "President Trump has abandoned a functioning Iran deal, imposed unnecessary sanctions, re-deployed thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East, threatened the 'official end of Iran,' and nearly executed an unconstitutional, over-reactive military strike early this morning." 

-True to form, President Trump did not hesitate to pick a fight with the hierarchy of the firefighters union after the union endorsed the presidential candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden.  Trump dismissed the leaders of the International Association of Fire Fighters as "dues-sucking people" and predicted "the firefighters are going to be voting for me."  In reporting Trump's put-down, the State House News Service pointed out that Ed Kelly, the IAFF's secretary-treasurer, is from Dorchester. 

-Ultimate power broker Jack Connors, Jr., a friend to every deep-pocketed mover and shaker from Massachusetts and beyond, has tentatively climbed aboard the bandwagon of Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, one of 22 Democrat -- or is it 24? -- candidates for President of the U.S.  There was a fundraiser for Buttigieg in Boston (6-20-19) hosted by Connors, Brian Rafanelli and Sharon McNally.  The trio wrote in an invitation email,  "We believe that Mayor Pete Buttigieg just might be the right person to turn the ship around."  And if Pete ain't, Jack, et al. will identify and align with the next right person.

-U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, a staunch supporter and defender of President Trump damned U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren with faint praise when he was in Boston in May and sitting for a radio interview on his newly published book, "Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery."  Said Cotton, "My history with Elizabeth Warren goes far beyond the U.S. Senate.  She was my very first professor on my first day of law school (at Harvard).  I think Liz was a better professor than she is a senator."  If Cotton wants to stay on the Trump varsity, he'll have to do better than that.

-Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has a good way of deflecting a couple of questions on everyone's mind: one, will she run for governor in 2022, and, two, does she think she could beat Charlie Baker if he decided to seek a third term?  "I'm not in the business of punditry," Healey responded in an interview with WCVB's Ed Harding, adding, "You know, I say this in all seriousness.  I'll continue to say this because I'll probably continue to be asked.  I actually love my job.  I like doing my job.  And it may seem funny for folks to hear that somebody is in a job that they like doing, they're focused on that.  To me, even 2020 and the presidential (race) is just too far away.  We've got to stay focused on what is before us."

-Maura Healey, asked in that same interview how Charlie Baker is doing as governor, was the soul of magnanimity.  "I think he's doing a good job on a lot of fronts," she said.

-Maura Healey is in the thick of the lawsuit filed this week in D.C. against the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.  "Our year-long investigation," Healey said, referring to the work of the 13 state attorney generals who are party to this action, "found that the proposed merger would give the new company the power to raise prices, significantly reduce competition for customers, lower quality, and cost thousands of retail workers their jobs.  We are challenging this merger to protect a service that matters to everyone."

-Talk about not getting the memo.  A recent audit by the office of State Auditor Suzanne Bump revealed that the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, an agency within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, has never implemented the Buy Massachusetts Program, which was mandated by the legislature 26 years ago.  The program aims to connect MA companies and encourage them to purchase needed goods and services from each other, rather than from out-of-state or foreign companies.

Of All the Jobs in All the World, Sal DiMasi Had to Choose This One?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Secretary of State Bill Galvin is blocking the ill-advised attempt by former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to become a lobbyist now that he's on parole and his cancer (throat and prostate) is in remission. 

"Lobbying is a constitutional right," DiMasi rightly asserts.  Though it seems far from right that he should become a lobbyist after having been convicted in 2011 of scheming to rig a state contract for a particular software company. 

Lobbying falls under the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," as granted to all citizens by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

DiMasi's appealing Galvin's decision to deny his request to register as a lobbyist with the Secretary of State's office.  A preliminary hearing on that appeal was held yesterday.  It could take several months to resolve the matter, during which DiMasi must remain on the outside looking in to the world of paid advocacy. 

I don't know what Aaron Michlewitz is thinking about this situation but I have to imagine he's wishing it would go away.  He served as a top aide to DiMasi when he was Speaker before running successfully to succeed DiMasi in his Boston House district, centered on the North End. 

A popular and highly capable legislator, Michlewitz ascended this session to the chairmanship of House Ways & Means, one of the four most powerful positions in the legislature (Speaker, Senate President, and Chair of Senate Ways & Means being the others). 

No doubt Michlewitz feels a great deal of affection and loyalty to DiMasi. He would not be where he is today were it not for being hired long ago by DiMasi.  But does Michlewitz want the media and casual observers thinking he'd do anything special for his former boss were he to make a successful turn to lobbying?   Ways & Means is a lobbyist magnet.

The reality is Michlewitz would be extremely careful in any official dealings with DiMasi.  The perception of the cynics would be different.  There's no shortage of cynics.  Michlewitz and his staff don't need this headache.

When DiMasi went to prison, I wrote two or three posts expressing sympathy for him.  I said he was a good, kind-hearted human being and pointed out that he had done a lot of good for persons outside his district who were down on their luck, for progressive causes he believed in, and for often-overlooked constituencies and groups yearning to be heard in the corridors of power.  I thought DiMasi had been subjected to desultory medical care and harsh treatment when shuttled from one prison to another, and I said so. 

When he was paroled for medical reasons after serving more than five years, I applauded his release.  Even 30 days in jail is a long time, I said, and DiMasi's time in prison was the opposite of getting off easy.  His crimes ought to be forgiven, I said, and he should be allowed to live out his days in peace.  I like Sal.  I don't want him to suffer further.  

Bill Galvin, however, is right: DiMasi should not be allowed to register (and earn money) as a lobbyist until 10 years have passed since the date of his 2011 conviction, as stipulated by Massachusetts law. 

In the interim, I would suggest that he put his extensive experience, skills and personal warmth to good use as an unpaid advocate for organizations and causes he cares deeply about.  Generally speaking, you don't have to register as a lobbyist if you're not getting paid to do it.