For lawmakers on Beacon Hill, patronage is the scandal that won’t go away

<div id=”fb-root”></div><script src=”First it was Probation, a legislative jobs bank that blew up in spectacular fashion in its sponsors’ faces. Now, just two months after the Legislature tried distancing itself from patronage at Probation, an investigation into the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is shining more light onto the nexus between cash, jobs, and legislative influence inside the State House.

The Globe reported yesterday that state Treasurer Steve Grossman has ordered a top-to-bottom review of the ABCC. The paper said over the past two years, the tiny agency has spent a sum nearly equal to its annual budget to quash complaints about harassment and discrimination.

One complaint against the ABCC has a familiar ring. The Globe reported that when an ex-Marine complained the ABCC had unfairly passed over him for multiple jobs, the agency said in a legal filing that the jobs had to go to relatives of state legislators. If the ABCC didn’t make the political hires, it said, the Legislature wouldn’t fund the positions.

Those charges echo the accusations made by Paul Ware, the lawyer who investigated Probation for the Supreme Judicial Court. Ware alleged that hiring in Probation was rigged in favor of applicants connected to legislative sponsors, and that Probation’s budget was implicitly tied to the department’s willingness to take on patronage hires. Ware has said the arrangement may amount to an unlawful enterprise. State and federal grand juries are currently reviewing Probation’s relationship with the Legislature. The two grand juries are reportedly weighing charges of fraud and extortion.

Throughout the Probation uproar, officials connected to the embattled agency have seldom denied that they made politically-connected hires. Instead, the line of defense has been that there’s nothing criminal about the way they did business, because it’s the way everybody on Beacon Hill does business. Probation officials maintained a detailed database tracking lawmakers’ hiring recommendations, and did so in the belief that such recommendations were commonplace throughout state government. In Ware’s report, the former top lawyer at the agency, Christopher Bulger, is quoted as saying patronage hiring “is something that happens everywhere to some degree.”

Along those lines, the Globe has reported that House Speaker Robert DeLeo, champion of the crackdown on patronage hiring at Probation, wasn’t just a frequent sponsor of candidates for jobs at Probation, but was also successful in securing jobs for family and friends throughout state government. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and several powerful members of the state Senate were reportedly also frequent Probation sponsors.

It may be that job recommendations are commonplace on Beacon Hill. But if one, or both, of those grand juries find something crooked in the way Probation did business, the worrying won’t be confined to lawmakers named in Ware’s report. Just ask the folks in the ABCC.                                                                                       

                                                                                                                          –PAUL MCMORROW


In an editorial, the Salem News says it refuses to believe that the new Department of Transportation is too big for one person to manage. But it says the job of secretary of transportation requires a hike in pay. See CommonWealth’s Face to Face video discussion on the Patrick administration’s salary strategy on the magazine’s home page.

State Rep. Marcos Devers of Lawrence apologizes for writing letters of support for people who pleaded guilty to drug and attempted murder charges, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Read Devers’s letter of apology here.

Spilled milk: The loss of chocolate milk under new state nutrition standards is hard on some schools, the Berkshire Eagle reports.

State officials are mulling changes to the fire code regulating balcony grilling, which bans propane grills above the first floor but not charcoal barbecues, like the one that caused a fire in Quincy last week.

A bill bringing the state Lottery online goes before the Legislature, but faces opposition from the politician who runs the Lottery, Treasurer Steve Grossman.

US Sen. Scott Brown meets with activists pushing for a majority-minority legislative district in the ongoing redistricting process. Brown’s campaign counsel, state Rep. Dan Winslow, is serving as outside counsel to a group pushing a majority-minority district centered around Suffolk County.


Arlington union and town officials ask Lt. Gov. Tim Murray if the deadline for going into the state’s Group Insurance Commission next year can be extended from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1.  The Arlington Advocate reports the town is counting on $1 million in savings from the new municipal health care reform law.

