DeLeo’s legal tab

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has long denied being a target of the federal investigation into the state’s corrupt probation department. But it’s hard to look at DeLeo’s most recent campaign disclosures without seeing an intense level of scrutiny on the feds’ part.

The Associated Press reports today that DeLeo spent $300,000 in campaign funds on legal services during the first six months of the year. The AP connects the massive expenditures — one $150,000 outlay in January, and another one at the end of March — to the federal probe of the state probation department.

The speaker incurred the huge legal bills during a critical time in the federal investigation into probation, in the weeks just before the US Attorney’s office unveiled a new federal indictment of former probation boss John O’Brien on bribery charges. O’Brien had previously been hit with federal racketeering charges; the federal bribery allegations, which came days after O’Brien beat a state bribery rap, accused O’Brien of 17 acts of bribing State House officials. DeLeo was the recipient of 10 of those alleged bribes. It’s notable that, although the US Attorney accused O’Brien of bribing public officials, no one on the receiving end of the purported bribery scheme was charged with wrongdoing.

In April, when O’Brien’s federal bribery charges surfaced, DeLeo strongly denied any wrongdoing. “It is clear that I am not a party to the indictment, but I want to state emphatically: I only recommended job applicants who were qualified,” he said at the time. “I never gave or received any benefits from those recommendations, and I never traded jobs for votes.” Reportedly, federal investigators had previously tried to tie DeLeo’s 2009 speakership fight to probation corruption.

DeLeo’s legal tab dwarfs anything else connected to the long-running probation investigation. Last year, CommonWealth found that scores of legislators named in the bombshell Ware Report were lawyering up. For instance, since late 2008, alleged patronage kingpin Rep. Thomas Petrolati has rung up $188,000 in legal bills. Sen. Mark Montigny has charged $47,000 in legal bills to his campaign account since the Ware Report surfaced, while his colleague Sen. Marc Pacheco has charged $29,000. In the span of a few weeks, DeLeo’s legal bills topped years of legal work for the three politicians, combined. Even former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who’s facing legal inquiries on a number of fronts, has only charged $129,000 in legal bills to his campaign account over the past two years.

                                                                                                                                                                  –PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Sen. Jamie Eldridge calls for an overhaul of the state’s per diem system. Meanwhile, many Oregon lawmakers receive tax-free per diem payments but pocket them and use campaign funds to cover their travel expenses, the Oregonian reports.

A former Parole Board member sues Gov. Deval Patrick and his former chief of staff, Mo Cowan, for wrongful termination.

The gun legislation listening tour stops in Fall River, the Herald News reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse takes on Walmart. Meanwhile, The Berkshire Eagle takes Walmart to task for the disgraceful condition of its Pittsfield store and says the corporation, which has been hit with a spate of lawsuits to boot, needs to get its act together.

Metro West libraries explore how they will use grant monies to improve services.

Lynn bar owners ask the local licensing commission to follow the lead of Revere and shift closing time from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., the Item reports.

Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong says the police chief and treasurer are both leaving their jobs, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

Boston watchdog Sam Tyler voices concern over the appointment of union heavyweight Mike Monahan to the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s board.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A federal judge strikes down as unconstitutional a North Dakota law sharply limiting abortions, Governing reports.

Detroit isn’t America’s future, argues New York’s Jonathan Chait. It’s something worse: “The residual wound of the rise and fall of postwar America, the place where the egalitarian economy was born, and where it also died.” Ed Glaeser holds up the city as a cautionary tale on unfunded liabilities, while Tom Keane blames its unraveling on public safety.

ELECTIONS

Eliot Spitzer kind of apologizes for losing the governor’s office to a prostitution scandal in his latest campaign ad, but not really.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

CommonWealth explores whether a high-performance computing center can help turn Holyoke into a technology hub.

Traffic engineers tell Palmer officials that the state is not keen on building some sort of special access from the Turnpike to a proposed Mohegan Sun casino, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

All is not going swimmingly with the partial shutdown of the Longfellow Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge.

EDUCATION

State Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester and Pioneer Institute honcho Jim Stergios argue pro and con in CommonWealth about Common Core standards.

An outside evaluator brought on to examine Harvard’s controversial search of instructors’ emails to determine who was leaking information about a cheating scandal says the university acted “in good faith.” Here is the Crimson account of the report.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Plugging into Canadian hydroelectricity seems like a good idea for New England, but should the power be treated as renewable? CommonWealth asks.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Supreme Judicial Court rules that judges can stay the sentences of defendants who are seeking new trials because of possibly tainted results in their cases arising from the Annie Dookhan state crime lab scandal.

A new study in Utah finds taxpayers benefit when prison inmates complete vocational secondary education and find jobs when they are released, the Deseret News reports.

Kevin Cullen says the Whitey Bulger trial is one never-ending blame game among all parties involved. Bulger’s lawyers start their cross-examination of Stephen Flemmi.

Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey says he’ll fight any criminal charges related to his Milton crash, the Enterprise reports.

ARTS/CULTURE

Is there is a “BSO voodoo doll?” wonders the symphony’s principal horn after Andris Nelsons, the 34-year-old hired to replace the orchestra’s injury-plagued musical director James Levine, suffers a concussion and has to cancel his scheduled appearance this weekend at Tanglewood.

MEDIA

Nate Silver tells reporters he left the New York Times for ESPN because of the autonomy the firm has given Bill Simmons. He also throws some cold water on the argument floated by Times public editor Margaret Sullivan that personal slights from senior Times journalists drove him from the paper: “I’m interested in running a website, building out a business here, and having my opportunity to weigh in on different topics. I’m not interested in who I’m getting a beer with. I have plenty of people in my social circles for that.”

Steve Katz, the publisher of Mother Jones, tells the Nieman Journalism Lab how he converted a big scoop into a fundraising bonanza.