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Murray's spin-out

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Until yesterday, it looked as if Lt. Gov. Tim Murray had been through a very rough patch of misfortune, with two separate big hits to his political standing: a series of Boston Globe stories detailing his deep ties to the disgraced former Chelsea housing authority director, Michael McLaughlin, who was pulling in an astronomical $360,000 a year salary, and a mysterious late-night car crash that Murray has had a hard time explaining. Now it seems that Murray may have been out on the road in the wee hours of Nov. 2, when he careened into a rock ledge along Interstate 190, because of worries that his political career was being imperiled by the McLaughlin scandal.

That nugget comes courtesy of yesterday’s Globe, which reports that Murray “told confidants that the scandal over McLaughlin’s extraordinary pay kept him awake” the night before the 5:30 a.m. crash along a darkened stretch of rural highway. But the bigger damage from yesterday’s story is its claim that McLaughlin played an important role in Murray’s political organization -- something the lieutenant governor has denied -- and that he was an aggressive fundraiser who may have violated federal law that bars someone employed by an agency receiving federal funds from engaging in any political activity at work or conducting political fundraising on or off the job.

The story says, based on campaign records and interviews with more than two dozen people who attended fundraisers for Murray or made donations to him, McLaughlin “played a key role in organizing at least three fundraisers for Murray since 2008.”  It also suggests housing authority employees felt pressure to donate to Murray’s campaign account and that there were a lot of cash donations made that are not reflected in campaign finance reports.

State House News Service reports this morning that Murray will ask the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance to investigate whether McLaughlin was involved in illegal fundraising on his behalf.  As for Murray’s political future, it hardly seems premature at this point to wonder whether he has one. 

                                                                                                                                                                    --MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Sen. Steven Baddour calls for an audit of the state’s welfare system, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Excise tax collections rose slightly over last year with 250 communities showing increases but total revenues are still below the 2005 peak.

Leaders in Boston’s black community are launching an effort to scuttle legislation on Beacon Hill that would impose mandatory life sentences on three-time offenders convicted of a wide range of crimes, including some non-violent offenses.

The Berkshire Eagle reminds readers that Massachusetts isn’t doing too badly compared to other states and should be pleased that Gov. Deval Patrick is going to spread a little bit more money around to cities and towns.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, plans to file suit today to block a ballot initiative that would tie layoffs and other personnel decisions to teacher evaluations, arguing that the initiative is unconstitutional.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Ethics Commission ruled Somerset school officials violated state law by using the automated calling system to contact parents about a vote on a new high school and allowing a private group in favor of the high school to print and distribute fliers on school property.

The two candidates in Quincy’s mayoral race combined to spend nearly $332,000 in last November’s election but 88 percent of that came from incumbent Thomas Koch for his reelection bid.

LOBBYING

Former Massachusetts congressman Bill Delahunt’s new lobbying practice comes in for scrutiny over the weekend in the Globe and the New York Times, which report that he is taking the revolving door syndrome to new heights by now collecting lobbying payments from earmarks that he sponsored while in office.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords plans to resign from Congress, Time reports.

The MetroWest Daily News points out that Congress can’t even run its own gift shop properly.

ELECTION 2012

The National Review argues Newt Gingrich is a product of Mitt Romney’s stumbles more than any master campaign plan. The Atlantic chalks up Gingrich’s win to the on-the-ground machine he quietly built. Or maybe it was his hateful, hateful politics that did it. Gingrich trains his fire on the elitist media, proving it really is possible to shop at Tiffany’s while railing against elites. And despite what Romney himself referred to yesterday as a bad week, he has a lot of built-in advantages as the primary race turns to Florida, reports the Globe. The MetroWest Daily News asks if Mitt Romney can relate to the middle class: Not surprisingly, the answer is no. The Wall Street Journal casts the campaign as a clash of the GOP’s establishment and its rabble.

Just wondering out loud: Should we follow Romney’s example and stash our money in the Caymans?

Jon Keller brings in his body language expert to analyze the national and state candidates and tell us what they’re really thinking as opposed to what they’re saying.

President Obama’s State of the Union speech will feature a sharper than usual tone.

New York magazine asks: Are we in the middle of the filthiest campaign ever?

The Herald’s Kimberly Atkins laughs off Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren’s attempts to curb third-party advertisements. Pretty please doesn’t work in politics, she argues.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Gov. Patrick did right by auto insurers with “managed competition,” The MetroWest Daily News concludes.

There may a silver lining for former Boston waterfront real estate baron Frank McCourt, who’s being forced to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers amid a nasty and costly divorce: ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson says there’s a lot of evidence that McCourt can win his multi-million dollar malpractice suit against venerable Boston law firm Bingham McCutcheon to recoup a lot of his losses.

The Globe reports that Mayor Tom Menino’s effort to seed a new high-tech cluster in the waterfront Innovation District is starting to take root.

EDUCATION

School officials in Salem rethink the policy that allows parents to select the school where they send their children, the Salem News reports.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy, no friend of Partners HealthCare, says the announced rate hike is more a paean to pr spin than any real health care savings.

TRANSPORTATION

The Sun Chronicle talks fare hikes and service cuts with one frustrated MBTA rider.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A judge decides that Yarmouth cannot have “intervenor” status in a wind turbine dispute with neighboring Dennis, however the town can file a brief in support of a Dennis resident.
MEDIA

Now that the Patriots are in the Super Bowl that is being broadcast by NBC, the heat has just been turned up to burn level in the fee dispute between DirectTV and WHDH-TV (Channel 7), which has been removed from the satellite carrier’s line-up for the last two weeks.

Reuters TV launches on YouTube, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

A Pew Internet and American Life report finds that e-reader and tablet ownership doubled over the holidays.

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