The Hill and the Hall Week in Review

Each 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: Trav’s bash gets funny; rumors abound involving Deval’s inner circle, but we set them straight; and Bill Weld scares the hell out of us.

A whole mess of pols in expensive suits showed up at the State House on Wednesday to witness the unveiling of a portrait of former Senate President Robert Travaglini. Headliners included former Governor Paul Cellucci, former Pike official and son of Eastie James Aloisi, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, former House Speakers Tom Finneran and Charlie Flaherty, and Travaglini’s first political boss, former AG Francis Bellotti.

The event–seemingly lightened by the unexpected absence of former Gov. Mitt Romney–provided the assembled politicians the forum for what they do best. They cracked wise and busted balls.

Gov. Deval Patrick emotionally recalled that Travaglini was the man who administered his oath of office, saying, “I’ll never forget that day.” He also recalled huddling up with Trav and Sal DiMasi after the election; Trav flatly told Patrick, “I’m out of practice cooperating with the governor.”

Menino took the podium promising to “bury” the guest of honor, “not praise him.”

“You’re finally funny!” the former president shot back. The mayor appeared ready to follow through on his vow, then spied a Senate aide clutching a tape recorder. “Awww,” he moaned, before launching into a grudging, but florid, recitation of Trav’s greatness. Then he paused, staring at the aide, a wide, open-mouthed grin on his face.

And the yuks kept on coming. Finneran speculated, “I’m the only member of the media who has ever been, or will be applauded in this room.” He added, “The mayor told me to be careful of that recorder. I have to be cautious for other reasons – I’m still on probation!” Then he expounded on the profound cultural differences between the Italian-American Senate leader and himself: Trav plied legislators with Pope Juice, while Finneran preferred Johnny Walker Blue.

It was just one of several references to getting tanked. DiMasi ventured to say that the wine they drank in the legislature was much better, “than what you and the mayor used to drink.” Trav claimed that anybody who was thinking about leaving the old neighborhoods had second thoughts once DiMasi succeeded Finneran: “East Boston and the North End? The party goes on all night!”

And Senate President Therese Murray, recalling the meticulous manner in which her predecessor arranged the knickknacks in his office, told a story about breaking into the president’s office one night and rearranging everything in sight. “We climbed out one window and then in yours,” she revealed, adding, “We put all our leftovers in there, too.” Murray also gleefully recounted Trav’s skill at “filling every open clerk and court officer position. He had a full employment office coming out of there.”

The current House Speaker had attendees roaring when he contrasted the continuity between Trav’s time in leadership and Murray’s with the recent transition in the House. Finneran, he said, had told him, “Just try not to do what I did.” DiMasi paused, then confessed, “It hasn’t been easy. You’re rubbing off on me a little too much!”

DiMasi also chided his predecessor’s verbosity. “Tom Finneran took most of my two minutes. Were you speaking for Romney, too?” He paused, setting up the punchline: “You did that during your whole tenure as speaker.”

Trav refused to be upstaged. After being regaled by several rounds of the legislature’s customary greeting for Italian-Americans – a resounding chorus of “Heyyyy! Heyyyyyyy!,” interspersed with the occasional “Woo!” – he began with, “Governor, none of those toll-takers were my guys.”

He paused for applause, then added, “But if you’re looking for an apology from me for providing employment opportunities for qualified residents from impacted communities … I offer no apology.” Then he talked about public service. Then he pulled the curtain off his portrait. It’s a rather massive thing – smaller than the monstrosities belonging to Calvin Coolidge and Horace Mann, but still large enough to put Billy Bulger’s to shame. (There are no gratuitous Abe Lincoln busts or creepy mystery hands in Trav’s portrait, either.)

In the press scrum that followed the ceremony, Trav brushed aside suggestions that, now that he’s legally allowed to lobby his former colleagues, he’ll be roaming the halls frequently. “I don’t have to come up here,” he said. “Yeah,” a reporter shot back. “You just pick up the phone.”

“That’s right!” The former president brushed aside a reporter’s suggestions that his portrait, styled after the classic Brahmin portraits hanging in the Athenaeum, was incongruous with his standing as the chamber’s first Italian-American leader. He did, however, concede one point: The artist, Tom Ouellette, “Could’ve given me a little more hair.”

Suffolk County DA Dan Conley has won a string of murder convictions recently. Does this mean he’s not the devil in a nice suit – and that he’s no longer easy prey for upwardly mobile Boston pols?

A hot rumor hit the internets this week: Governor Patrick’s chief of staff, Doug Rubin, will soon dump the administration for the Obama campaign. Hub Politics cited “unconfirmed rumors afloat” concerning Rubin’s imminent departure, and then speculated about all the great palace intrigue that will follow the resignation.

One problem, though. Rubin said Wednesday that he’s not leaving. Which just goes to show you: When trading in unsourced, unconfirmed rumors, stick to the rumor-mongers you trust. The Hill and the Hall: Your finest source for baseless speculation since, like, seven months ago.

From the Department of How Can We Miss You if You Won’t Go Away?: Mitt Romney may have skipped the ceremony honoring Travaglini, but the preceding night, he was back in Boston and in rare form. The failed presidential candidate headlined a Republican fundraiser, played to the crowd and beat up on his successor for trying to fix education by leading with his heart, not his calculator: “I’d say how much can I spend first, and then I’d design it,” Romney said.

Perennially bored rich guy William Weld was in the house too, and for some reason he called Romney “someone who is inevitably going to be, soon or late, the president of the United States of America.” Halloween’s still months away, Bill. Why try to sew terror now?

Wire services contributed to this report.