Massachusetts tradition: corrupt officials
posted at 4/8/2012 7:40 AM EDT
Like other Globe readers who commented on him, we did not favor former Treasurer Cahill either--never voting for him and welcoming his run for governor--sure he would lose and be gone. So far, however, the Attorney General appears to lack a very strong case against him. [ Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, Difficult ethics case in Massachusetts, WTOP (Washington, DC), April 4, 2012, at http://www.wtop.com/?nid=209&sid=2813559 ]
Unlike former Treasurer Bob Crane, who legally engaged in similar antics during the 1970s--now apparently unknown to greenhorn reporters at the Globe--Mr. Cahill did not display his name in a 2010 ad campaign promoting the state lottery. That will probably make it difficult to show how he used a state office for "unwarranted privileges," a legally undefined term appearing in the 2009 state law under which he has been charged. [ St. 2009, C. 28, at http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2009/Chapter28 ]
The main thrust of the 2009 law--apparently unknown to Globe reporters as well as to most of the public--is to criminalize some of the patronage that has run state government since Colonial days. For the first time, there is a state law requiring members of the General Court, along with all state, county and municipal employees, not to "solicit or receive anything of substantial value,...which is not otherwise authorized by statute or regulation, for or because of...official position." [MGL C. 268A, S. 23(b)(2), as amended]
A heritage of "gifts" to officials was refined to a zenith from the 1920s through the 1950s, when a sizable segment of state legislators was alluded to in newspaper columns as effectively on the payrolls of public works contractors, not necessarily for "specific acts" that might press bribery limits, but for reliable support when "issues" cropped up. It was Boston's outpost from the Mediterranean realm of "Grease."
As can happen when law enforcers take siestas, some officials got greedy, leading to eventual convictions of former Parking Authority chairman and Boston Record-American editorial writer George Brady and his fellow conspirators, for raking off at least $784,000 (about $6 million today) in contractor shakedowns and embezzled parking receipts. The Crime Commission of 1962, now largely forgotten, found other crooks in state government, allegedly including Democratic former House speaker John "Iron Duke" Thompson, who died shortly before his bribery trial was to start. There are varying stories about that, some quite unprintable.
During his 1964 Presidential campaign, former Sen. Barry Goldwater started a September 24 rally at Fenway Park by saying he was happy to be at the birthplace of our traditions of government. To his apparent surprise, the crowd roared with derisive laughter. The state was mired in corruption. Earlier that year, work of the Crime Commission appointed by former Gov. Volpe had led to indictments of 26 people and nine companies for extortion, bribery and conspiracy.
The all-time champs at official larceny, however, came in the 1990s, under Republican former Treasurer Joe Malone, whose buddies looted at least $16.6 million during Malone's watch. Former deputy treasurer Robert Foley was sentenced to five years and Mr. Malone's chief fundraiser, Richard Arrighi, to three years, but Mr. Malone was never directly connected to the crimes. He later expressed regret for being "too trusting of people." [ George Brennan, Malone pressing Perry hard in Cape race, Cape Cod Times, August 15, 2010, at http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100815/NEWS/8150326/-1/MARKET ]