The Hill and the Hall Week in Review

1200495295Each Friday, Paul McMorrow will take you inside the smoke-filled rooms and darkly-lit corridors of government to bring you the hottest and juiciest political tidbits. This week, the mayor raises a fortune while Sal DiMasi raises Cain.

Could next year’s mayoral race be over and done with in the next few weeks? Tom Menino sure hopes so. The mayor has been raising money at a frantic clip. He ended September with $120,000 in the bank and added over $650,000 to his coffers in the final three months of 2007.

And that’s only the beginning. A City Hall insider believes that Menino plans on following up his State of the City speech by announcing shortly that he has raised a heaping pile of cash in January, an overwhelming show of financial force that could knock mayoral aspirants out of the 2009 race before they have the chance to jump in.

How much are we talking? Our insider has heard that Hizzoner may have as much as $2 million on hand by the end of the month.

The mayor’s field operation has run like a Datsun on cinder-blocks in several recent elections, but the dude can still raise money like no other, and the prospect of being spent into oblivion might be enough to keep serious opponents at bay. Again.

That’s great news for the Mayor for Life, because there are few people inside City Hall who believe he can keep up this whole tough-on-the-unions charade much longer. Throughout Menino’s reign, he has shown a penchant for spitting out mean-sounding quotes for the papers, and then promptly folding to union demands, handing them massive pay raises for the indignity of being publicly dragged through the mud.

Last summer, he gave away residency to the cops for virtually nothing, and then threw in a large pay raise for the hell of it. That’s why you don’t see anybody in City Hall tripping over themselves to back up Menino in his current fight with the firefighters.

There’s a fear that after city council stands up and says the firefighters shouldn’t be demanding raises for the simple assurance that they’re not drunk and/or high on the job, the mayor will tire of the standoff and the council will be exposed to the union’s wrath.

“He’ll cave,” one observer gripes. “He always does.”

Budget hawks frequently decry the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority as a patronage-laden sacred cow. That’s why it’s so hilarious that the Pike’s bloated former boss, spy-cam enthusiast Matt Amorello, has apparently gone all Alpha Omega on us and fled to India.

Amorello’s lawyer, Tom Kiley, revealed on Wednesday that Amorello won’t be back in the states for five to six months – a development that will allow him to delay an Ethics Commission inquiry until mid-July. The inquiry will delve into the incredible porking Amorello pulled shortly before leaving the Pike in disgrace. “He’s very difficult to communicate with,” Kiley told reporters.

House Speaker Sal DiMasi likely wishes he weren’t living in such interesting times. On Tuesday, the speaker publicly blew up at his leadership team, excoriating them for jockeying to replace him before his body has even gone limp, let alone cold.

DiMasi has vowed to remain speaker for, “A long, long, long, long, long, long time,” but rumors of his imminent departure have swirled for several months, persisting on their own momentum, and the ambitions of those spreading them.

It’s fascinating that Majority Leader John Rogers, who challenged DiMasi for the speakership after Tom Finneran’s abrupt departure, has taken the most lumps during the current House dust-up. Last fall, DiMasi told the reps hoping to succeed him, including Rogers, to shut down their succession campaigns. DiMasi didn’t believe that Rogers had complied, and threatened to remove him from his post. Shortly thereafter, DiMasi’s warning wormed its way into the Globe.

That story repeatedly cited “House leadership sources,” and while some inside the State House believe those leadership sources came from Rogers’ camp, others believe the leaks came from high-ranking House members working against Rogers.

The thinking behind the latter theory is that members of DiMasi’s leadership team are trying to draw Rogers into a fatal confrontation with the speaker — a development that would pave the way for another candidate to eventually replace DiMasi. (The anti-Rogers camp initially rallied around Quinicy Rep. Ron Mariano, but seem to have abandoned him for Ways and Means chair Bob DeLeo.)

It’s notable that Rogers was the victim of an apparent dime-dropping when the maneuvering to replace DiMasi began, and that the Globe is insisting that Rogers has been promised the speakership when DiMasi leaves. Both camps readily say DiMasi only promised Rogers that he would remain neutral in the scrum that’ll ensue when he steps down.

The day after the tense leadership meeting, DiMasi found himself putting out another fire – this one caused by a secretive amendment he had tucked into November’s energy bill that opens up huge swaths of the coast to nearly unfettered wind turbine development. An obvious beneficiary of this stroke would be DiMasi’s close friend, Jay Cashman.

A group of South Coast legislators protested, and the speaker put off meeting with them for more than a month. Several weeks—and two letters of protest later—a large group of coastal reps found themselves listening to the speaker apologize for the way he rammed the amendment through the House.

A source who attended the meeting says DiMasi conceded that the way the amendment slid through, and the way it has been tied to Cashman, “makes him look bad.” It certainly can’t help that after objections to the maneuver were raised, Cashman’s firm reportedly distributed a memo around the State House justifying it.