Boston Globe Avoids Party ID of Lobbyist Ex-Congressman as He Cashes In

Wow, that was one heckuva mauling by the Boston Globe yesterday in a front-page story about Bill Delahunt, a former Bay State congressman raking in big bucks as a lobbyist and political consultant since leaving Congress three years ago.

But conspicuously absent from the story, written by Globe reporter Stephanie Ebbert, is a word that comes to mind for many a politico in this overly politicized part of the country when Delahunt's name is bandied in conversation -- Democrat.

Surely that's going to be mentioned somewhere in such a lengthy hit piece, I thought, one running 51 paragraphs and given great placement out front above the fold.

Not finding any mention of Delahunt's party affiliation in my first run through the story, I waded through a second time. Ah, here's something! While the word "Democrat" remained absent once again, I did find a paragraph -- number 41, but who's counting? -- that at least implied Delahunt's party allegiance -- "That year (1995), a Republican opponent accused Delahunt of carrying on a 'lavish lifestyle' that included billing his campaign for $100,000 in meals and vacationing at a Jamaican 'sex resort.' "

Then again, one could read that paragraph and wonder if Delahunt was running as a Green Party candidate and not as a Democrat, which wouldn't be far off the mark but with a different notion of "green."

Yet when it came to the juicy stuff, the sex resort was the least of it, which is why I recommend this story as a case study of what can happen after politicians leave Congress, insert their snouts in the trough, and inhale deeply.

With his time left in Congress down to a few weeks, according to the Globe, Delahunt appeared at a crowded public meeting in Quincy, a city just south of Boston, and urged "swift action" on a billion-dollar plus overhaul of the city center.

"A year and nine days later, he was consulting on a project for Quincy, with a contract paying him $90,000 a year," the Globe reports.

Based on the story, Delahunt clearly took umbrage at any suggestion he was cashing in on his political influence after a career in Congress that spanned seven terms.

"It's not about the money -- not at my age," Delahunt told the Globe in a "brief" interview (translation: "testy"). "It's about staying engaged in policies that I had been involved in when I was in Congress and as district attorney."

One of the policies Delahunt was most keenly involved in while in Congress was fighting a 130-turbine wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, the Cape Wind project (Full disclosure: I worked as media adviser to the pro-wind farm, Cape Cod-based Clean Power Now group in 2006 and blogged frequently on the subject at Capecodtoday.com).

Delahunt appeared indifferent to the project after it was first proposed in 2001 (that's right -- it's still in the permitting pipeline 13 years later), but then came out vociferously against it -- after Sen. Ted Kennedy announced his adamant opposition. Cape Wind's turbines would be visible from several miles away at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport and Kennedy didn't want them sullying his view.

Flash forward to Delahunt's post-congressional career and now he's trying to get an offshore wind farm built off Hull, a small town across the water from Boston. "Delahunt had won a $90,000 six-month consulting contract to find a company interested in testing wind turbines off the coast of Hull," the Globe reports. "The deal blew up after news broke that Delahunt's payment would come from federal earmarks he alone sponsored during his last two years in office -- an arrangement that one government watchdog called a 'self-made golden parachute.' "

But hey, it's not about the money, as Delahunt likes to remind us.

Delahunt has also received nearly $500,000 to lobby for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Cape Cod, which hopes to build a casino in Taunton. Alas, a 2009 Supreme Court ruling has "entangled the process," according to the Globe, "and the tribe's chances currently appear slim." 

So even though the tribe spent nearly half a million bucks on what looks like a losing pony, its jockey claims it was chump change anyway. "I'm not being paid that much money" by the Wampanoag, Delahunt told the Globe, thereby establishing he doesn't believe $500,000 constitutes "much money," as you'd expect of any Democrat after more than a decade in Congress.

Yet another example of Delahunt's pronounced indifference to financial gain comes in his involvement with a medical marijuana dispensary, one of three to receive 20 provisional licenses from the state. "Delahunt was due to earn  $250,000 as chief executive of the medical marijuana venture," the Globe reports, "and was a manager in a separate management company that would claim 50 percent of revenues -- more than $24 million during the first three years, based on the company's projections."

Once more, with feeling ... it's not about the money!

After "controversy erupted" about the unusually lucrative arrangement -- from pot sales by a former district attorney, no less -- Delahunt resigned from the board. He told the Globe he's no longer an investor in the company and won't take a salary as its chief executive for "the first two years of operation." You can do that sort of thing when it's not about the money.

None of this comes as a shock to longtime Delahunt watchers, who recall that he pushed for legislation nearly 20 years ago while Norfolk County district attorney that would let prosecutors retire at age 55 with full pay. "At 55, he became the first to take advantage of the new benefit," the Globe reports, "on the same day he entered Congress."

Even then, it clearly wasn't about the money to Delahunt. Give the man credit for consistency.

In fairness to the Globe, perhaps the reporter and editors who worked on the story believed readers would automatically assume Delahunt was a Democrat. After all, both of the state's US senators are Dems, as are all nine House members, all six of the state's constitutional offices, and more than three-quarters of the Legislature.

The story was hardly flattering to Delahunt. Stating explicitly and high up that's he's a Democrat risked being unflattering to the party.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts