Consider: This morning the Public Policy Institute, a lefty organization whose tag line is "strengthening the next generation of activists for social change," hosted a panel discussion for Massachusetts legislative aides. Beyond the sponsorship, two factoids tell all you need to know about what these legislative 'children' are being taught: (1) the event took place at the Boston HQ of SEIU 615; and (2) the discussion was moderated by one Maryann Calia, former chief of staff to indicted former Speaker Sal DiMasi.
No word on whether 'Who Do I Call When My Subpoena Arrives' or 'Your New Best Friend is Named Miranda' were items on the agenda. But the State House News did report this related golden nugget of advice, impressed upon the young minds by former state consumer affairs director and current lobbyist Ann Walsh: "What you hear in this office stays in this office... You need someone who has an appreciation for that."
"The panelists, each of who began as staffers, said the best qualities in a chief of staff include devout loyalty and a premium on secrecy," according to the State House News. Ah yes - legislative Omerta. In the wake of Speaker Sal, that's what the next generation of Hill staffers need to hear.
Here are a few other choice bits of mentoring, all courtesy of the SHNS:
Former Senate President (and current lobbyist) Bob Travaglini: "Don’t ever be afraid to do a favor for somebody who’s your friend... If it’s the right thing to do, do it. Do it."Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the crash course in Massachusetts Legislating - 101, brought to you by the public employees' union, Speaker Sal's left-hand gal, and the friendly folks who built you the government you enjoy today: Patronage, secrecy and blowing off steam - get those three things down pat and you too could enjoy a lifelong career in the Massachusetts State House.
Congressman Michael Capuano: "Somehow you’re supposed to appoint people you don’t know based on some resume ... What kind of person would run for an office and then have an ability to hire five or 500 or 5,000 people and not turn to the people who held the sign for them in the rain? If you don’t do that, you’re in trouble on reelection." [For the record, I love Rep. Capuano, for exactly this reason. He just... says stuff.]
Travaglini again, discussing the ideal chief of staff: "He or she must have the power to deliver... If the body doesn’t believe that that person can pick up he phone and make things move, that person’s not effective. Maryann [Calia] knows this, she was a tremendous chief of staff. She and I talked more than I talked to Sal, half the time." [Lucky for him!]
And finally, Capuano once more, still... saying stuff: "If I cannot speak freely in front of you, you won’t be here for very long...I probably have too many gruff words to say on occasion... If you can’t take it, don’t work here, because I’m not going to apologize ... I have to be able to blow off steam like everybody else. I’ve been married for 35 years, I’ve been mad at my wife occasionally. It doesn’t mean I don’t love her."
Points for honesty (or hubris?) to the panel though. That's some pretty frank talk right there.