Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Someone call the cops!

There's an intruder in Senator Scott Brown's kitchen! And he's wearing the Senator's Clothes!!

Compare this ad run by Scott Brown in January, responding to those scurrilous hatchet ads thrown all over the airwaves by Martha Coakley's campaign and her union allies...



... with this web as pulled together hastily by Tim Cahill in response to the Republican Governors Association's independent, hard-hitting ads that started running across the Commonwealth yesterday.



Notice any, um, similarities?

This is what Tim Cahill is paying his high priced team of out-of-state consultants to do? Create low-budget parodies of Scott Brown ads?

On a symbolic level this actually has some ironic resonance. First Cahill tried to fool the voters by dressing up like an "independent." Now he's trying to fool them by dressing up like Scott Brown! Both ploys underestimate the voters, and that's putting it kindly.

Of course, it's easy to understand why team Cahill decided to go this route. He needed to respond to the RGA broadside, and he did not have very many options to do so. The RGA ads are tough - no doubt about it. (You can check them out here). But unlike Coakley's against Brown, they are factually accurate. The toughest of the charges leveled in the RGA ads - that Cahill's office has become notorious for "pay-to-play" contracting - has already been made in the pages of both the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe (which included a handy chart), and by the Globe's editorial page, which noted a month ago that "Cahill donations raise [the] specter of pay-to-play government."

Cahill cannot deny the core of those pay-to-play allegations, having famously admitted to the Globe in response to its investigation of his shady fund raising practices that, "he and his campaign aides routinely seek contributions from... companies that have or want business from the treasurer’s office and the five agencies he oversees, including the pension board." In his own words, "We sometimes just sit there and brainstorm . . . Who can we call? Who are the people that we think can raise money?"

The best Cahill could do on the substance of the RGA ads was to (again) trot out Michael Travaglini, the chair of the state's Pension Reserves Investment Management board, to defend the process through which the pension board supposedly awards state contracts. If that name sounds familiar, it should - Michael Travaglini is brother to Robert Travaglini, former Massachusetts state senate president and for most of the Romney Administration the most powerful Democrat on Beacon Hill. In other words, if Cahill's designated defender Michael Travaglini were any more of a Beacon Hill insider he'd fold in on himself and implode - which creates something of a problem for Cahill's continuing, wholly disingenuous effort to re-brand himself as an independent outsider.

Anyhow, in response to the RGA ads, Michael Trav told the State House News that all proposed bids to the pension board are "reviewed by PRIM staff, an Investment Committee, and ultimately must be approved by a nine-member PRIM Board of Trustees. No one in the process is aware of political contributions made to Tim Cahill."

Got it? Ok. Now turn off the blowers, let common sense drift back into the room, and consider the first few paragraphs of the Globe's March investigative report:

They came in batches, nearly 250 checks, most for $500, from real estate lawyers, property managers, and realtors in far-flung states, all dedicated to the election of state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill.

The contributions, almost all of them deposited on three separate dates in 2002, 2003, and 2005, total more than $100,000 — part of the $3 million war chest that Cahill is now tapping for his independent run for governor this year.

Nothing obvious connects Cahill to these donors, whose companies are based in such states as Texas, Missouri, Florida, and Colorado. But an extensive Globe review of Cahill’s aggressive fund-raising practices uncovered the common link: Michael A. Ruane, a Boston investment manager who employs those firms to handle the vast real estate holdings he has bought for his investors — and who counts the Massachusetts pension board as one of his clients.

Since Cahill became the board’s chairman in 2003, Ruane’s investment management firm has been allocated $500 million in pension funds to invest — and has earned $34 million in management fees.

In fact, the largest one-day infusion of Ruane-connected campaign donations, $40,250 from business associates and their relatives in 12 states, was deposited on Aug. 13, 2003, a day before the Pension Reserves Investment Management board voted unanimously to give Ruane’s company $100 million to invest.

Michael Trav was deployed by Cahill on that occasion as well, to much the same purpose as he was deployed this week - to insist that there was no connection, none whatsoever, between $40,000 in out-of-state political contributions received by Cahill in a single day from associates of a single firm, and the award by the PRIM the next day (the NEXT DAY!) of a $100 million contract to that firm.

Now consider that scenario from another perspective. Pretend you get a campaign solicitation on behalf of, I don't know, the Treasurer of North Dakota. Or Georgia. Or wherever. Do you fire off a check? Now change the scenario just a little bit and pretend that your business (or your spouse's business) has a huge, nine-figure bid pending before an agency administered by the Treasurer in question. Say you write that check, as do a whole lot of your colleagues, and the next day (the NEXT DAY!!) your firm is awarded said contract.

