Ex-rep: DeLeo told me, vote for transpo bill or lose chairmanship

Jay Kaufman, the former state rep from Lexington, remembers a conversation he had with House Speaker Robert DeLeo the last time the Legislature considered raising taxes to pay for transportation.

It was 2013, the morning before the House vote on a bill that would raise the gas tax 3 cents, index that tax to inflation (later rescinded by voters), jack up tobacco taxes, and impose a tax (later jettisoned by lawmakers) on some computer software services.

Kaufman, who was the chair of the Revenue Committee, said he didn’t think that tax package would provide enough new revenue to meet the transportation system’s needs. But he said DeLeo told him that if he voted against the bill he would lose his chairmanship of the Revenue Committee.

“He made it very clear to me that my options were to vote for it or not be part of any conversation going forward,” Kaufman said. “He said, ‘If you can’t vote for this, I can’t have you as part of my team.’”

Kaufman wanted to remain in control of the Revenue Committee to ultimately usher in a progressive system of income taxation in the state, so he says he went along with the speaker’s request. But now, after not seeking reelection last year and with another transportation revenue bill poised to come up for consideration, Kaufman decided to speak out on the Codcast.

The podcast interview was posted Sunday evening, and DeLeo’s office responded Monday morning with a comment taking strong exception to Kaufman’s account.

“Representative Kaufman’s statement is flat-out false. He is a liar,” DeLeo said in a statement. “The events described never happened, and it is disappointing that he would make unfounded accusations, six years later, in an attempt to disparage the House. It is no coincidence that this interview comes at a time when this former representative seeks to advance his private business interests.”

Kaufman, who served in the House from 1995 to 2018, is the founding president of Beacon Leadership Collaborative.

In 2013, Kaufman said, DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray presented the broad outlines of the tax bill the chambers would consider instead of letting those outlines form on their own through the committee process and floor debate.

“I don’t think that’s the way democracy is designed,” Kaufman said. “I’m much more of a bottoms-up than tops-down kind of person when it comes to thinking how we deal with matters in our family and in our democracy.”

DeLeo didn’t invent the House’s top-down leadership style, according to Kaufman. The prior two speakers, Sal DiMasi and Tom Finneran, also presided in that manner over the past two-plus decades.

Now the vast majority of House members have not served with anyone else as speaker and “don’t really know how a speaker can preside as first among equals,” said Kaufman, who acknowledged that the members themselves share the blame (or credit) for the speaker’s approach, because they re-elected him every two years.

“I was complicit, to be perfectly clear,” Kaufman said.

In the House, members of DeLeo’s inner circle are strongly discouraged from airing criticisms publicly, even when they disagree, said Kaufman, who said members in high positions who do go to the press with their grievances are “resented” and viewed as unprofessional.

Despite his differences with the speaker, Kaufman said he thinks DeLeo is a “wonderful person” and would do better if he tried to open things up.

“I think he’d be happier and produce a better work product if his circle of friends was broader than it is,” Kaufman said.

There are some indications that DeLeo is incorporating more viewpoints into the House’s deliberation on transportation revenues this year. DeLeo has tasked three committee chairmen –Aaron Michlewitz of House Ways and Means, William Straus of Transportation, and Mark Cusack of Revenue – with working on the proposal. The speaker has also solicited input from the business community. 

In his statement, DeLeo also criticized CommonWealth for posting the podcast conversation with Kaufman. “It’s also important to note that CommonWealth’s editorial management did not vet or review this content before publishing it,” he said. 

ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

The Department of Conservation and Recreation starts collecting rent from Community Boating, the nonprofit sailing center on the Charles River. (CommonWealth

State Auditor Suzanne Bump says the state needs to cover municipal costs related to early voting. (CommonWealth)

Rep. Joan Meschino and Alyssa Rayman-Read push legislation creating a roadmap for dealing with climate change. (CommonWealth)

Prominent Massachusetts women politicos are lending their voices to a social media campaign pushing an abortion-rights measure that the House has resisted action on. (Boston Globe)

Jennifer Braceras slams Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil, which says stands on flimsy legal ground. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

After emails demonstrated how Boston Police Sgt. Detective Gregory Gallagher cooperated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a number of low-level offenders, in contravention of Mayor Marty Walsh’s public policy, Gallagher has been reassigned and Walsh is standing by an agreement with ICE. (WBUR

The Salem City Council is preparing a resolution condemning the backers of the Depot Square II development for securing funds to preserve two buildings and then laying plays to raze the structures. (Salem News)

The president of the New Bedford police union says officers should not have to pay for their own bulletproof vests out of their $1,000 annual clothing allowance. (Standard-Times) 

Brockton lawmakers remain neutral on a bill proposed in the House that would lift the statewide ban on rent control, enabling cities and towns to craft their own versions of the controversial policy for the first time since 1994. (Brockton Enterprise) 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi blew himself up as US special forces closed in on  him in a daring raid of his hideout compound in northwestern Syria. (Washington Post)

Carol Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says face surveillance technology represents an unprecedented threat to our civil liberties. (CommonWealth)

Daniel Ellsburg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers five decades ago, says that President Trump is a “domestic enemy of the constitution” who believes he is a king. (WGBH

ELECTIONS

The New York Times digs into the world of Elizabeth Warren’s legal work on behalf of big corporate clients, a complicated corner of bankruptcy law and other legal areas where, the paper says, things are often more grey than black or white. 

A Globe editorial rips Newton city council candidates for not stating their positions on two big development proposals because a city attorney has suggested it would in appropriate given the council’s role in adjudicating such plans. 

Taunton City Councilor Estele Borges and Rep. Shaunna O’Connell hold their final debate in the race for mayor in Taunton. (Taunton Gazette)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Hemp farmers are howling that a state ban on most CBD products is doing in their business plans. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Dedham teachers and district officials reached tentative agreement to end the state’s first teachers’ strike in 12 years, and classes will resume there this morning. (Boston Globe)

Representing nearly 5,000 teaching and research assistants, the Harvard Graduate Students Union has authorized a strike, although there are no specific plans yet for a work stoppage. (WBUR

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Thomas O’Brien suggests a different kind of single-payer health care. (CommonWealth)

ARTS/CULTURE

Artists and gallery owners in Provincetown debate the rules for selling art before the licensing board. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION

With decision time approaching, Jim Aloisi and Josh Fairchild of TransitMatters offer up their plan for regional rail. (CommonWealth)

The Blue Hill Avenue commuter rail station opens on the Fairmount Line, and rents go up at a nearby apartment complex. (Dorchester Reporter)

The MBTA replaced the Salem-Beverly drawbridge because the ancient span wasn’t reliable enough, but the $16 million replacement has also had some delay-causing problems. (Gloucester Daily Times

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Requests to cover the cost of fending off lawsuits related to the two controversial wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant have been regular items on annual town meeting warrants in Falmouth. (Cape Cod Times) 

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

A recreational pot store opened in Lynn and there were no crowds. (Daily Item)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Elizabeth Warren suggested an openness to safe injection sites for IV drug users in a sit-down chat with Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins. (Boston Herald

Five people are arrested outside the Worcester Beer Garden for an attack on police. (MassLive)

MEDIA

Ken Doctor, the news business analyst, says he plans to launch a local news for-profit company. He says philanthrop cannot fuel the news business. (Nieman Journalism Lab)