Scott Brown’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week

Once upon a time, Scott Brown was riding high. He rocketed from backbencher within a Massachusetts state Senate Republican caucus that could convene in a phone booth to national political superstar.  He was the barn-coat-clad man-of-the-people who delivered a whupping to those pointy-headed Bay State Democrats by stealing Ted Kennedy’s seat right out from under them. (Before Elizabeth Warren stole it back two years later.)

There was probably always a lot less to Brown than meets the eye, but last week it felt like the wheels were coming off the pickup truck.

  

Brown’s dalliance with a flim-flamy penny stock outfit that operates out of a made-up office address in Florida has provided all the grist some Bay State watchers needed to mill former Sen. McDreamy into powder in a way they have been dying to do.  

Sunday’s papers delivered a brutal one-two punch, with the Globe‘s Joan Vennochi and the Herald‘s Peter Gelzinis both going hard at the one-time Massachusetts senator who is now trying his fortunes north of the border in New Hampshire, where he is challenging US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Gelzinis does the Herald brand proud, dispensing with any sense of nuance or subtlety. “I have always believed Scott Brown was a dolt,” he writes. “But over these past few days I’ve come to realize that my ex-accidental senator is not just a dolt. He’s a craven dolt.”

The story, first reported by the Globe last weekend, centers on Brown’s appointment — complete with stock that was at the time worth $1.3 million — to the advisory board of a 19-year-old Florida firm that has no products, patents, or manufacturing facilities. Global Digital Solutions doesn’t even have an actual office, with filings indicating that it rents “virtual office” space in a West Palm Beach building for $299 a month.

After a few days of heat over his involvement in what business analysts called, at best, a very high-risk venture, Brown resigned his role on Wednesday and said he was relinquishing all of his stock, whose value had declined by more than half since his appointment last September.

Vennochi writes that the episode illustrates “Brown’s problem with matters of substance.” She suggests the “personal magic” attached to him following his 2010 upset victory over Martha Coakley may have been “more of a media-generated mirage.” She lays out a few of the breadcrumbs along the path to that conclusion, including a brutal anecdote from former treasury secretary Tim Geithner‘s new memoir in which he recounts a conversation with Brown about a financial reform measure the administration was pursuing. Geithner says Brown expressed general support but said he needed to make sure the proposed changes didn’t adversely affect two Massachusetts firms — and then turned to an aide and reportedly asked, “Which ones are they, again?”

The problem with Brown’s involvement in the dodgy-looking Florida firm is that it feeds the narrative that he is, as Vennochi writes, “a New England variation of ‘all hat, no cattle’ – all truck and barn coat, no gravitas.”

Or as Globe business columnist Shirley Leung wrote last week, in fitting parallel with the shaky company he signed up with, one could argue that Brown is “the political version of a penny stock with his get-elected-quick schemes that come complete with barn coat and truck, or a Hail Mary move to New Hampshire.”

After his week of woe, Brown may need to redouble his efforts if he hopes to get the Granite State’s notoriously tough voters to put him in the “buy” column.

–MICHAEL JONAS   

BEACON HILL

The Legislature has passed a bill requiring cities and towns to create emergency evacuation and shelter plans for pets and service animals.

The Senate passes a measure banning the sale of synthetic marijuana, a chemical-laced herb mixture that critics say is more dangerous than the real thing, the Salem News reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lowell officials raise concerns about legal costs defending the city against discrimination claims, the Sun reports.

CASINOS

MGM Resorts awaits a final decision on its proposed casino in Springfield, the Associated Press reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

When the United States leaves Afghanistan, billions of dollars of used military equipment will be left in the country that has a history of foreign invasion.

Reviewing the review: The New Republic‘s Isaac Chotiner pans the review of Hillary Clinton‘s new book by Times critic Michiko Kakutani.

New York magazine argues that, with employment at pre-recession levels and tough new power plant emissions rules in the works, President Obama has done everything he promised to do in his first inaugural address.

ELECTIONS

The upcoming state Democratic convention will be a big test for Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Associated Press reports. The Herald, meanwhile, talks up Coakley’s effort to downplay the convention.

Buddy Cianci says he is leaning toward running for mayor of Providence again despite his stint in prison, the Associated Press reports.

The Hillary Clinton book tour/campaign warmup kicks off.

EDUCATION

Five students graduate from Phoenix Academy Lawrence, a public high school that caters to people who have previously dropped out of school. The five all plan to attend Northern Essex Community College, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A 460-page report from the Council on State Governments Justice Center makes recommendations for schools to alter their”zero tolerance” discipline policies that disproportionately affect already at-risk populations.

Two more states, Oklahoma and South Carolina, pull out of the Common Core, the Washington Post reports.

HEALTH CARE

In an editorial, the Globe gives a thumbs-up to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s controversial settlement with Partners HealthCare.

In contrast to the problems besetting it nationally, the VA health care system in Massachusetts gets high marks, though this is in part because more veterans here have private insurance that lets them get care outside the VA system, which relieves the state’s VA hospitals of the crushing caseloads that have overwhelmed the system elsewhere.

TRANSPORTATION

The Globe reports that bus companies nationwide, including some in Massachusetts, often operate for years without undergoing a full federal safety review.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Cape Cod fishermen argue that federal fisheries disaster money from the federal government is not being paid out equitably.

A proposed natural gas pipeline that would wind through Massachusetts communities is bringing hope for cheaper energy costs but stirring opposition in the roughly 45 communities it would pass through.

The Wall Street Journal reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is micromanaging the search for a new federal energy regulator, with an eye toward boosting renewable energy companies in his home state of Nevada.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A former judge who served on a Probationhiring panel for the Middlesex juvenile court said the process was a sham and told her chief justice to never make her do that again, CommonWealth reports.

Local attorneys and the family of two women killed in a Plymouth car accident with an off-duty state trooper who was allegedly drunk say the case shows the disparity in treatment between citizens and cops.

Williams College grapples with the aftermath of a rape case, and The Berkshire Eagle praises the woman who came forward with her story.

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Time Warner prepares to spin off Time Inc. and the magazine company’s new chief is preparing to cut editorial expenses by 25 percent, the New York Times reports.

The Beat The Press panel discusses the new study from Harvard’s Digital Media Law Project about who gets press credentials in this day and age of citizen journalists.