Jun 16, 2011 9:55 PM GMT
Pols: What, us change?
Pols: What, us change?
Defiant Bay State lawmakers saw no need to change their Beacon Hill ways yesterday, despite the stunning news that their erstwhile leader, disgraced ex-House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, had been found guilty of extortion, fraud and corruption — the third speaker in a row to be convicted on federal charges.
One indignant pol even took personal offense when a Herald reporter asked if the guilty verdict would change the culture at the State House.
“What has to be changed on Beacon Hill? Why would you say something like that?” snapped state Sen. Steven Tolman (D-Brighton).
“That’s outrageous. Come on. There are 199 people up here that work their hearts out — 200 people — every single day. I’m insulted,” Tolman said, correcting himself on the total number of legislators.
Though reeling from the corruption conviction of the speaker whose bidding they once did, many legislators continued to defend him.
“I’ve never seen a better speaker,” said Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline). “It’s a shame when somebody who did a good job gets caught up in a mess like this.”
But House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who said the DiMasi revelations at first felt like a “kick in the stomach,” told reporters it’s his job to change the public’s perception.
“This is not business as usual,” DeLeo insisted. “Your House of Representatives, they’re working for you each and every day.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick, who testified during DiMasi’s trial on how he ceded to the pol’s hard sell on a low-priority item, yesterday described the fallen speaker’s case as an “outlier.”
“I hope what it means is the end of a long, sad chapter,” Patrick said.
House Assistant Majority Leader Charley Murphy (D-Burlington) said he’s “disappointed,” but when asked if legislators will change how they conduct business in the State House, he said, “This is not something that’s pervasive, this is not something that’s day to day, and I hope people realize that.”
One pundit, however, said legislators will start feeling the pressure.
“Three convicted speakers in a row doesn’t look good, and they’re going to have to do something,” said John C. Berg, political professor at Suffolk University.
“You’d like to think it would, but I tend to doubt it,” Republican strategist Rob Gray said. “People thought (former Speaker) Charlie Flaherty’s legal issues would change things, but it didn’t. We’ve had state representatives, senators, speakers of the House convicted of various crimes multiple times in the last decade. So I’m not sure they’ll get the message even though they should have a long time ago.”