ProPublica zeroes in on Fair Districts Mass
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
A ProPublica investigation
found that some independent groups promoting redistricting plans across the country are anything but. It’s probably no surprise that one of the organizations that they probed was Fair Districts Mass,
a group formed by one-time Republican US Senate candidate Jack E. Robinson.
What caught ProPublica’s attention? Fair Districts Mass, which bills itself as a nonpartisan advocacy group, argues that its two plans for eastern Massachusetts congressional districts would benefit African American and Latino voters. One of those proposals would join Lynn, currently in the 6th Congressional District represented by US Rep. John Tierney
, with Roxbury.
Some minority voting rights advocates, however, are less than taken with the plan, saying the proposal (aka Plan B
) would do little to help them. "I don't see a person of color getting elected in this district, if that's the goal," Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of the Latino political organization Oíste, told ProPublica. Latino business leaders on the North Shore don’t like the idea either.
The Pro Publica report noted that Tierney would be “effectively drawn out of a seat” under the Fair Districts Mass plan, but the state lawmakers charged with the redistricting process may have other ideas. Some think the victim is shaping up to be William Keating or Stephen Lynch.
Nearly 700 people showed up at a June redistricting public hearing to urge lawmakers to keep Lynn tethered to the 6th District and the North Shore.
It’s a truism that journalists follow the money. Except that with Fair Districts Mass, there’s no trail to follow. The “citizen-funded” group can raise as much money as it can muster without having to disclose the identity of any of its contributors.
The architect of that strategy was Republican state Rep. Dan Winslow,
who is currently advising the organization on legal affairs. According to ProPublica, when districts were reconfigured in 1990, Winslow, then a GOP operative, failed to win state approval for a “Republican Redistricting Committee” that could accept unlimited corporate donations without naming names. Under Bay State campaign finance laws, only nonpartisan groups could do so.
State officials gave Fair Districts Mass approval to accept unlimited corporate donations in 2010. The name of the group gives no hint to its origins. Yet the application, filed by Proskauer Rose, Winslow’s law firm, was “almost identical” to the decade-old request. (An interview with two of the reporters who worked on the story is here
“It’s not about shifting Massachusetts from Democrat to Republican,” Winslow told ProPublica.“It creates an opportunity for challenges, for challengers to challenge the status quo.”
While Fair Districts Mass suggests a new Suffolk County-based district that extends north to Lynn could be friendly to an African-American or Latino candidate, the reconfigured North Shore district that would result from such changes could also be friendlier to Republican candidates.
In a CommonWealth profile
of Winslow earlier this year, black political consultant Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling said the Norfolk legislator was “playing the hand that works for Republicans and works for minorities.”
The ProPublica report suggests, however, rather than protecting minority voting rights, groups like Fair District Mass are Trojan horses for partisan and corporate interests that undermine redistricting process in order to “improve the prospects of their political allies or to harm their enemies.” Elbridge Gerry
would be proud. --GABRIELLE GURLEY BEACON HILL
Critics are not mincing words
over Gov. Deval Patrick
’s stance on illegal immigrants,
with Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson calling his position “moronic”
saying he’s “clueless.”
NECN’s Jim Braude has more as he hosts a discussion
about Secure Communities with Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson and Sarang Sekhavat
of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.
The state Senate goes behind closed doors to dramatically water down an amendment
that would have barred former lawmakers from taking jobs with the casinos
they are about to authorize for five years after leaving office. In an explanation that might even make George Orwell blush, Senate leaders suggested
that the stricter measure would have sent the wrong message to a citizenry fed-up with the ethically-challenged shenanigans and criminality on Beacon Hill.
The Cape Cod Times weighs in
on the Probation Department
Victims of childhood sexual abuse urged lawmakers to vote to repeal the statute of limitations
on child rape.MUNICIPAL MATTERS Lowell
passes an ordinance limiting the hours Level 3 sex offenders
can visit the library and requires them to check in with library staff when they want to go into the book stacks or visit the bathroom, the Sun reports
.Abington School Committee
chairman Russell Fitzgerald
, an amateur magician
who likes to start meetings with a little display of prestidigitation, may want to rethink his “magic bra trick”
where he seemingly ripped the undergarment off a surprised -- and less than pleased -- female school committee member.
