Monday, June 15, 2009

The Perils of One-Party Politics: Speaker's Shoes

First, the problem.

Now the result

"DiMasi, 3 associates charged with rigging of state contracts; Ex-speaker allegedly got $57,000 payout" by Andrea Estes and Matt Viser, Globe Staff | June 3, 2009

Former Massachusetts House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and three friends were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury for allegedly orchestrating a scheme that allowed DiMasi to pocket tens of thousands of dollars in payments from a software company while he was using his powerful office to make sure the company won state contracts.

The indictment on a battery of public corruption charges marked yet another stunning turn for a politician who, just a year ago, was considered by many to be the most influential official in the state. Now DiMasi, who resigned in January, faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the seven counts of mail and wire fraud and up to five years for conspiracy. DiMasi yesterday denied wrongdoing.

The indictment paints an unflattering picture of a band of longtime associates, led by DiMasi, successfully plotting - over golf games, at Democratic fund-raisers, and in incriminating e-mails that even referred to the speaker as "Coach" - to rig two computer software contracts, helping assure state approval for them. The charges follow a series of stories in the Globe.

Yeah, paying $13 million for a computer software system that could have cost less than $3 million.

DiMasi's role was to push the performance management software contract through the machinations of state government, according to the indictment.

Joseph Lally, the sales agent for the company, Cognos ULC, applied equal parts pressure and money to the cause, according to the indictment. Cognos lobbyist Richard McDonough and Richard Vitale, DiMasi's former campaign treasurer and accountant, traded on their friendships with the speaker, according to the indictment.

All four received significant payouts when the contracts were signed by the state - $57,000 in the case of DiMasi, much of it in monthly installments, and hundreds of thousands to the other three, according to the indictment. All four were indicted yesterday and appeared in US District Court, tieless and beltless....

Several months before either contract was signed, DiMasi played golf with the Cognos chief executive at DiMasi's country club in Ipswich....

Yup, he plays at a STATE-RUN COURSE, can you believe it?

I'm sure the "multimillion-dollar reconstruction" of golf courses is REALLY HELPING out the Commonwealth!

DiMasi's indictment, which follows a series of Globe stories detailing the awarding of the software contracts, makes him the third consecutive House speaker to face criminal charges....

That's something to be proud of, 'eh, smug Bay Stater?

DiMasi denied ever socializing or playing golf with Cognos executives. The company for several years sponsored a golf tournament that DiMasi helped run to honor Vitale's brother, a Saugus police officer killed in the line of duty.

He can't help but lie, can he? I guess 30+ years in politics will do that to you.

Thomas Drechsler, who represents McDonough, said he was "disappointed" by the indictments and insisted McDonough did nothing wrong. The indictments, he said, charge McDonough with doing "what lobbyists are paid to, lobby on behalf of his clients. That is a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment."

Vitale's lawyer asserted his client's innocence. "Dick Vitale is not a criminal," Martin Weinberg said in a statement. "He is an ethical and principled businessperson. I am confident he will be acquitted."

Lally's lawyer, Robert M. Goldstein, said, "Joe Lally is an accomplished businessman who has excelled in sales with many different companies, including at Cognos. Mr. Lally at all times believed his conduct to be entirely legal, purely ethical, and looks forward to establishing his innocence at trial."

Yeah, they are all heroes, I'm sure! Pffft!

The indictment alleges that from December 2004 through about February 2008, DiMasi, Lally, McDonough, and Vitale conspired to devise a scheme under which DiMasi used his influential position to help Cognos obtain the multimillion-dollar software contracts from the state....

The indictment also alleges that DiMasi used his influence to push through an emergency bond bill that contained authorization to spend $15 million on a software contract that was being steered to Cognos....


Here's Sal's bag man:

On his website, Boston attorney Steven J. Topazio details his success in defending dozens of drunken driving, assault, and drug cases. He boasts of getting criminal records sealed so clients wouldn't have to disclose assault and larceny charges on job applications.

He describes himself as "tough, aggressive, and experienced."

Nowhere in the nearly 80 cases he cites is there a mention of his ties to former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who resigned in January, or any suggestion that Topazio has any experience in corporate law or state politics. Yet it is Topazio's behind-the-scenes dealings with DiMasi, his former law associate, and his brief foray into corporate law that have cast him in the unfamiliar role of government witness in perhaps the biggest case of his 23-year legal career.

A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday against DiMasi and three associates identifies P.A., a private attorney that the Globe has identified as Topazio, as the middleman who funneled payments totaling $57,000 to DiMasi from a computer software company.

Legal analysts say Topazio's cooperation is crucial to the government's case because the indictment says he met directly with DiMasi, meaning he could offer an insider's account of a scheme under which DiMasi allegedly used his powerful office to make sure state contracts went to Cognos ULC, a Canadian company that has offices in Burlington....

Topazio, 49, who lives in Millis, did not return repeated phone calls from the Globe last week after the indictment of DiMasi; Joseph Lally, the sales agent for Cognos; Richard McDonough, a lobbyist for the company; and Richard Vitale, Dimasi's former campaign treasurer and accountant. Topazio's lawyer, Frank C. Corso, also did not return repeated calls.


The AmeriKan tyranny is self-perpetuating and incestuous, isn't it?

A Chelsea lawyer who described himself as a friend of Topazio's and spoke on the condition he not be named said Topazio has a reputation as an honest, respectable attorney who spends most of his time defending cases in district courts in Boston and the surrounding area.

Topazio often takes court-appointed cases, in which the state pays because the clients are indigent. "He truly is a good guy," the lawyer said. "I feel for him. I think he didn't know what was going on and got caught up in this mess."

Yeah, the smart guy just got caught up in a mess. C'mon!!!

The indictment details a scheme under which Topazio allegedly collected monthly payments of $5,000 from Cognos between 2005 and 2006, then turned $4,000 of it over to DiMasi.

What happened to the other $1,000?

After discovering that a bookkeeping error had prompted the monthly payments to stop at one point in 2006, Cognos sent a $25,000 check to Topazio for the missed payments and DiMasi insisted on pocketing all of it, according to the indictment....

This is making me ill, folks.

McDonough's lawyer, Thomas Drechsler, said McDonough denies all of the allegations in the indictment and accused the government of "trying to criminalize lobbying activities."


Former federal prosecutor Patrick M. Hamilton said it's often difficult to get people to cooperate in a typical public corruption cases, but added: "For many people the prospect of imprisonment is a powerful motivator."

Bush, war crimes.


Besides, Sal is only FOLLOWING in the FOOTSTEPS of his predecessors!

"Concentration of power held by speaker blamed as a key factor" by Brian C. Mooney, Globe Staff | June 3, 2009

Criminal charges were filed yesterday against the third consecutive speaker of the Massachusetts House, a dubious distinction that propels the Bay State into a class of crooked politics that rivals Illinois and its corrupt governors.


Gees, WE CAN'T CRITICIZE anybody because WE STINK!!!

Legislators past and present attributed the trend to the concentration in recent years of increased power in the hands of the leader of a lawmaking body of 160 members, 90 percent of whom are Democrats.

That's the problem!

With his indictment yesterday by a federal grand jury on fraud and conspiracy charges, Salvatore F. DiMasi, who resigned as speaker in January, follows fellow Democrats Thomas M. Finneran, and Charles F. Flaherty, both of whom pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges. Prior to that, it had been 32 years between indictments of a Massachusetts speaker of the house.

"Too much power has accumulated over the years in that position," said Frank Hynes, a Marshfield Democrat, who gave up his seat in the House last year after 26 years in office. "Even in little things, little votes that have no relationship to either the Democratic Party's values or ideals, the speaker demands 100 percent lockstep followership."

That is LIBERAL, OPEN-MINDED, TOLERANT Massachusetts, huh?

Speakers have vast power and discretion to control not only the agenda and flow of legislation in the House but also the creature comforts and perquisites of the membership. "The speaker controls, basically, everything - where you sit, where you stand, how many aides you get, whether you get a good parking space," Hynes said.

With an acquiescent membership, there is less open debate, and more decisions made behind closed doors, Hynes said....


DiMasi resigned the speakership and his House seat in late January in the face of a widening investigation by the US attorney's office into reports by the Globe that his friends and associates had received large unreported sums of money from businesses seeking favorable action on contracts or legislation.

His predecessor, Finneran, also stepped down before he was indicted in June 2005 for obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with a civil suit filed in federal court challenging a legislative redistricting plan. In a plea deal with federal prosecutors in January, 2007, he admitted he obstructed justice, received 18 months of unsupervised probation, and a $25,000 fine, and the perjury counts were dismissed. Finneran now hosts a talk radio program.


The Flaherty speakership collapsed in 1996 after he agreed to plead guilty to federal income tax evasion and pay a combined $50,000 in state and federal fines following a 2 1/2-year investigation into his relationship with lobbyists, also precipitated by a series of stories in the Globe. Flaherty is now a registered lobbyist on Beacon Hill.



Other states such as Louisiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York have rich histories of political corruption, but recently, Illinois has attracted much attention....

Welcome aboard the stink train, Mass. pols!!!