What's your take-away from that experience? Do you assume that overnight your firm's bid was "reviewed by PRIM staff, an Investment Committee, and ultimately... approved by a nine-member PRIM Board of Trustees," and that "no one in the process [was] aware of political contributions made to" the Treasurer? Or do you assume something just a little different? Do you assume, perhaps, that there's a price to be paid to "play" in that state?

None of those questions are really questions, of course. As a wise old man once said, "Duh."

All that is why Cahill and his allies are unable to respond to the substance of the hard-hitting RGA ads that started running against him yesterday. He's reduced to masquerading as Scott Brown in a hilariously transparent (and pretty awkward) way, complaining about "negative" campaign ads, and dishonestly blaming Charlie Baker for the tone of ads that Cahill knows full well Baker had nothing to do with (the RGA is a 527 federal political committee - Massachusetts law strictly prohibits any coordination whatsoever on ads like the ones currently running).

As to the "negativity," there are people who will be turned off by that. But there is an important difference between the "your mother wears combat boots" variety of negative ads, and negative ads that convey important information. It is hard to argue that widespread and credible allegations of pay-to-play contracting within a candidate's office is not relevant information for the voters to have. And it's hard to imagine how that relevant information could be conveyed in a "positive" way.

A lot of people will wonder about the accuracy of the charges leveled in the RGA ads, especially since Cahill cannot refute them specifically. Some of these people will take a moment to do a Google search. That Google search will turn up the Globe investigation, the Wall Street Journal article, and countless others. Those voters will determine that while the RGA ads may be aggressive, they are also accurate.

And then they will conclude that Tim Cahill is about as "independent" as Michael Travaglini's brother. And that his similarity to Scott Brown starts and ends with his sweater.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You want arrogance and disrespect?! I'll show you arrogance and disrespect!

It isn't often that actual debate takes place on the floor of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. A little anecdote in today's State House News Service helps to explain why.

Here's the scene: the House is debating the 2011 budget. As part of said debate, the small band of 16 House Republicans have, as they always do, introduced a number of amendments that would - if enacted - decrease the tax burden on the Commonwealth's citizens.

Ordinarily, those amendments are disposed of summarily, with less respect than most of us give a tick pinched off the dog and tossed in the toilet, even in an election year. Ah, but this year... this year there is a sense that the voters are paying particular attention. This year every entrenched incumbent on Beacon Hill feels a little flutter of nervousness in the belly, residual reverberations from the January special Senate election. So this year they are kind of sort of debating a little bit.

But not too much. One GOP amendment would have repealed the unpopular new tax on alcohol sales, enacted last year along with the massive sales tax increase. That one was "sent to study" - which means it was trundled out back and put down with a single shot to the head.

I've railed before against the insidious Beacon Hill legislative euthanasia device known as the "study commission." They are 110%, Grade A, unfiltered horse puckey, and everyone in that building knows it. Republican Rep. Daniel Webster (love that name!) of Hanson certainly knows it. Democratic Rep. Benjamin Swan of Springfield knows it too. Which brings me to the anecdote. From the SHNS:
The floor debate on taxes intensified when Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Hanson) began aggressively pointing his finger at Democratic colleagues, blasting their attempt at studying tax cuts as “despicable.”

Each year, he said, “I become more and more amazed at the arrogance and the disrespect that we show. Let's get real, folks. How many people think that we're actually going to send the issue of whether we roll back the sales tax to a study? … Forget this study baloney … Your leadership is trying to give you a break right now by trying to help you not take a vote on this issue.”

His remarks prompted a sharp rebuke from Rep. Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield), who pointed to the roll call board and noted that only 16 Republicans serve in the 160-member House.

“Somehow, members of the minority party seem to think they have some answer from on high that the rest of us don't have,” he said. “Who would you think the people have been paying attention to? Who have they been electing? … Who's in touch with the voters when you look at the numbers on this board? I'm not afraid to go to the polls in November.”
Isn't that just priceless? Rep. Webster (correctly) calls B.S. on the study commission maneuver, and Rep. Swan responds by doubling down. 'You want arrogance and disrespect! I'll show you arrogance and disrespect! There are only 16 of you! We're the majority! We can do what we want, and you'd best just shut your yapping mouths!'

