Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Scott Brown for Senate" Campaign Ad Material?

Boston Globe - October 2006:

Democrat Deval L. Patrick, who regularly decries what he calls a "Big Dig culture" on Beacon Hill, collected thousands of dollars in campaign money at a fund-raiser this month hosted by O'Neill and Associates, a firm that lobbies for the Big Dig's project manager.

The breakfast, which raised more than $20,000, took place Oct. 3, hours before Patrick complained at a debate in Springfield about the state's "inward-looking political establishment" and referred to special interests as "people who get to play, no matter who the governor is."

"I bring that outsider perspective," Patrick said at the debate. He has also aired a television ad vowing to clean up the "Big Dig culture" and cited the Big Dig as "an example of what's wrong with Beacon Hill today."

Here's Andrew Paven, a lobbyist employed by O'Neill and Associates, and who works on behalf of Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, explaining how supposedly there's no actual conflict of interest at work here.

"We raise money for many candidates," said Andrew Paven, a spokesman for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff. ``We had a breakfast fund-raiser for [US Representative] Barney Frank today. The contributors are a matter of public record."

Paven said that at Patrick's request, no one associated with the consortium nor any other Big Dig contractor was invited to the Oct. 3 fund-raiser or allowed to contribute. He said that he is the only person at O'Neill and Associates who works with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and that he did not attend.

"Nobody who works for any company with any work on the Big Dig was invited," he said. "They're not taking money from the Big Dig, which is why I didn't make a contribution."

Paven quite clearly asserts that he did not make a contribution, beause there would be a conflict of interest if a lobbyist for the Big Dig were to contribute to a candidate who, in his elected capacity, would have oversight responsibilities on that project.

File under: Yeah, no kidding.

This point is made again in the next paragraph.

Paven, however, acknowledged that O'Neill and Associates is paid to represent Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff. In addition, an invitation to the fund-raiser said that one of the event's sponsors was John Cahill, who is listed as a congressional lobbyist for Bechtel in 2006. Paven said Cahill did not donate to Patrick.

So, it seems pretty clear that there would be a conflict of interest for a political candidate to receive campaign contributions from lobbyists representing an entity over which that person, if elected, would have some level of authority or oversight.

Again, sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Now, suppose something tragic were to happen on that project that resulted in a loss of life, like say, a tunnel ceiling collapsed.

Clearly, the state would want to conduct an investigation on any and all defective work or substandard materials used, which may have contributed to the incident in question, and prosecute and punish the parties found responsible for the fatality in question.

Would this same conflict of interest not be in play, if it were revealed that the lobbyists for the firm overseeing the construction of the Big Dig were sending campaign contributions to the state's Attorney General and the candidate running for said office?

Meet Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Attorney General and candidate for the United States Senate.

In November 2006, Coakley was elected attorney general, replacing Tom Reilly, who had just made an unsuccessful run for governor. Her office was, and still is, responsible for prosecuting and punishing those parties found liable for the Big Dig tunnel collapse of June 2006.

Pop Quiz Time!

Guess which entity below got squeezed by Coakley for a multi-million settlement (and a lot of headlines and photo-ops) in the wake of the tunnel collapse, and which one secured a provision as part of its deal with the state that protected it from any criminal liability?

A. An epoxy manufacturer from out of state.


B. The project management firm responsible for approving and signing off on every nut and bolt (and adhesive product) delivered to Big Dig job sites and installed on the project (and whose lobbying firm saw its employees donate thousands to Coakley's election campaigns).

Both Paven and Cahill, cited in the Boston Globe article above, made contributions directly to Martha Coakley's election campaigns from 2006 to 2009 - actions, which by their own words, constitute a conflict of interest and carry with them the potential for corrupting of the office of candidate in question.

Exit Question: Why is the Scott Brown campaign not working this angle?