By that time, he had also taken to doing favors for friends
Surprise, surprise, the members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives have elected another insider’s insider to be the next speaker. There’s been outrage about the move among progressives, understandably, as the new guy in charge, Quincy state Rep. Ronald Mariano, is a goon among goons, an old school friend to business who is hardly a step toward reform.
But before we get into Mariano, some Massachusetts history is in order …
The first speaker of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, from 1644 to 1645, was William Hathorne of Salem, the first American ancestor of the author Nathaniel Hawthorne (who added the “w” to his name).
I’m just joking. Not about Hathorne, who was indeed the first honcho to speak of, but rather I don’t plan on going that far back. Instead, let’s recall the seemingly distant 1990s, starting with Charles Flaherty, who took over as speaker of the House of Representatives after the defeat of George Keverian, the last true reformer to ever hold the position.
In Massachusetts, old cranks like to remind you that three consecutive House speakers resigned in shame—Charles Flaherty, Tom Finneran, and Sal DiMasi. The details of them all are as petty as they are juicy, so let’s begin with Flaherty, who resigned in 1996 after being charged with tax evasion.
In the dust-up, the United States Attorney’s Office also surfaced information indicating that Flaherty had “violated the conflict of interest law” by using the Martha’s Vineyard vacation home of a developer who had more than $100 million in contracts with the state.
Then there is Tom Finneran, who some of you may know as a radio host on various talk and conservative frequencies. Before that career, his [rein] as speaker was from 1996 to 2004, and ended with him pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges in connection with a lawsuit over gerrymandered district maps.
Finneran was followed by Sal DiMasi of the North End, who held the torch until 2009. By that time, he had also taken to doing favors for friends. DiMasi sold the people of Mass out for relative peanuts; he took 65 grand in exchange for helping a software company win more than $17 million in contracts.
Some people were outraged when he got out of prison early due to an illness, but in time they forget. Fewer even bothered saying boo when it came out earlier this year that a judge ruled DiMasi can register as a lobbyist despite his past convictions.
Next up was DeLeo, who ran Beacon Hill like a cartel with the public panache of Lieutenant Columbo. Privately, his bullying and punitive micro managerial leadership style was brazen. As my DigBoston colleague Jason Pramas writes, along with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and any number of other alleged partisans, DeLeo was responsible for “lowering taxes for those most able to afford them, cutting desperately needed social programs to the bone, and giving away as much money as possible to giant corporations.”
In one small consolation, DeLeo’s tyranny was noted by some critics amidst the expected outgoing ovations. Nevertheless, he is succeeded by Mariano, who is by all measures basically more of the same, the stability-in-a-time-of-significant-crisis friend-to-all-sides homeboy.
We’ll keep our eyes on him like we always do the guy on top, but of course the new speaker has registered on our radar before—once for taking contributions from Purdue Pharma lobbyists who made it possible for the company to market OxyContin in Mass, and another time for his enormous tabs at restaurants and hotels.
Mariano has no problem using his campaign funds for thousand-dollar dinners and “lodging expenses” at the Nine Zero Hotel. Accommodations fit for a king, as it turns out.
(Also be sure to check out this humiliating interview that Mariano did with WCVB this week, in which he said in response to being asked about the vaccine rollout in Mass that he has no idea what the hell is going on because he “just got here.”)
Robert DeLeo Video: WCAT — Winthrop Community Access Television
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A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.