Tired of waiting, Dempsey exits House for lobbying firm

Tired of waiting, Dempsey exits House for lobbying firm

Decision indicates DeLeo is not retiring anytime soon

THE PERCEIVED HEIR APPARENT to House Speaker Robert DeLeo said on Thursday that he is stepping down to take a top job at the high-powered lobbying firm ML Strategies, a move that suggests the speaker is not inclined to retire anytime soon.

Rep. Brian Dempsey of Haverhill, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee since 2011, is leaving to take the job of senior vice president and chief operating officer at ML Strategies, a subsidiary of the law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo. Dempsey’s office said he would not be available for comment.

Dempsey’s decision to leave the House indicates he was tired of waiting around for DeLeo to retire so he could move up. Several sources said they believe DeLeo, who pushed through the elimination of an eight-year term limit on the speaker’s position in January 2015, is likely to remain at the chamber’s helm for another three to four years. “Brian just wasn’t willing to wait around that long,” said one source.

The House is run in a top-down fashion by DeLeo, who himself moved up from the Ways and Means job to the speaker’s position in 2009. Dempsey meshed well with DeLeo; both lean conservative for Democrats and generally oppose new taxes. Dempsey entered the House in 1991, the same year as DeLeo, and the two officials are close friends who enjoy broad support within the body.

With Dempsey gone, DeLeo will now have to choose a Ways and Means chair who undoubtedly will be perceived by many as the person with the best shot of winning the speaker’s job once DeLeo retires. Others said the Ways and Means post is not a guaranteed stepping stone to the speaker’s job. The Ways and Means post is a big one, however, and the selection process could stir some turmoil in the House, as factions within the Democratic Party push for someone in line with their views.

“I think everyone assumed Brian was the next speaker. With Brian moving on, the speaker’s fight begins immediately,” said Rep. Russell Holmes of Boston. “Rest assured there will be a lot of people jockeying now and trying to galvanize support to be the next speaker, which I think is healthy for the building.”

Holmes said liberal-leaning groups in the House, including the Black and Latino Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, and the Women’s Caucus, will seek a greater voice in setting the House’s direction. “Our voices need to be louder in all pieces of legislation and in the budget,” Holmes said. “I look forward to a strong, robust discussion about not just who will be the next speaker, but the entire leadership team.”

DeLeo could not be reached for comment, but he issued a statement saying Dempsey was one of the best, if not the best, chairs of Ways and Means ever. He said Dempsey would be “an incredible asset” to Mintz Levin. “The process for selection of a new chair has begun, and we will have an announcement at the appropriate time,” he added.

One source said the list of possible replacements at Ways and Means isn’t that long. According to the source, the list includes, in no particular order, Rep. Stephen Kulik of Worthington, the vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez of Boston, the House chairman of the Health Care Financing Committee; Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee, the House chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies; Rep. Tom Golden of Lowell, the House chair of the Telecommunications, Energy, and Utilities Committee; and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of Boston, the House chair of the Financial Services Committee. Another source said he thought Wagner was an obvious choice, but suggested Rep. Jennifer Benson of Lunenburg, the House chair of the Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committee, had a shot.

At ML Strategies, Dempsey, 49, will be filling the post vacated by William “Mo” Cowan, who left the firm in February to join General Electric. Dempsey plans to start at ML Strategies in September and spend his first year (when he is barred from lobbying on Beacon Hill) learning about the firm, including its Washington operations.

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.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

ML Strategies has become a powerhouse on Beacon Hill over the last several years. Its roster of lobbyists includes former governor William Weld, former state senator Steven Baddour, and a host of former government officials. The firm raked in more than $4 million in lobbying fees last year from a long client list that includes the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston University, Wynn Resorts, General Electric, Spectra Energy, the New England Aquarium, and Nalcor Energy.

In his new role, Dempsey is likely to be perceived as the heir apparent to Stephen Tocco, the chairman and CEO of ML Strategies. Tocco, a former cabinet official under Weld and a former chairman of the Massachusetts Port Authority, said Dempsey will be a great addition to the firm.

“He’s more than capable,” Tocco said. “We look forward to him being with us a long time in an expanded role as we go forward.”

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Speaking of General Electric, over the past two weeks there’s been a story dominating Rhode Island news outlets. That state’s Department of Transportation stopped a truck on I-95 for failing to get a permit for its oversized load to travel roads and bridges. For two weeks, a 100-wheeled truck hauling a 560,000-pound generator ended up on the side of I-95 in Rhode Island then went to a park & ride lot. The maximum load permitted on Rhode Island’s roads is 80,000 pounds. According WPRI/12/Eyewitness News the oversized load is one of nineteen oversized loads scheduled for delivery to Medway Massachusetts. The trucking company had to get a $25 million insurance policy to cover any damages caused by the truck, reimburse the Rhode Island Department of Transportation $60,000 for costs it incurred in dealing with the truck and hire state troopers to escort the vehicle to the Massachusetts border. A previous story on this ongoing incident noted the destination…Massachusetts…”is said to have the second worst infrastructure of all 50 states.” Did MassDOT issue permits for this truck? How many bridges will it travel over in Massachusetts? Why isn’t this big news in Massachusetts? It certainly is big news in Rhode Island. According to a July 7, 2017 Providence Journal article, “Overweight truck’s 10 hour back-road drive back to Massachusetts postponed,” the 560,000-pound oversized generator “journeyed from the Czech Republic, through Antwerp, Belgium to Newark, N.J., where it was loaded on a barge for Rhode Island’s Port of Davisville. After being offloaded in Davisville, its ultimate destination was the Exelon power plant in Medway. Exelon has been working to expand the Medway plant despite local protests and legal challenges from the Conservation Law Foundation. David Ismay, a lawyer with CLF, said Exelon is trying to get two turbines that can burn natural gas or diesel online at the Medway plant by a June 1, 2018, contract deadline.” So how come there seems to be total silence on this story among the Massachusetts news media?