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.

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