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Keller @ Large: Political Culture Convicted In DiMasi Verdict

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Sal DiMasi answers questions outside federal court, June 15, 2011. (Photo by Bernice Corpuz)

Sal DiMasi answers questions outside federal court, June 15, 2011. (Photo by Bernice Corpuz)

WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – The record will show that Sal DiMasi (and co-conspirator Richard McDonough) took the fall in federal court today.

But it’s really the entirety of our political culture that stands convicted.

Keep in mind the broader context of Beacon Hill’s debasement.

It’s been more than 30 years since a special commission formed to probe state and county government here found deeply-rooted corruption.

To quote the web site of the state Inspector General’s office, founded in 1981 to help clean out the Augean stables, the so-called Ward Commission found that “corruption was a way of life in the Commonwealth,” and “political influence, not professional performance, was the prime criterion in doing business with the state.”

Substitute kickbacks to the speaker and his cronies for influence and you’ve got a pretty good description of the Cognos case that will, pending appeal, send DiMasi to prison for a long, long time.

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller reacts to the verdict

Three decades later, and what’s really changed?

Even an honest man like current Speaker Bob DeLeo needed to be hit upside the head with a two-by-four in the form of appalling exposes of Probation Department corruption (with patronage as the currency instead of kickbacks) to jar him into admitting business as usual is wrong.

And even a very honest man like Gov. Deval Patrick, elected specifically as an outsider promising to shake up Beacon Hill, continues to spin corruption as the exception rather than the rule, referring today, moments after the DiMasi verdict, to the practitioners of business as usual as “outliers.”

Are you kidding me?

This was the Speaker of the House selling us all out for relative peanuts, and telling his cronies to speed up the kickback train because his time as speaker was short and he had to “make hay.”

It’s true that the vast majority of public officials do not – as far as we know – have their hands out. But the culture that enabled the public-construction corruption that prompted the Ward Commission’s investigation decades ago not only lives on, but thrives today.

It is so widespread and pernicious, even a straight arrow like the governor bends to its will.

In statements today, both DeLeo and Senate President Terry Murray also raised doubt about whether or not they truly get it.

Murray – overseer of a legislative body that tolerated the openly-sketchy behavior of Dianne Wilkerson far longer than it should have – insisted DiMasi’s crimes “should not cast a shadow” on the rest of Beacon Hill.

DeLeo called it a “slur” to suggest this was business as usual. But DiMasi’s legal team presented compelling evidence that it is just that.

Unfortunately for Sal, the jury today said business as usual is criminal and intolerable.

It appears we’ll be waiting a long time if we expect the political culture to come around to that same conclusion.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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