It’s cozy inside

In politics, insiders rule – almost always

In this world of harsh economic conditions and political divisiveness we all need some coziness. Fortunately, the worlds of politics and business provide us with many suitable examples of how, as Rodney King once implored us, we can all just get along.

Let’s take, for example, the heart-warming tale of a young man with limited prospects in his field of ambition, the battered financial services industry. Despite these obstacles, our hopeful believes in America so much that he enlists in the 2008 and 2012 Mitt Romney for president campaigns, where he secures his bond with the candidate and his family. Rather than door-knocking freezing New Hampshire precincts, the young man is assigned the task of dialing up big-money contributors in pursuit of the mother’s milk of politics, money.

Unfortunately for our political neophyte, Spencer Zwick, the 2008 campaign was unsuccessful. How to fill the long lonely hours? According to the October 7 Boston Globe, “the trusted aide began asking Romney’s backers to invest at least $10 million each in a financial partnership Zwick launched with Romney’s oldest son, Taggart.”  I wonder if the prospectus warns that the investment will not fluctuate with the Dow Jones but with the presidential primaries.

The company founded by the young entrepreneurs issued a statement saying, “Our investors come from a variety of political persuasions, and there is absolutely no connection between the personal decisions they may make to support certain candidates and the premier funds and companies that were carefully selected for our portfolio.” Cozy.

A little closer to home we have the recurring generosity of our Commonwealth’s liquor industry. Not to me (I continue to pay retail for my Long Trail Double Bag Ale) but to our state treasurer.

Back in March, in “Money for nothing,” I commented on a Globe story that the Democratic Party’s candidate for treasurer, Steve Grossman, had solicited gobs of money for the state Democratic Party in 2010, which then turned around and put gobs of money into the effort to elect the candidate. Among the public-spirited citizens solicited were representatives of the liquor industry. In September, the Globe reported on a friendly get-together of Grossman friends. The treasurer “accepted $45,000 at a fund-raiser earlier this month from package store proprietors, bar owners, and liquor distributors, industries his office heavily controls and regulates,” the paper reported.

Good government paranoiacs fear not. According to a statement released by an aide to Grossman’s political committee, “No one should have any illusion that they would get special treatment from Treasurer Grossman or his office because of any campaign contributions.” And when the earlier story about raising money for the state party broke, Grossman himself said, “Nobody should have any illusion that they would get special treatment from Steve Grossman for contributions to my campaign or the Democratic Party.” So my illusions that the liquor industry might get special treatment are quieted forever, and I’m glad. Such illusions might disillusion me.

Caring business leaders need not limit their generosity to political coffers. There are many needy charities in town as well.  As the Globe reported earlier this month, Suffolk Downs owner and casino license aspirant Richard Fields has donated $16,000 to charities associated with Mayor Thomas Menino and East Boston state Sen. Anthony Petruccelli. Lest some conspiracy theorist get the wrong idea, a spokeswoman for the mayor said, “This is companies being good neighbors. Obviously, no matter how much money they donate, it’s the merits of their projects and the merits of their proposals that would allow them to move forward.”

So it’s not all about campaign contributions. And it’s not about money at all, really, as Brian McGrory recently pointed out when he found that the Boston Book Festival had invited Gov. Deval Patrick to talk about his book but did not invite Sen. Scott Brown, whose own memoir easily outsold the governor’s. All this all came about because one member of the festival’s “honorary advisory board” is Treasurer Steve Grossman, a close friend of the executive director of the book festival. Grossman (does he ever sleep?) was only too glad to encourage the governor to appear. Apparently, no one on the advisory board had a cozy relationship with the bestselling author Brown.

Meet the Author

Maurice Cunningham

Assoc. Prof. of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston
Brown should not feel badly, though. When the Democrats cozily got together early in January 2010, they were sure that he could never beat Martha Coakley. By spring of 2011 the Democrats huddled in emotional support, comforting each other as they faced the inevitability of Brown’s reelection.  As the leaves turn, Democrats now swoon at Elizabeth Warren’s policy smarts, charm, and ability to raise money. They whisper conspiratorially that she will easily defeat Brown. But that coziness may cut both ways; as Brown showed in 2010 there are more outsiders than insiders in this state.

Maurice Cunningham is an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston.