Lowell Sun: Patronage? Who, Us?

I don’t want to traumatize anyone, but I have to let you in on a little secret: Massachusetts politics has been known to be beset by patronage every now and then.

I’ll let you absorb that one for a moment before I continue. …

I know, I know. It’s shocking, but patronage has been known to happen in this state.

Once or twice.

A week.

So why were state senators so taken aback when, during debate of the casino proposal this week, one of their own — Jamie Eldridge, a Democratic senator from Acton — proposed setting some rules for elected officials leaving the Legislature then getting jobs in the state’s burgeoning gaming industry?

Eldridge, who is against the state building three resort casinos but realizing it’s all but a done deal, filed an amendment to the casino proposal that called for a five-year moratorium on the gaming industry hiring former legislators.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?

What he’s saying is, hey, go ahead and vote the casinos in, but while you’re at it, show the public that you’re not doing it because of the promise of a job after you leave the Legislature.

And in this day and age of former speakers of the House going to jail for extortion, and former senators and city councilors imprisoned for taking bribes, and former probation commissioners accused of raising campaign money for a former state treasurer to help secure a job for his wife, and former directors of special-education collaboratives hiring former school superintendents at six-figure salaries to throw away taxpayer money … need I go on? … you’d think elected officials would jump at the chance to show that their vote can’t be bought for a job in one of the three casinos that will inevitably be built.

As Eldridge said, the casino bill should not be “an economic development bill for lawmakers” and that the Legislature should “make sure we don’t have legislators that, as soon as this bill becomes law, are going off into the casino industry.”

You can disagree with Eldridge’s stance on casinos — in fact, I do — but you have to give him credit for trying to bring some transparency into the debate.

His colleagues’ shock and chagrin, as feigned as it was, at the proposed amendment only shows how out of touch they are with the public.

They tripped all over each other trying to project outrage that one of their own would imply that any of them would vote for the casino package just because of the promise of a job later. Imagine the gall!

You’d think they’d want to accept Eldridge’s amendment — if even grudgingly — just to show there are no shenanigans.

But, no, they went the other route, chastising him for “contributing to the cynicism” (casino supporter Stanley Rosenberg’s words) and for launching “an attack on his colleagues” (casino supporter Gale Candaras’ words).

They claimed Eldridge only created the false impression that some would stoop to patronage.

Here’s news for you: Eldridge doesn’t have to create the impression. You guys are doing a good job of that yourselves. If it were indeed a false impression, then they should have gladly accepted Eldridge’s amendment.

In the end, senators approved a one-year “cooling-off period” for legislators getting jobs within the gaming industry.

So instead of feeling good about our elected officials for a change, instead of thinking for a change, well, hey, at least we know they’re not in it for their own personal gain, we’re left wondering who will be the first hired by the casino industry.

The safe money says it won’t be Eldridge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *