The Boston Herald
Monday, April 17, 2000
Like thieves in the night...
by Joe Sciacca
If the vice squad is up on Beacon Hill, they would do
us all a favor by raiding Tom Finneran's House.
What the Legislature did during the budget debate last
week was, by any definition of the word, obscene.
They pulled an all-nighter -- spending like crazy and
throwing conscience and ethics out the window -- and it was the taxpayers who woke up with
No hack was left unrewarded. Just ask the Governor's
Council, a useless, barely functional throwback to another era, whose members were treated
to a $10,000 raise.
Now the councilors, some of whom appear as lawyers
before the same judges they rubberstamp, are in line to get $25,000 a year for the half
hour they put in each week instead of just $15,000.
You get nothing for nothing in the world of politics
as we all know. So their fat raise means that the councilors will just have to rubberstamp
a few more appointments when these state representatives aspire to use the political
acumen they learned in Finneran's House to grab another plum when they leave the State
House as say, a clerk magistrate or a superior court judge.
But the bellycrawlers in Finneran's House didn't stop
there. They doubled the "per diem" stipend that lawmakers receive for their
State House commute and "office budgets," explaining that lawmakers would need
the extra cash because campaign spending reform would mean they couldn't use campaign
funds for "constituent service." Except that they didn't pass campaign finance
reform. They sent it off for further study.
And while special needs kids across the commonwealth
were tucked in their beds, the lawmakers cut funding that will throw an estimated 30,000
out of educational programs and gave the break to another group instead: the lobbyists.
GOP Rep. Kevin Finnegan carried the water on this one
because he's a lame duck and doesn't have to pretend to care any more.
At Finneran's direction, the courageous Newburyport
lawmaker proposed an amendment allowing lobbyists to pick up meals and drinks, or rather
drinks and drinks, for lawmakers without reporting them, as long as the bar tab is under
When you see Finnegan on the streets of Newburyport or
Amesbury or Salisbury, ask him how to manages to stand upright without a backbone.
And Finneran calls himself a reformer.
Maybe in the speaker's language that is reform.
Because in Finneran-speak, the Governor's Council raise is "a very modest
stipend." And last year's unprecedented budget delay was due to "creative
thinking." I've always admired Finneran's maverick style, his skills at playing power
politics with the likes of Bob Kraft, his gleeful humiliating of Paul Cellucci again and
But this year, they should replace the Hall of Flags
with a Hall of Shame and put Finneran's portrait high on the wall.
The speaker, of course, has realized that he has
virtually no chance of becoming governor. Now he wants to be mayor of Boston. But even by
the low bar that City Hall sets in serving the public interest, Finneran is doing the
It's unlikely you, as a taxpayer, will ever actually
get to speak to Tom Finneran. But maybe you could call his office at 722-2500 and make a
suggestion: Massachusetts doesn't need a full-time state Legislature. The less they are in
session, the less damage they can do.
And Finneran's Ways and Means chief Paul Haley
(722-2990). After the House wraps up a budget process that stinks more than the sacred cod
before it was stuffed and mounted, Haley utters the classic line, "(I'm) very nervous
at what we've spent this week." I don't understand why Haley is nervous. It was our
money he was spending. Hey, they only added $150 million to the $21.8 billion state
budget. What's a little extra on the bottom line? Just ask the great minds over at the Big
Maybe Tom Birmingham, the Senate president who is
running for governor, or Paul Cellucci, the shell-shocked governor who is running for his
political life, will undo the damage. We'll see.
Finneran pretends that he wants to do things
differently. He is pushing a two-year budget he says will "help us think in a
generational manner" by providing "very careful planning." Careful
planning? Spare us, Mr. Speaker. There's only one reason your House, year after year, ends
up making million-dollar decisions in the middle of the night. You let it happen.
It's no coincidence that B & E artists prefer the
cover of darkness. And it's no coincidence that the residents of Finneran's House do, too.
Sunday, April 16, 2000
Hold them to a higher standard
Elected officials who lie to us
should be made to pay the price at the ballot box.
Is it too much to ask for a little honesty from those
who govern us?
In Boston, legislators are happily trying to line
their pockets with extra cash and fixing things up nicely for their lobbyist friends, all
while telling taxpayers that there is no money for tax cuts because of cost overruns on
the Big Dig.
State Rep. Harriett L. Stanley, D-West Newbury, pulled
a fast one on the citizens she represents. Just days after she told constituents at a
local breakfast she supports Gov. A. Paul Cellucci's plan to reduce the state income tax
rate to 5 percent, she voted against the plan in the Legislature.
Rep. Stanley's unbelievable excuse for lying to voters
was this: She really does support cutting taxes but, as a high-ranking member of the
Legislature, she could not vote for a tax cut the House leadership opposes. Support is one
thing, Rep. Stanley said, but "voting for a tax cut is a whole different
John C. Brockelman, state GOP executive director, had
it precisely right when he called Rep. Stanley the "poster child for political
hypocrisy." Perhaps in the next election, the citizens of Rep. Stanley's district
will elect someone with the courage to vote their convictions, or at least someone honest
enough to admit that they have no convictions.
While Rep. Stanley was trying to figure out what she
really thinks, we had the obscene spectacle of state Rep. Kevin L. Finnegan,
R-Newburyport, doing his utmost to make it easier for lobbyists to conceal their
activities from the public. Rep. Finnegan's amendment to the budget passed in the wee
hours of Friday morning -- after midnight, when all things dark and dangerous appear on
It allows lobbyists to hide many of their expenses
from the public and spend up to $35 on gifts for lawmakers. Rep. Finnegan said his
amendment fixes the "offensive" rule that prevents lobbyists from buying him a
drink at a wedding or entertaining him with a day at the country club.
"Offensive" best describes Rep. Finnegan's
action. But we're sure he doesn't care. Beacon Hill leadership wanted the change and,
since Rep. Finnegan is not running for re-election, he needs to know where his next job is
There is a way to get political officials and those
they appoint to deal honestly with us. It's a ballot box, and if we used it to hold those
we elect to higher standards, we just might get better and more honest government.