An Army of Insiders

By Jason Schwartz | Boston Magazine |

Casino bigwigs seeking influence are hiring former legislators as lobbyists—and there’s plenty to choose from.

Casino developers, not surprisingly, are willing to gamble a bundle on the chance to win a fortune—and for Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed casino legislation, they’ve spent lavishly. In 2007, they shelled out more than $1.2 million on lobbyists, nearly 50 percent more than in the previous year. That number is sure to go up in 2008, but now it’s not just the quantity of lucre being doled out that’s important; it’s also about who is cashing in.

Of the 39 lobbyists registered to flack on the issue, nine are former members of the state legislature; one, Suffolk Downs backer Charles Flaherty, is an ex–speaker of the House. It’s the result of our state’s unusually high number of lawmakers turned lobbyists: According to the Center for Public Integrity, Massachusetts has more of them (43, by last count) than all but six other states. And that’s in spite of a law here that forces former legislators to wait a year before becoming hired help.

Given Beacon Hill’s notoriously insular political culture, being one of the old boys certainly is an advantage—and that’s one reason why casino supporters don’t balk at spending top dollar on lobbyists with an insider’s Rolodex. “I think the experience of knowing the intricacies and knowing how the process works is invaluable,” says Dennis Murphy, former state representative (and now a Trump lobbyist).

Even current lawmakers—and, let’s be honest, some lobbyists-in-waiting—admit the advantage. Being an old colleague can make it easier to bend a rep’s ear, and that’s vital for a divisive issue like casinos. “Does it open doors? The answer is yes,” says Representative David Flynn of Bridgewater, the House’s senior member.

Will the likes of Murphy and Flaherty make a difference? Perhaps in the long run, if they’re lucky. After all, the longer this drags on, the more the lobbyists get paid. And because they tend to make regular political donations to the folks doing their former jobs—Flaherty, for example, spread around $10,500 to 61 lawmakers last year—chances are that the State House’s current denizens won’t be in any hurry, either.

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