As to the voters, well, Rep. Swan is "not afraid" of them. Perhaps he has cause for his exuberant confidence in his own position. But if he wants to continue to lord it over his Republican colleagues on the basis of their small numbers, then he has more to worry about come November than the voters in his own district.

Monday, April 26, 2010

We're so sorry (that you caught us).

That seems to be the collective response from Beacon Hill Democrats to news last week of a sneaky legislative effort to tuck an evisceration of Proposition 2-1/2 into the deceptively-named "Municipal Relief Act." Prop 2.5 is, of course, the single most important taxpayer-protection measure enacted in the modern history of the Commonwealth, and the only reason that the runaway train of property tax hikes in this state hasn't barreled entirely off the tracks. Much was written about this underhanded move last week - see here, here and here. In short, here's the deal: if unnamed House Democrats had their way, next year your town could raise property taxes by more than the now-statutorily-capped 2.5 percent, without needing to go through the trouble of an override vote. Citizens for Limited Taxation, the original champions of Prop 2.5 and still its staunchest guardian, estimated that the move would constitute a $500 million property tax hike on the Commonwealth's homeowners next year.

Pish-posh, proclaimed Rep. Charlie Murphy, the House's top budget-writer. The move wouldn't hike taxes $500 million! It would "only" hike property taxes by, um, around $164.4 million. That's "significantly less than the alleged $500M," by the way. And anyhow, he continued, the move was not an "assault" on Prop 2.5. It was "like an exclusion outside of the levy limit base and is not included in the next year’s levy limit."

Assume for a moment that Chairman Murphy's pronouncement isn't just the meaningless rhetorical equivalent of a burst of flak from the tail of a targeted jet fighter. Assume further that CLT's nice, round estimate included a little bit of convenient rounding. So what? The fact remains that someone in House leadership slipped a provision into a "municipal relief" package intended to allow property tax hikes to be passed next year in contravention of a law that has protected Massachusetts taxpayers for decades. By the way, you remember the "Municipal Relief Act," right? That's the one that does not include authority for cities and towns to design their own employee and retiree health plans. "Too controversial," that, despite near universal agreement that 'plan design' authority would save our cities and towns hundreds of millions a year. Gutting Proposition 2.5, though, was apparently NOT deemed "too controversial" to include surreptitiously in the package. During a recession. In an election year. Talk about stump stupid.

At any rate, Chairman Murphy's tut-tutting is belied by the haste with which Beacon Hill's Democrats (both avowed and disguised) fled from the proposal, once Charlie Baker dragged it into the sunlight. Tim Cahill, relieved by Baker's announced opposition of his usual need to check with his consultants to find out 'what a real fiscal conservative would say,' quickly proclaimed his own opposition. Deval Patrick vowed a veto. And today House Speaker Bob "Slots" DeLeo had a flack announce, "[T]hat provision will be struck down with the start of House action today." Done and done.

House Minority Leader Brad Jones, as usual, gets right to the heart of the matter with his reaction comment to the State House News: "That sounds about what I expected, based on the debate and the feedback of members. It doesn't explain why it got there in the first place."

Or how it got there, or who put it there. Don't expect DeLeo or Murphy to tell us. They're so sorry (that Baker caught them). Whoever it was, you can bet they were hoping nobody would realize that "an exclusion outside of the levy limit base [that] is not included in the next year’s levy limit" is actually a a sniper shot to the heart of Prop 2.5.

Yet another useful election year illustration of what we voters bought when we decided in our collective wisdom to test whether a return to total one-party control of our government would again yield the results last seen in the Dukakis era.

No wonder then that Barbara Anderson, founder of Citizens for Limited Taxation, patron saint of the Commonwealth's taxpayers and the mother of Proposition 2-1/2, is enthusiastically supporting Charlie Baker for Governor. Anderson stood with Baker just this morning on the State House steps, as he announced his intention to roll back taxes during his first term. She, more than perhaps anyone in the state, knows a true fiscal conservative from an opportunistic pretender.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eye of the Beholder

So, was the Massachusetts state GOP Convention held this past weekend in Worcester a bold declaration by a rejuvenated state party that "we're back and ready to rumble"? Or was it a showcase for "the blandest slate of statewide candidates imaginable, with a thoroughly milquetoast set of campaign themes"? Apparently that depends on who you ask.

The first take is from the Globe's Scott Lehigh, in his column today titled "Mass GOP ready to rumble." The second comes from the Boston Phoenix's David Bernstein, under the caption, "GOP's state convention delivers the bland brand." The two pieces reflect such divergent impressions that one wonders if the columnists could possibly have attended the same event.

Where Lehigh deemed state Auditor candidate Mary Connaughton's convention speech, "
one of Saturday’s best speeches, an address peppery enough to focus people’s fleeting attention on the unrealized potential of the state auditor’s office," Bernstein heard in the same speech a dissertation on " the world’s most eye-glazing profession — [Connaughton] is a certified public accountant," and lightly mocked "her sleep-inducing slogan, 'Professional, not political.'"

Lehigh looks at the top of the Republican ticket and sees Charlie Baker, "
widely recognized as smart and serious, competent and qualified," and Richard Tisei, "a veteran legislator liked and respected on both sides of the aisle." Bernstein looks at the same two guys and sees "a non-ideological bean-counting technocrat" and a "dull moderate...state senator."

So which was it? Rumble-ready, peppery competence, or dull, sleep-inducing moderation? A clue comes, perhaps, in the well-known biases of the quoted observers. While nobody who regularly follows Massachusetts politics would ever accuse Scott Lehigh of being in the bag for the GOP, David Bernstein's ideological leanings are more pronounced. That isn't to say that he is incapable of dispassionate political analysis - but in weighing the two very different accounts it is fair to take note of the fact that Bernstein's represents what one would expect from a columnist in the Phoenix, while Lehigh's is a decidedly unexpected emanation from the Op-Ed page of the Globe.

With the exception of a handful of embittered Christy Mihos supporters, I'd bet big money that every one of the 3,000 delegates who thundered their approval of Charlie Baker's nomination speech on Saturday found much more that they recognized as accurate in Lehigh's column than in Bernstein's transparent attempt to downplay the importance of Baker's overwhelming convention win and - more broadly - the clearly rejuvenated Massachusetts GOP.

In any event, I do not have to wonder; I was there. Mary's speech was anything but sleep-inducing. Charlie's speech was epic - as was the crowd's reaction to it. It is no exaggeration to say the atmosphere in the arena during the call and response (that Bernstein also derides) was electric. "Electric" is not a word I ever expected to type in description of a gathering of Massachusetts Republicans, by the way. But it works here.

I usually like Bernstein's writing. Though I rarely agree with his conclusions, his insights are often right on the mark. He really misses that mark today, though, choosing to write about a convention that perhaps took place in some Bizarro-world alternate universe rather than confront the potential implications of what actually played out in Worcester on Saturday.

I'm sure the palpable energy and excitement emanating from the crowd of Republicans that afternoon felt vaguely familiar to those who share Bernstein's liberal politics. Vaguely familiar, and no doubt deeply troubling once the source of that familiarity is identified: For a few moments during Charlie Baker's speech on Saturday, that convention had the feel of a Deval Patrick rally, circa 2006. Energy, excitement - even exuberance and (yes, I'll say it) hope. Not hopey-changey stuff, mind you, but hope that this time we Rs are the ones with all the momentum on our side. Hope that in less than four years, the vast middle of the electorate has learned all too well what happens when they choose empty rhetoric over responsible competence.

The democrats are saddled with a candidate at the top in whom nobody really and truly believes any more; a guy who raised expectations to the stratosphere and - perhaps inevitably - fell short on just about every measure. In the slots below him on the ticket things get no better. A re-tread former chair of the DNC with bags of money but a gaping charisma deficit running for treasurer. Central casting's prototype for 'entrenched hack' throwing in for auditor. "The one who lost the Kennedy seat" taking another stab at the office she tried to abandon just a couple of months back (though she may get a free pass to four more years on the state payroll if the Rs don't come up with a challenger).

All of that, to my mind, explains why the take on Worcester offered by Bernstein, someone who for all his usual insight is deeply invested in the politics of the left, varies so irrevocably from the account set forth in the Globe by by Lehigh, a more dispassionate observer.

Eye of the beholder, sure - but some beholders deliberately don ideological blinkers.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Charlie earned it.

I think the Globe and others are correct when they speculate that this weekend Christy Mihos suffered the well-deserved consequences of his actions four years ago. In denying Christy their votes, a lot of delegates undoubtedly had memories of his scorched-earth, "independent" 2006 campaign firmly in mind.

It also could not have helped that Christy was squired around all day by well-known Tim Cahill supporters. As I noted last week, voters willing to spend a Saturday crammed into arena seating that was seemingly designed for the denizens of Munchkin Village tend to be voters who are paying serious attention. Many of them recognized the Cahill acolytes orchestrating Christy's convention activities, and that information spread through the hall quickly. Cahill's vicarious support did not exactly bolster Christy's "primary" argument - that a contested primary would be "good for the Republican Party."

Personally, though, I think Christy might have snagged the necessary fifteen percent, if not for Charlie's home run nomination speech. It is worth a watch:

PART I



PART II

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Barking up the wrong tree in Worcester

From the Tim Cahill campaign comes a release proclaiming the erstwhile Democrat's intention to attend the state Republican Convention this weekend in Worcester. According to the release, reprinted on the (excellent, new-ish) Blog MassBeacon.com, "Tim Cahill will attend the Republican convention at the DCU center in Worcester to meet with voters and Republican delegates engaged in the political process." MassBeacon's comment is right on the mark: "I know Cahill’s trying to court conservative voters, but party activists and diehards?"

This is a waste of Treasurer Tim's time, and one of his consultants ought to tell him so. In order to have a prayer of re-branding himself as a conservative "independent," Cahill has to focus on voters who do not pay attention. The ones who might not realize he has spent the last eight years as the incumbent Treasurer (the Commonwealth's CFO... or not, depending on when you ask), elected statewide not once but twice as a doctrinaire Democrat. The ones who probably missed his support of last year's 25% sales tax hike, or his opposition in February to an income tax cut (which switched suddenly to support a mere two weeks later, undoubtedly after a vigorous "10 things a conservative would never say" session with the hired guns). The ones who might not have seen the multiple investigative reports printed lately, clearly illustrating just how steeped in the Beacon Hill culture of incumbency Treasurer Cahill has become over those two terms - to the point where he's a local and even a national poster boy for greasy, pay-to-play government.

The "party activists and diehards," people willing to give up a springtime Saturday to convene in the bowels of Worcester's DCU Center, are not such people. Nor the Tea Party activists Cahill tried briefly to court earlier this week. These voters pay attention. They know the difference between the real deal and an opportunistic pretender. Also, not incidentally, such voters understand the critical importance of a viable Cahill candidacy to Deval Patrick's fleeting reelection hopes. As respected pollster David Paleologos told the AP today, "The magic number for Deval Patrick is that he really needs Tim Cahill to be polling above 20 percent." These are voters who pay attention - pretty much by definition a waste of Tim Cahill's time as he tries to reinvent himself with consultant-crafted rhetoric and "independent" emblazoned campaign paraphernalia.

Interestingly enough, Tim Cahill will not be the only candidate in Worcester this weekend hoping the large congregation of Republicans will come down with a sudden case of collective amnesia. The increasingly mercurial Christy Mihos will be there too, trying his energetic best to convince delegates to set aside their clear memories of Christy Mihos circa 2006, when he bolted the party to spend the better part of a year bashing Kerry Healey and ingratiating himself, often cringe-inducingly, to Deval Patrick. He's hoping the delegates forget his infamous cartoon ad. He's hoping they forget the debate when he told the moderator that he would vote for Deval Patrick. He is hoping they forget that when it comes to ego, opportunism, and quixotic political questing, he set the gold standard long before Tim Cahill decided to shed his "D" coveralls to try on an "I" leisure suit.

Here's betting that before the weekend is out, both Cahill and Mihos learn that engaged conservative voters do not forget (nor forgive) nearly so quickly as they'd like.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The wages of "Yes We Can!"

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce is out with its annual survey of nationwide business tax rates. As reported by the Boston Herald, the results for Massachusetts are hardly surprising:

Massachusetts has the eighth highest corporate tax burden in the country, according to a new survey.

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce released its annual “competitive scorecard” for the state - and the results weren’t good.

The state’s corporate tax burden was 39 percent higher than the national average last year, the chamber said.

So we have the eighth highest corporate tax burden in the nation... meaning that fully forty-two of our sister states have a leg up on us right out of the gate when angling to attract new employers - or seeking to coax the companies we still have to abandon us for friendlier business climes. Worse, it isn't like the margin is negligible; we're thirty-nine percent above the national average.

And that's just the corporate tax rate. We also have a hard time attracting employers to the Commonwealth because, corporate taxes aside, you may have noticed the cost of living around here ain't exactly cheap... and on that measure things are getting worse too.

For years Massachusetts has been able to attract new businesses and investment by our existing companies by touting our human capital. We have Harvard. We have MIT. We churn out some of the most educated people in the world, in the very economic sectors (biotech, communications, green energy) on which the nation is increasingly staking its economic future.

