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The Download: Brown's DiMasi diversion

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US Sen. Scott Brown doesn’t want to talk about Osama bin Laden. He does, however, have plenty to say about the disgraced former speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi.

DiMasi is currently standing trial in a federal courthouse on corruption charges. Brown, the legislative backbencher-turned-rockstar, is running for reelection. Therefore, Brown has some advice for the graduates of Lasell College in Newton: Elect Republicans, because a government overrun by Democrats is a crooked government.

With Brown sporting the first bloody nose of his Senate career, he used a weekend commencement speech to attack Beacon Hill as arrogant and corrupt. It’s the sort of forum Brown favors - one-way and headline-making. And his target certainly seems inviting enough.

The monopolization of power inside the State House is a frequent Republican campaign message. Mitt Romney sank Shannon O’Brien in 2002 by warning about the dangers of a “gang of three” Democrats running Beacon Hill. Romney’s running mate, Kerry Healey, trotted out the same line four years later, during her unsuccessful run against Deval Patrick. Charlie Baker’s campaign dropped the gang-related rhetorical flourishes, but it, too, hammered away at one-party rule. Brown isn’t saying much new here - he’s just tossing DiMasi’s federal corruption charges into a familiar complaint.

The House Republican caucus called Brown’s argument that one-party rule breeds corruption “poignant.” But there’s a good deal of history, both locally and in Washington, that says the link between corruption and political affiliation can be tenuous.

Democrats outnumber Republicans on Beacon Hill, so they tend to get in trouble in proportion to their numbers. And while the streak of three straight House speakers getting hit with federal indictments is an impressive one, Dems don’t have the market cornered on political misbehavior. Adding Dianne Wilkerson and Chuck Turner and Anthony Galluccio and Jim Marzilli and John Buonomo to DiMasi’s coterie creates quite the streak for the state’s dominant political party. But they’re not alone. Republican appointees to the Turnpike Authority oversaw plenty of Big Dig bilking. A Republican treasurer missed an epic $9.4 million inside job that put the Brinks robbery to shame. Although the 1980 Ward Commission maintained that political corruption was a way of life in Massachusetts, there are plenty of recent Washington mug shots that show political corruption at large is a fiercely bipartisan affair.

It’s becoming clear that Brown’s brain trust is going to make sleaze-by-association-with-Beacon-Hill a staple of its campaign talking points. When asked about Brown’s recent bin Laden photo gaffe, the senator’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, reflexively invoked the DiMasi trial. When Rep. Thomas Conroy, a would-be Senate challenger, painted Brown’s handling of the photo episode as an example of Brown acting “too cavalier, on the edge of recklessness,” Fehrnstrom immediately reminded Conroy that he’d voted to reelect DiMasi as speaker, just weeks before a criminal investigation forced the North End power-broker’s resignation. And Fehrnstrom certainly knows how to change the subject. Today’s headlines aren’t about the League of Women Voters. They’re about Sal DiMasi. 

                                                                                                                                                                                --PAUL MCMORROW    

BEACON HILL

The Globe reports on US Sen. Scott Brown’s support of the GOP budget, specifically its provision that would overhaul Medicare.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch has offered the $110,000-a-year job of commissioner of public works to a retiring city councilor, who some had speculated was looking to challenge Koch in the fall election.

In Brockton, a city with a median individual income of $28,810, at least 245 city employees were paid more than $100,000 in 2010, a rise of 30 percent in the number of six-figure earners, according to the Enterprise.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno unveils a $554.9 million budget that includes layoffs, pay freezes, and a reduction in library hours.

Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto drops a proposal to rename Columbus Avenue after Dr. Martin Luther King after an outpouring of opposition by residents.

Parsons Brinkerhoff gives $20,000 to Boston’s English High School, and the gift fails to leak. So far.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Debt ceiling negotiations begin.

ELECTION 2012

Rep. Thomas Conroy, a Wayland Democrat, is considering joining the race for the Democratic nomination to unseat Scott Brown.

Many on the right are not amused by Newt Gingrich’s goring of US Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to revamp Medicare after earlier calling it “a first step,” so the Weekly Standard chronicles other Gingrich flip-flops through the years.

Mitt Romney raises $10.25 million in one day.

The door hits Donald Trump on his way out of the White House race, and the New York Times runs with the “suddenly boring GOP” story line.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Springfield Republican explains why summer jobs programs for teens are worth the investment, especially for low-income kids in cities. Meanwhile, the Globe reports summer jobs in Massachusetts are again expected to be in short supply.

EDUCATION

More than 300 security cameras are being used in Lynn middle and high schools as part of a growing security network, the Item reports.

Jim Stergios discusses lessons from regional vocational schools in the Pioneer Institute blog.

HEALTH CARE

State health officials say an outbreak of Hepatitis C among teens and young adults that has largely gone under the radar suggests an epidemic in Massachusetts.

The Patriot Ledger covered yesterday’s health care payment reform hearing on Beacon Hill and says health plans and providers say that, while the bill is noble in concept, it could have unintended consequences.

A Department of Health report found wide variations on the frequency of C-sections among women with low-risk pregnancies in Massachusetts hospitals, the Globe reports.

TRANSPORTATION

The failure to invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure means that the US is falling behind emerging nations like Brazil, India, and China , according to an Urban Land Institute report. Washington would need to spend $2 trillion just to keep up.

The Boston Globe reports on the possibility of a state takeover of commuter rail operations, following yesterday’s story that the MBCR was receiving on-time bonus payments as on-time service declined overall.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission team visits the Pilgrim nuclear plant to investigate the cause of the recent unplanned shutdown.

Brian T. Watson, writing in the Salem News, says the looming shutdown of the coal-fired Salem Harbor Station represents an ecological challenge for the city.

The state takes steps to prevent the spread of zebra mussels in western Massachusetts; the bivalves have been found in Laurel Lake in Lee and in the Housatonic River, which is connected to the lake.

A USA Today editorial looks at a recent National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences report on climate change and concludes that inaction is not a viable strategy.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A jury finds an Andover lawyer, a North Andover chiropractor, and a van driver guilty in a crash-for-cash scheme, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

MEDIA

RedMassGroup worries about Arianna Huffington’s editorial control over the fast-growing AOL Patch sites.





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