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


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