Because of the prolonged housing slump and the increase of participating cities and towns, state matching funds for the 10-year-old Community Preservation Act are projected to be just 25 percent
this year and could fall to 5 percent.South Boston
city councilor Bill Linehan has some work to do
, after finishing second in a preliminary bid to keep his City Council seat. Fitchburg
mayoral hopeful Joseph Solomito
rolls up 60 percent of the primary vote, beating
incumbent Mayor Lisa Wong
in every ward in the city. Attleboro will bail out
its cash-strapped redevelopment authority and settle four lawsuits, rather than have a court liquidate a valuable piece of city property to pay plaintiffs suing the authority. NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON
Why care about the latest almost-shutdown of the federal government? Here’s why
. ELECTION 2012 Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey
becomes the critic-in-chief, squashing a $420,000 film tax credit awarded to Jersey Shore because he believes the show tarnishes the state’s reputation, the Newark Star-Ledger reports
. Time reports
that Christie is too moderate to run for president in the Republican Party. However, Christie sounds more like
a presidential candidate with each passing day
. Jumping in the race, however, would probably upset his brother
to no end.
With a similar measure pending in Massachusetts, The MetroWest Daily News
hopes that Rick Perry
sticks to his guns on the Texas Dream Act which allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates. The paper also supports a bill which would make private college crime reports available to the public.
Better things to do: Sarah Palin tries to explain
why being president would be too limiting for a maverick
White House advisor David Axelrod
knows how to read a poll
, so he says the Bay State’s Senate race is between Scott Brown
and Elizabeth Warren
, inviting barbs
and cries of heavy-handedness from Warren’s Democratic rivals. BUSINESS/ECONOMY
Statewide home prices continued to fall last month but Plymouth and Norfolk counties showed modest increases
, outperforming nearly all other counties in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts biotech industry
bucks the economic tide and keeps adding jobs, rising above 48,000 last year, WBUR reports
unveils layoff cards, Time reports
As the Federal Reserve hits the road
to defend itself, Alan Blinder leaps
to the central bank’s defense. Eric Rosengren
, head of the Boston Fed
an awful housing market for dragging down the Fed’s stimulus efforts. EDUCATION
State education officials say they will join the parade of states that are petitioning for waivers
from a provision of the federal No Child Left Behind
law mandating that all students be proficient in math and English by 2014. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester
said the requirement “flies in the face of common sense.”
State officials say Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua
and members of the School Committee are ineffective education leaders and should undergo retraining, the Eagle-Tribune reports
The inspector general
raises concerns about charter school purchasing policies that seem to conflict with state bidding guidelines, the Gloucester Times reports
.Gov. Deval Patrick
said the country is watching the state’s first innovation school – the Paul Revere School in Lynn
, the Item reports
State education officials want to scrap special education collaboratives
and replace them with a regionalized system that partners with the state on professional development and training, the Lowell Sun reports
The Springfield Republican
wants to see a national search
for a new school superintendent in Springfield
although that didn’t work so well the last time around. Meanwhile, the Ashland
school superintendent resigns
, but no one is saying why.CENSUS
The Census Bureau
yesterday released data showing the number of unmarried same-sex couples nearly doubled over the last decade
and that there are more than 130,000 married same-sex couples in the country.TRANSPORTATION
MBTA fare hikes and service cuts are now approaching
The private Marlboro Airport wants the US Secret Service
to pay for damages
to its runway by vehicles used during an April 2010 visit by President Obama.ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT
A new state report says climate change will bring more severe weather
to Massachusetts.Barnstable County
wants tougher wind siting rules
. Meanwhile, the courts will decide what happens to a private Dennis
wind turbine.E. coli bacteria
was discovered in drinking water supplies in two South Shore towns but only Canton ordered residents to boil their water
while Hanover said no such precautions are necessary
The Red Sox
are (probably) going to flame out -- and that’s a good thing, Brian McGrory explains
in an address to The Nation. CAN I GET FRIES WITH THAT?
The latest Bay State culinary abomination: Deep fried Kool Aid
at the Big E in Springfield.