From the looks of things, Sal DiMasi’s speakership is in considerable trouble. His refusal to release records to the State Ethics Commission is causing him no end of difficulties. Also ominous is the steadfast refusal of Bob DeLeo’s camp to deny that DeLeo might mount a challenge when the legislature reconvenes in January.
“They’re considering overthrowing him,” one lawmaker said on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for Rep. Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) declined comment.
The John Rogers camp, on the other hand, “heatedly denied” any intention to run for Speaker if DiMasi sticks around, but who knows if that would change should DeLeo proceed with a challenge.
According to press reports, DiMasi is citing Article XXI of the State Constitution as justification for his refusal to turn over the records. Article XXI reads:
The freedom of deliberation, speech and debate, in either house of the legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any accusation or prosecution, action or complaint, in any other court or place whatsoever.
The speech and debate clause? Really? Somehow I don’t think the Ethics Commission is going after DiMasi for something he said on the House floor. Nor do I think it’s likely that records detailing DiMasi’s relationship with Cognos are covered by Article XXI. If Article XXI shields any internal records bearing on anything a lawmaker does that might tangentially relate to legislation, then legislators have essentially total immunity to engage in all manner of corruption, so long as they’re not caught on film stuffing cash into their bra. I doubt that the SJC will adopt that broad a view of Article XXI. Apparently, Article XXI has not been tested in court since 1808, so it should be interesting to see what they say about it, if it gets that far.
Recently, Jay had this to say on one of his favorite topics, the “Hack-Progressive Alliance,”
i.e. progressives’ toleration of a certain degree of hackery as long as the progressive goods are delivered. Not all liberals tolerate or like the alliance. But judging by some of the comments at BMG, there’s more than enough cynics on the left to keep the Hack-Progressive Alliance ticking for quite a bit longer.
We still really don’t know anything about the DiMasi/Cognos situation — and DiMasi isn’t helping matters in that respect by withholding records on what strike me as flimsy constitutional grounds. But this raises a large and important issue, progressives: how much “hackery” are you willing to tolerate? For some (including BMG’s editors, who endorsed Sonia Chang-Diaz in 2006), Dianne Wilkerson had gone too far even before the bribery stuff became public; for pretty much everyone, the bribery scandal was the last straw. But where is the line?