The Hill and the Hall Week in Review

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1221843775Each 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: All the primary day madne$$; Why is John Rogers investing in real estate, of all things? John Buonomo wins? Plus:How Sal DiMasi spent his money.

Democracy happened on Tuesday, and what a mess it left behind. John Kerry beat back some RFK lookalike. Longtime Senate fixture Dianne Wilkerson was overthrown by an astronaut’s daughter in a low-turnout race that broke largely along racial and neighborhood lines.

A machine boss’s daughter brought gubernatorial hellfire upon her head in a race she already had sewn up. And Carl Sciortino, the kid Rep who lost his nomination papers and couldn’t find anybody in Somerville to give him money, won on stickers over a guy who actually had his name on the ballot. Wicked drama all around.

But the day’s biggest winner might be anybody willing to take on the city’s most powerful man.

Way back in January, this column compared Mayor Menino’s field ops to a rusty Datsun. The results of the New Hampshire primary, where Hizzoner went all-in for Hillary Clinton, certainly belied that analysis. Wilkerson’s loss is another story. It’s the latest in a string of local races (Tom Reilly, Jeff Drago, Boston’s presidential primary) that the mayor has put his shoulder into, and still lost.

“The urban mechanic needs a tune-up,” a source inside City Hall quips. “City Hall was a ghost town on Tuesday. The lights were on but nobody was home. Michael Kineavy dispatched City Hall staff to work the polls, man the phone banks, and get out the vote, and Wilkerson still lost. The mayor’s machine is rusty, and while he may have high favorability in the polls, it’s certainly not translating into votes.”

Last week we detailed Majority Leader John Rogers’ latest campaign filings ($56,000 spent on cars, food, phones and golf). There’s another sizable withdrawal coming out of that account soon: A $30,000 settlement with state campaign finance regulators.

OCPF announced the settlementnot a fine, mind youyesterday. OCPF’s investigation into a June, 2007 Globe story about the Majority Leader’s questionable use of campaign funds (he’d funneled nearly $200,000 into a consulting business his former law partner had set up for the apparent sole purpose of consulting for him) revealed that some of that money ultimately paid mortgage bills on a Falmouth vacation home one of the consultants jointly owned with the Norwood Democrat.

The way it works is: Rogers sends money to a friend, who pays another friend a salary, and right after getting paid every month, that other friend makes a payment on the Cape house. A house which Rogers co-owned. Nice system, that.

Some people will doubtlessly react to this news by saying that the settlement effectively kills any chance Rogers has of beating back the DeLeo/Petrolati forces and becoming the House’s next speaker. (After a long, long, long, long, long, long time, obvs.) Others might say that it’s proof that Rogers is ready to lead from Day One.

The Hill and the Hall has different concerns. It’s not so much how Rogers’ vacation home gets paid for, but the fact that he’s apparently funneling campaign cash into the real estate market. Real estate? In this market, Mr. Majority Leader?

There are so many better ways to get rich off sketchy 75 State Street schemes these days. Think inelastic demand. Card games, stolen cigarettes, what about bankrolling dog fighting, maybe?

This is the (alleged) thievery portion of our weekly report, apparently. So let’s point out that (alleged!) thief John Buonomo rolled to victory on Tuesday, despite having quit his post the week before. Let’s also point out that, while Buonomo is widely expected to take his name off November’s ballot, he has yet to do so, and that, when given the chance to rule his client out of the race, Buonomo’s lawyer refused and deferred comment to the Secretary of State’s office.

And this is what Bill Galvin’s office had to say: “We can’t say yes or no until we get something from them.”

(Please, please Lord, let this guy think he has a shot of getting re-elected in November. Please let him run. It would be a truly spectacular spectacle. Truly.)

And besides, Buonomo’s sitting on top of nearly $135,000 in campaign funds. What’s he going to do with that if he skulks off the ballot and out of office? Buy a house?

Final numbers aren’t in yet, but let’s assume that right now, Ed O’Reilly is still on the hook for $400,000 in loans to his campaign. (He was in for upwards of $600,000 of his own money, but at last report, had been able to reimburse himself for something like $200,000.) Now, according to our dreadful math skills, O’Reilly’s 153,636 votes cost him $2.60 apiece. Of his own cash. That’s one hell of a vanity run.

But take heart, Ed. Your own personal financial disaster is nothing compared to Mitt Romney. The former governor spent $1.16 million per delegate for the privilege of failing in front of the whole country. Mitt’s $40 million in personal funds shook out to $147,601 per delegate.

So, Ed, next time somebody comes up to you and tries to say that challenging John Kerry was a fantastically dumb thing to do, remember this: It wasn’t as dumb as it could’ve been.

We neglected to mention one big name missing from last week’s orgy of OCPF data: House Speaker Sal DiMasi. Here’s what the big guy’s money has been up to these past eight months.

DiMasi raised $234,000, spent $209,000 of it, and ended August with $416,491 in hand. He dropped $12,534 on lawyerly stuff with Tom Kiley‘s firm, nearly $10,000 on printing and mailings, over $1,000 in “gifts” from a Newton liquor store, and roughly $900 for rounds at the Ipswich Country Club.

And while much has been made about the $30,000 DiMasi spent on feeding himself and others, there are other line items that pop out. Like the two $1,000 expenditures for “professional services” with Vitale, Caturano & Co. in February.

Beyond that, there’s the torrent of money flowing towards Sage Systems, the controversial consulting firm headed by a DiMasi associate, Bill Carito. DiMasi’s own campaign account sent over $58,000 Sage’s way; his Committee for a Democratic House PAC added $42,872 this year. The PAC sent over $48,000 to Sage in 2007.

Sage has long been the subject of grumbling among backbenchers and old Finneran loyalists, who have claimed the Democratic House PAC is being used as a sop for the Speaker’s friends. The PAC funds the maintenance of voter analysis software, and House members have to pay to access the data; Finneran’s PAC, by contrast, made direct payments to Reps facing re-election fights. (This year, the Mass. Republican House PAC made $500 maximum contributions to 12 candidates. When the issue was raised earlier this year, the Speaker’s political aides argued that the firm’s work has a much greater impact on local races than $500 contributions would.)

But Sage is also doing quite well for itself. From January, 2007 to August, 2008, it pulled in over $855,000 worth of business. The Speaker’s campaign account, his PAC, and the Democratic State Committee paced that business.

Still, in this election cycle, just 38 House Democrats took advantage of Sage’s services. Tony Verga did, to the tune of $21,500. He lost on Tuesday. Paul Donato, one of the speaker’s close confidants, dropped $13,000 with the firm and easily won his re-election fight. Charlie Murphy spent well over $66,000 with the firm. For that kind of money, Sage should throw in free tickets to St. Croix. Or not.

Wire services contributed to this report.

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2008/09/19/the-hill-and-the-hall-week-in-review-33/