Hull residents are increasingly complaining about the smell and taste of their tap water, but the privately owned supplier, which is seeking a 16.7 percent rate hike, says it’s all in their heads.


US Rep. Niki Tsongas talks debt ceiling, Washington gridlock, and tabloid phone hacking with Emily Rooney.

US Rep. Barney Frank’s signature financial legislation is under fire from all sides.

A new report raises doubts about the House Ethics Committee probe into US Rep. Maxine Waters, a California lawmaker who pushed Frank to secure TARP funds for Boston-based OneUnited Bank.


The Newton Tab wonders if Mayor Setti Warren backs out of the Senate race, would city voters forgive him?

Now that Elizabeth Warren won’t be staying in Washington as a member of the executive branch, speculation increases that she’ll challenge Scott Brown for Senate.

Time asks: Why do Iowa Republicans love Michele Bachmann?

Sarah Palin’s puffy new movie debuts to an empty Orange County theater. Even though Palin’s rapturous supporters apparently don’t frequent the movies, they can still troll the internet with the best of them.


New Bedford officials are planning to install a new electrical system on four of the city’s wharves that will allow fishing boats to plug in, rather than run their diesel generators, to work dockside, which will save money and cut down on emissions.

Borders prepares to liquidate all its remaining bookstores. The jobs planned to be cut by Borders and tech giant Cisco nearly equal all the jobs added to the economy in June.

A proposed development project that would utilize air rights space over the Mass. Turnpike in Boston has state reps Marty Walz and Byron Rushing steaming.


Boston school officials are proposing a shuffle of two high school programs to different buildings along with several other moves designed to increase capacity at schools with higher demand.


Former TV reporter and current Harvard instructor David Ropeik writes in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that there needs to be more regulations on the growing number of people who decline to vaccinate their children because of the risk he says it creates for the larger population. Via Not Running a Hospital.


A Land Court judge refused to issue an injunction sought by a nearby Wendy’s owner to stop roadwork construction that is part of a new terminal at Barnstable Airport the restaurant owner says will harm his business at the airport rotary.

A woman bites dog story: A woman is arrested after allegedly groping a TSA agent at the Phoenix airport, Time reports.


Robert F. Kennedy Jr. blasts Cape Wind in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column, and accuses the Patrick administration of holding the merger of NStar and Northeast Utilities hostage for the benefit of the wind farm. State officials deny linking the merger to Cape Wind, while the energy project accuses Kennedy of trying to protect ocean views from his family’s Cape Cod compound. Attorney General Martha Coakley says she’ll support the utility merger, if she’s confident that consumers are protected in the deal.

The Christian Science Monitor reports a new study by the Brookings Institution shows there are more people working in “clean industry” jobs in the U.S. than oil- and gas-related jobs.  

In an editorial, the Lowell Sun says Evergreen Solar is a textbook case for state officials on how – or how not – to support businesses.

The state is granting $150,000 in seed money for a study of Cape Cod’s growing wastewater management problem, which is expected to cost the region billions of dollars over the next decade.


Thieves stole copper and bronze rods holding memorial medallions at veterans’ graves at a cemetery in Abington over the weekend.

The Globe reports that a federal grand jury in Boston will hear testimony from two people who knew Whitey Bulger and Catherine Greig during their 16-year stay in Santa Monica, California, a move that could lead to additional charges against the pair. The paper says prosecutors hinted during a court hearing last week that Greig could face weapons charges in connection with the arsenal of weaponry found in the California apartment the couple rented. Meanwhile, Greig last week filed a homestead declaration saying her Quincy house, which she hasn’t been in since fleeing in 1995 and isn’t likely to be back soon, is her primary residence. The filing is meant to shield her lone asset from potential suits or judgments.


The National Review highlights the efforts of a UCLA professor who has developed a formula to measure liberal media bias and his results show the outlet with the greatest leftward slant in the news section, even more than the New York Times, the Washington Post and CBS was — the Wall Street Journal. Really.