The Dan Wolf Saga, Part XCVIII

The Cape Air mogul just got a new lease on his political life, but his bid for governor remains suspended.

Dan Wolf, who just days ago was ready to hand in his resignation, got a new lease on political life this afternoon after the state Ethics Commission indefinitely extended its deadline to comply with state conflict of interest law, his campaign said late this afternoon.

Wolf got a second chance despite the five-member state Ethics Commission ruling earlier in the day to reject the Cape Air mogul’s petition and instead craft its own rules to allow business owners whose companies have contracts that are more like fees participate in politics.

Campaign spokesman Matt Fenlon said in an email the Wolf gubernatorial bid would remain suspended while it considered its options. A commission spokesman declined to comment on the revised deadline.

Speaking after the nearly two-hour meeting at the ethics panel’s Downtown headquarters, Wolf explained he couldn’t commit to re-igniting his bid for the Corner Office until the panel laid out a clear ethics road map.

“There is still is an issue of whether or not I can take office and be in conflict, that is a difficult situation under which to run a campaign,” Wolf said. “To move the campaign forward and have a discussion about the issues on which we’re running which are economics, social justice and a lot of really important issues, we can’t do under a cloud of uncertainty.”

Wolf later released the following statement:

“I am heartened and encouraged by today’s announcement that the State Ethics Commission will consider a creating a new regulation prompted by a petition from a distinguished group of Massachusetts citizens to allow people with non-discretionary state contracts to serve in public office. My strong hope is that this process will open doors for citizens and entrepreneurs from many walks of life to enter public service without in any way diminishing our ethical standards of public conduct. I thank the Commissioners for their consideration, and hope for a positive resolution that brings the spirit and letter of the law into harmony. While this process moves forward, including a period of public comment, I will continue to represent the Cape and Islands as State Senator while my gubernatorial campaign remains suspended.”

The Ethics Commission ruled 4 to 1 against Wolf’s September 5 petition, which was backed by a bi-partisan lineup of heavy hitters: former Attorneys General Frank Bellotti and Scott Harshbarger; former Congressman William Delahunt; former U.S. federal U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner; Tufts Health Plan CEO James Roosevelt, former state Ethics Commission commissioner and current Judge August Wagner Jr.; and soon to be former Republican state Rep. Daniel Winslow.

Carl Valvo, an attorney with the power law firm of Cosgrove, Eisenberg and Kiley, argued for Wolf. Valvo didn’t take issue with the commission’s ruling. He said elected officials and candidates should be transparent, but Wolf’s Cape Air contracts with Massport are not negotiated by Wolf and are controlled by the federal government. Valvo said the commission might even go further. “There are legitimate public purposes to be served and there is negligible conflict of interest to be tolerated if you do a regulation of the type we are proposing,” Valvo said.

A major issue was this: Why should the commission do this and not the Legislature? Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts, told the commission it had crafted exemptions 13 times before—and it seemed to agree. But they didn’t want to go along with Wolf’s proposal—they wanted to go their own way.

Indeed, Regina L. Quinlan, an appointee of Secretary of State William F. Galvin, cast her vote against Wolf because she didn’t like the idea of a petition “that affects one person,” but voted to rewrite the rules.

Commissioner Martin Murphy, a Coakley appointee, said also voted against Wolf but for change: “We need to encourage people who are in private biz to run for public office,” Murphy said.

William J. Trach, an appointee of Gov. Deval Patrick, said the Legislature probably never considered contracts like Wolf’s. “This is instance where there is an argument to be made these contracts weren’t contemplated,” Trach said.

The rules now through a public hearing process. The timing has has not been determined.

Wolf landed before the Ethics Commission when he sought an opinion before launching his bid for governor “… out of an abundance of caution.”

Instead of rubber-stamping his submission, on August 2, the commission ruled Wolf was in conflict with state law. It held that Wolf tripped a provision in the state’s conflict of interest law that forbade a state employee from owning more than 10 percent of stock in a company that had no-bid contracts with the state. Wolf owned 23 percent ownership of Cape Air, and his agreement to pay landing fees to Massport was effectively a no-bid contract barred under law, the commission ruled.

The commission said he could end the conflict by quitting his job in the Senate, sell his stock, or relinquish the contracts to satisfy the law.

Wolf could have appealed the ruling to Superior Court. Rather, in a heartfelt Facebook post, Wolf explained litigation wasn’t his style. He said he’d resign Aug. 29. Wolf also put his campaign governor is on hold until the uncertainty raised by the ethics ruling is sorted out.

The commission and Wolf struck a deal where Wolf was given until today to comply with the ruling, and Wolf put off his resignation.