I don't know if Ross knew what kind of can of worms he was openning when he posed his initial question, whether the other candidates supported casinos and whether they were supported by special interests that stand to benefit from casinos. In this campaign, where the voters have often had a hard time distinguishing one candidate's positions from the other (though certainly all four have their own style), it seems from the way the question was posed that Ross was simply trying to point out one of the few substantive differences between himself and the others.
After Flaherty gave his “this horse has left the barn” speech, an audience member pointed out that he didn't answer the second part of the question. The first question from the moderator thus turned into a follow up on the campaign contribution side of Ross' original seemingly benign question.
Flaherty's reaction: “I don't have any person or interest associated with casinos supporting me.”
So, my question is, does Tim Flaherty not know or not care?
A cursory scan of contributions to his campaign reveals more than a dozen names of lobbyists, lawyers, race track executives and other individuals “associated with casinos,” who have contributed at least $2,900 to Flaherty's campaign. Sure, the man has raised a bit of money – most of it outside the district, I would note – so maybe he really just doesn't know. But if so, then stating outright “I don't have any person or interest associated with casinos supporting me,” seems like a horrible blunder, especially for an experienced trial attorney.
Then maybe he doesn't care. He did conclude his answer by saying that he doesn't need the job (of senator), the implication being that campaign contributions won't sway him. (I find it interesting, by the way, that BMG picked up on this part of his answer and not the forceful – angry? – unequivocal denial.)
So, just because Tim Flaherty doesn't care about where his money comes from doesn't mean that we shouldn't.
In today's column in the Globe, Joan Vennochi writes: “The push for expanded gambling in Massachusetts comes from racetrack operators, out-of-state promoters, and other gambling interests. If they haven't made their case yet, that should tell Patrick something important. It's a shaky case for everyone but them.” No matter what Tim Flaherty would have us believe, casinos are not a foregone conclusion.