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State House computergate

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It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. No one has accused Mitt Romney of wrongdoing.  It’s been established that Romney aides operated within the bounds of Massachusetts law when 11 of them purchased their hard drives and that the governor’s predecessors also destroyed electronic communications.

The Boston Globe reports that tens of thousands of emails from the three previous Republican gubernatorial administrations were deleted from state computers despite public records guidelines that require many such records to be preserved.

Legal niceties are one thing; ethics are another. The former Romney aides were the first ones to take high-tech shredding to new heights. When the Globe asked Mark Neilson, Romney’s former chief counsel, about the actions he said that the aides complied with the law and that “nothing unusual was done.”

Secretary of State William Galvin’s decision to open up the remaining records of the Romney administration keeps the spotlight burning hot, while ensuring that hordes of national reporters will descend on state archives to plow through the remaining paper.

What bits and bytes have been lost? The back and forth over health care legislation is the obvious candidate. Records surrounding the lesser known fights that Romney waged are likely gone, too. The governor failed to get any traction on “gold standard” death penalty legislation, which the Boston Phoenix’s David Bernstein once described as “a right-wing parody of a liberal’s perfect death penalty bill."  Romney also supported an amendment to the state constitution that would have banned gay marriage and unsuccessfully sued to force the Legislature to vote on an amendment that lawmakers had shelved.

Romney’s stances on these issues are well within conservative parameters. But questions about divisive social issues he tackled in the Bay State would detract from his “all economy, all the time” talking points and, worse, draw unwanted attention to subjects that could send independents scurrying away from a Romney ticket in the general election.

Then there’s matter of taxpayer dollars. Romney administration officials spent $100,000 to replace office computers before Gov.  Deval Patrick moved in, invalidating an earlier three-year $107,000 lease.  Soon afterward the governor’s office was the recipient of $206,000 worth of new hardware. Headlines like “Romney Paid $100,000 to purge computer records,” and “How Mitt Romney Tried to Erase the Evidence of his Governorship” aren’t helping his case.

Secrecy makes people suspicious. Unfortunately, for Romney, his everybody-else-did-it-too explanation is just rattling around the media echo chamber. Expect Fox’s Chris Wallace to have some pointed questions about computers when Romney appears on his Sunday morning program.  Romney campaign operatives may be pining for the days when all they had to worry about was a surging Newt Gingrich.

                                                                                                                                                            --GABRIELLE GURLEY



BEACON HILL

Deborah DiMasi tells Emily Rooney about her husband Sal’s new prison home in Kentucky, and blames the Globe’s economic woes for his conviction, saying the former speaker’s opposition to casinos threatened the paper’s hopes for casino advertising revenue.

State Rep. Charley Murphy resigns his majority whip position before his House colleagues have a chance to carry out the forced-march execution Speaker Robert DeLeo had ordered up.  The Burlington Democrat doesn’t go quietly, though, delivering a blistering attack on what he calls DeLeo’s iron-fisted rule on his way out. He goes on NECN’s Broadside and says: “I was fired, that’s for sure.”

Out-of-district donors sure love Watertown state Senate candidate Bob McCarthy.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Municipal government in the state is under the greatest financial strain since the period just after the passage of Proposition 2½ in 1980, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

A group trying to recall Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua submits the 100 signatures required to launch the formal recall effort. An earlier effort failed, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Lowell City Council votes 8-1 to shift more of the city’s tax burden onto businesses, while Ayer selectmen vote 3-2 to reduce the burden on businesses.

CASINOS

Southeastern Massachusetts officials say the tribal set-aside in the casino legislation has placed the region behind the rush in other areas to build a gambling, um, gaming destination resort.

The Sun Chronicle examines the possibility that Gillette Stadium and Plainridge Racecourse, which sit miles away along Route 1, could each host a gambling venue.

Howie Carr admires the irony of the casino chase: Tom Menino didn’t want Bob Kraft to build a football stadium in South Boston, so Kraft built in Foxborough, but now Menino is trying to stop Kraft from building in Foxborough, and bring that development to Boston.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Radio Boston dissects a WBUR poll indicating many Massachusetts residents believe the American Dream is slipping away. MassINC Polling Group chief Steve Koczela and Northeastern University’s Barry Bluestone are guests.

Michael Tomasky, in The Daily Beast, says President Obama hit just the right tone in a speech in Kansas, setting the stage for a showdown with the GOP over the middle class. The Beast also has the video.

Governing analyzes what happened in states like Oregon, Maryland, and Connecticut when taxes on the wealthy were raised. New York is also moving to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Many public sector workers are retiring sooner, the New York Times reports.

The National Review says any cuts by the Postal Service are all well and good but the best route would be privatization to end the mail delivery monopoly and free government subsidies.

ELECTION 2012

The five Democratic candidates running to challenge Sen. Scott Brown showed little policy or ideological difference at a forum at Stonehill College last night, and none opted to criticize front-runner Elizabeth Warren. Warren fails the Red Sox test. Warren and Brown tangle over negative ads funded by out-of-state groups.

A New York Times poll confirms Newt Gingrich’s Iowa surge.

Mitt Romney’s grassroots supporters use the valet.

A former low-level Gingrich staffer says there’s little to separate the two GOP front-runners ideologically but they are polar opposites in temperament.

Well, somebody had to come to the defense of The Donald, even if it is backhanded by saying he’s no worse than most other debate moderators.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Americans are expected to spend $6 billion on decorations this Christmas, a sign the economy is recovering.

The Wall Street Journal previews the next battle of too big to fail.

EDUCATION

In an editorial, the Lowell Sun questions the money being spent to analyze the financial records of the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative. Can the collaborative really be saved? the paper asks.

HEALTH CARE

Women are making big strides in health care leadership in Massachusetts, with females now in charge of one-quarter of the state’s 111 hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital -- under President Elizabeth Nabel -- has big expansion plans, even as the hospital is trying to tighten its belt and reduce costs.

The Berkshire Eagle says the warm weather should be a climate change wake-up call.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The state approved Quincy’s request to relocate Town Brook to make way for the $1.6 billion redevelopment of Quincy Center but placed strict conditions on the approval to protect fish habitats, including requiring that the new channel improve its flow.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Bristol County grand jury is investigating the alleged hazing of Andover High School basketball players at an Easton summer camp, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
 
WBUR’s David Boeri reports on a video showing how police improperly extracted a confession from a 16-year-old girl accused of smothering her child.

MEDIA

The Associated Press looks at conflicts of interest between the news media and several presidential campaigns.

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