The trouble is, those highly educated young people we are churning out of our world-class universities are churning themselves right out of the state to an alarming degree. Why? Because, as Charlie Baker has been heard to observe on the stump, when they look around and ponder their futures, these kids no longer see opportunity here in Massachusetts. They cannot afford to stay. The employers for whom they want to work are not expanding here - much less relocating here from somewhere else.

None of this ought to be surprising. The Patrick Administration and its allies in the Democrat machine-dominated legislature have raised taxes on the Commonwealth's employers by a whopping $2 billion plus as the recession here deepened and the state continued to shed jobs. That is why on the Boston Chamber's annual index we are moving in the wrong direction, and picking up speed. For all their talk about focusing on "creating jobs," their actions have had precisely the opposite effect. Tax hikes on business discourage expansion and cost jobs, period.

The fascinating thing about all of this, to me, is that by their actions in other areas the people making these terrible decisions demonstrate that they are fully aware of that fundamental truth. When the Governor wants to attract investment in the Commonwealth by some favored economic sector - like green energy or biotech or the film industry - what does he do? He works with the legislature to authorize and fund hundreds of millions in tax incentives - tax breaks - to woo those favored companies. In so doing, they concede the logic above: tax breaks attract and encourage investment and job creation. Tax hikes, then, must inevitably have the opposite effect. And they do.

Somehow that logic is abandoned or denied, however, when it comes to the enormous tax hikes on employers that keep emanating from Beacon Hill.

This is what we bought in 2006 when we elected a governor whose record and rhetoric strongly warned of antipathy to free enterprise and a penchant for classic liberal tax-and-spend governance. This is what our brethren nationwide bought in 2008 when we elected Yes We Can 2.0 to the presidency. In both cases, voters intoxicated with the atmospherics surrounding two very skilled, ground-breaking politicians ignored obvious warning signs.

In Massachusetts the wages of "Yes We Can!" started coming due a couple of years ago. As today's Chamber survey results indicate, we're not yet done paying up.

Friday, April 2, 2010

DeLeo channels Pelosi

So having deigned to hold off a committee vote on his new casino bill until after said bill was released to the public, Massachusetts House Speaker Bob DeLeo has apparently decided that tiny little sliver of openness is all the public deserves on this issue of tremendous significance to the Commonwealth and immense public interest. He is choosing to go the Pelosi route and ram the legislation through.

Under the headline, "Casino bill won't get public hearing," the Globe reports this morning,
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said yesterday that he would not hold a public hearing on his 172-page bill to license two resort casinos in Massachusetts and slot machines at the state’s four racetracks before moving the measure to the House floor for a vote the week after next.
For the first time in a while I find myself in complete agreement with Governor Patrick, who criticized the Speaker's heavy-handed move, saying, "we should do our work here out in the open. We should have a hearing and let people make their case."

Not only is Speaker DeLeo shutting the doors on a very engaged and motivated public opposition to casino gaming, he's reverting to classic Beacon Hill form and breaking out the cudgels. Again from the Globe,

DeLeo is hoping to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override a possible veto by Patrick, who opposes slots at the tracks. For the first time since he became speaker early last year, DeLeo has ordered his leadership team to not only poll members on the bill, but to push them on it as well, legislators said.

“The speaker is making it clear that he wants people to vote for this bill,’’ said one lawmaker, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. “We’re not going to think about much else until this is over.’’

Any of that sound familiar? Hey, it just worked in DC, DeLeo must figure. And for a more controversial bill at that. Since the Massachusetts legislative Democrats practically invented the procedural and parliamentary steamrolling on display in Congress last month, why not go another round here and show those amateurs in DC how it's done?

This is a shame. A decision to allow casino gaming in Massachusetts, and all that goes along with it, is a big deal. It may well be the case that the public wants casinos. If that is the case, then Speaker DeLeo ought not to fear making his case openly and publicly, nor allowing the vocal and passionate opposition the same opportunity. DeLeo and his allies should take the time to convince opponents that the economic activity that they say will come with casino gaming - in construction, in tourism - is based on more than self-serving gaming industry projections. Opponents should be given the time to demonstrate to skeptical lawmakers that the notion of state limitation on the number of casinos built (an argument that is central to DeLeo's bill) is a legal fiction. This debate would and should take some time.

Instead, DeLeo will twist arms for a week and then force a vote.

In related news, there are now just 214 days until Election Day.