Name That Party: MA Speaker's 'Pal' Indicted

AP logoAssociated Press writer Glen Johnson's story on the indictment of a close friend of Salvatore DiMasi, Massachusetts's Democratic Speaker of the House, is the latest in a long line of fairly long stories about Democratic politicians in trouble that fails to identify their party affiliation.

The story names a half-dozen politicians, all of whom are Democrats, without identifying the party of any of them. No variation of the word "Democrat" appears anywhere.

Here are selected paragraphs from Johnson's story:

Allegations swirl around Mass. House speaker, as friend charged with lobbying violations

A close friend of the Massachusetts House speaker was charged Thursday with concealing work as a lobbyist while having direct contact with the speaker — the first formal charges tying the speaker to allegations he has used his office to help friends.

Richard Vitale, a former accountant for House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, was paid $60,000 in lobbying fees by ticket brokers interested in changing the state's scalping laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley said. Without disclosing his lobbyist status, Vitale communicated directly with DiMasi and his top lieutenant, Speaker Pro Tempore Thomas Petrolati, before the House passed the bill last year — a violation of lobbying laws, she said.

While the bill, which lifted restrictions on price markups by ticket brokers, did not pass the state Senate and will expire early next month, Coakley said alleged efforts around it — including clandestine meetings, messages sent by courier and Vitale's use of DiMasi's private e-mail address — corrupted the legislative process.

..... The Speaker repayed an unusual $250,000 third mortgage he received from Vitale on his North End condominium after the loan was disclosed by The Boston Globe.

On Wednesday, the Globe reported that a federal grand jury is investigating the state's awarding of a $13 million computer software contract to Cognos ULC, a Burlington firm that made payments — some undisclosed — to friends of DiMasi.

Gov. Deval Patrick's administration ended up canceling the contract.

DiMasi also has denied wrongdoing in that case, but the set of allegations and steady stream of stories about them have created political problems for the speaker. Two of his lieutenants, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Robert DeLeo and House Majority Leader John Rogers, have been openly competing for support to succeed DiMasi should he step down.

The headline in the story as carried at AP's feed identifies Vitale as a "pal" of DiMasi.

Here is a list of the politicians not identified as Democrats:

  • DiMasi
  • Thomas Petrolati
  • Attorney General Martha Coakley
  • Robert DeLeo
  • John Rogers
  • Governor Deval Patrick

Because this story went out over the national wires (note that the opening link is from the Los Angeles Times), the argument that "everybody knows" that a Massachusetts politician whose party isn't identified is a Democrat doesn't, or shouldn't, fly.

The Bay State's most visible state politician i.e., the governor, was a Republican for 16 years (1991-2007) until Patrick took office. The most recent of them, Republican Mitt Romney, competed for the presidential nomination until early this year, and made some headlines during GOP nominee John McCain's campaign.

It was Johnson's responsibility to inform his readers somewhere, anywhere, in his story that he was writing about a Democrat in trouble. As is usually the case with AP writers, he failed.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.