Tag Archives: John Tierney

Tierney, Tisei and a defense of party-line voting

John Tierney

We all live in Nate Silver’s world, so there were no real surprises on Election Day. Except one: Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei’s failure to topple U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat who was up to his neck in family trouble.

I was stunned that Tierney had prevailed. So, apparently, was Tisei, who was confident enough of victory to run a non-ad ad toward the end of the campaign showing nothing but a tranquil seascape. “That was lovely, but ultimately a waste of money,” writes Marjorie Arons-Barron. “Better he told voters why in a Republican-held Congress he could do more for them.”

Maybe better he didn’t.

As for whether Libertarian Party candidate Dan Fishman cost Tisei the election, I agree with Arons-Barron that Fishman probably drew a lot of support from Democrats who were turned off by the ethics cloud enveloping Tierney and who otherwise would have blanked it.

So what happened? Clearly Tierney benefitted from a party-line vote. You will find a lot of people who think that’s mindless. I think it’s pretty smart.

The culture on Capitol Hill these days does not encourage independence. Tisei, whom I first met in the 1980s when I was a reporter for The Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn, is a great guy and a true moderate, despite Democratic efforts to tag him as a tea party ally. But if he’d been elected, his first act would have been to vote for John Boehner as speaker. And you can be sure he would have voted with the Republican House majority most of the time on the issues that really matter — principally taxes and spending.

Tierney, who lacks Tisei’s personal warmth, has nevertheless been a reliable ally of the Democratic House minority. He voted for the Affordable Care Act, which Tisei said he opposed, even though as a state senator he supported Gov. Mitt Romney’s nearly identical Massachusetts version. And Tierney is a traditional Democrat when it comes to taxing the wealthy and preserving the social safety net. Those are values that voters in Massachusetts and across the country upheld this week.

It should also not go unmentioned that Tierney himself has not been credibly tied to his in-laws’ illegal gambling activities, even though his wife, Patrice Tierney, served a month in prison for her role. (I think the tale of Tierney and his in-laws is sufficiently convoluted to warrant the triple negative.)

People should vote their values and their interests. In the case of Tierney and Tisei, that’s what they did this week.

Photo (cc) by the Center for American Progress and republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

What’s at stake in the Tierney-Tisei race

Richard Tisei

As David Filipov puts it in his front-page Boston Globe story today, “It was a good week to be Richard R. Tisei.”

Indeed. U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, is in meltdown mode over claims by two of his brothers-in-law that he was well aware of the family’s illegal gambling enterprises. The story was broken on Thursday by Julie Manganis of the Salem News, who reported that Daniel Eremian fingered the congressman just after receiving a three-year federal prison sentence. On Saturday, the Globe’s Michael Levenson got a second brother-in-law, Robert Eremian, to whack Tierney.

Tierney is scheduled to meet with reporters later today to say once again that they’re lying. Could be a tense Fourth of July cookout for the Tierney-Eremian clan tomorrow.

But it’s still too early to know whether Tisei, a Wakefield Republican, former state senator and Charlie Baker’s running mate in the 2010 gubernatorial election, will be able to capitalize on Tierney’s woes.

Tisei is a moderate and a genuinely nice guy. I covered him in the 1980s when he was beginning his political career and I was a reporter for the Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn. Back then, reform-minded Republicans like Tisei were occasionally able to work with Democrats and have an effect in the Legislature. Those days are long gone.

I ran into Tisei at the town pancake breakfast in Danvers this past March. Same guy — personable, greeting everyone. He seemed to be having a good time. Obviously he is an enormous improvement over William Hudak, the extreme right-winger who ran against Tierney in 2010. As an openly gay man, Tisei will not be able to excite the social-conservative crowd; but that’s a crowd that you could fit into the phone booth these days. (For you young’uns, this a phone booth.)

I also covered Tierney’s congressional campaign for the Boston Phoenix in 1996, when he unseated Republican incumbent Peter Torkildsen two years after losing to him. Tierney has always struck me as sharp and quick, if not especially warm.

The question is, do such atmospherics matter, and will Tisei be able to take advantage of Tierney’s troubles? The U.S. House of Representatives, more than any other elective office, is an institution where the color of your jersey matters more than who you are.

If elected, the first thing Tisei is going to do next January is vote for John Boehner as House speaker. Last Thursday, Tisei popped up on NPR to say that, yes, he voted in favor of Romneycare, but that he would vote to repeal Obamacare because, well, you know.

We all wish it were otherwise, but party identification is very close to the only thing that matters in Congress. I suggest that folks in the Sixth District figure out where Tierney and Tisei stand on the issues that matter to them and vote accordingly. You’re choosing how you wish to be governed — not whom you want living next door.

Hudak’s new venture hits an amusing snag

Blast from the past: the Hudakmobile, circa 2009

Far-right Republican politico William Hudak’s recent announcement that he was abandoning a congressional race in order to get involved in a multi-level marketing operation was amusing enough. But the comedy factor increased exponentially Tuesday when Julie Manganis reported in the Salem News that Hudak’s new business partner had pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution.

Albert Muir and his then-wife, Manganis writes, ran a “health spa” in Branford, Conn., called Marlow’s, which was shut down by authorities in late 2009. Muir, who is also described as a professional poker player, is serving a five-year suspended sentence. He told the News that he pleaded guilty because he was afraid his then-wife, who was seeking a divorce, would send him up the river.

Here is Marcia Chambers’ Branford Eagle account of the police raid of Dec. 2, 2009, which came about in part because Marlow’s openly advertised its services on Craigslist. Chambers reported that police considered the spa to be “a full-scale prostitution ring.” Muir’s then-wife, Jazmin Benavides, is named in the article, but Muir is not, although Mark Zaretsky of the New Haven Register identified Muir as the co-owner. Chambers told me by email yesterday that Muir was arrested and charged in March 2010 after police conducted a follow-up investigation.

Hudak says he didn’t know nothin’ about nothin’. As Manganis notes, Hudak made much of the legal woes facing Democratic congressman John Tierney’s family when he ran against him two years ago. Tierney’s wife, Patrice Tierney, ended up doing time for her role in what federal authorities described as an offshore money-laundering operation run by her brother. But Hudak tells the News that “I think you’re really stretching” when he was asked whether he should have known about his new BFF’s legal woes.

When Hudak ran against Tierney in 2010, he achieved notoriety for putting up posters on his Boxford property comparing then-candidate Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden and for questioning whether Obama was born in the United States — although he denied that he actually believed Obama was not an American citizen.

Hudak also claimed the day after Scott Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley in the 2010 U.S. Senate special election that Brown had endorsed him in the Republican primary. Brown’s office denied it, but then endorsed Hudak over Tierney that fall.

Unfortunately for Tierney, he won’t get to run against Hudak again. This time, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination is former state senator Richard Tisei of Wakefield, who was Charlie Baker’s running mate in the gubernatorial election in 2010.

Tisei is a smart, personable moderate. Combined with Tierney’s family issues, the North Shore probably represents the Republicans’ best chance to pick up a congressional seat in Massachusetts this fall.

Brown endorses Hudak, a man he once shunned

Scott Brown

Nine months after just-elected U.S. Sen. Scott Brown scrambled to disassociate himself from extremist Republican congressional candidate William Hudak, Brown has endorsed Hudak as part of a blanket endorsement of all nine Republicans running for the U.S. House from Massachusetts.

You may recall that, last January, Hudak put out a press release touting Brown’s endorsement — and that after Media Nation reminded folks of some of Hudak’s antics, including questioning Barack Obama’s citizenship and putting a poster on his property comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden, the Brown camp quickly disavowed the endorsement. Hudak eventually apologized to Brown, but insisted, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, that he has never held birther views.

Hudak, a Boxford lawyer, is challenging U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat.

Brown, in today’s announcement, also says that he’s contributing $1,000 to each of the nine candidates. He says nothing specific about Hudak or anyone else. It’s really just a matter of a Republican senator routinely endorsing his party’s nominees. Still, it’s an amusing coda to a long-simmering controversy.

In other Hudak-related news, the National Republican Congressional Committee has announced that it now considers Hudak to be “On the Radar” — a sign that Republicans believe Tierney may be vulnerable now that his wife, Patrice Tierney, has pled guilty to federal tax-fraud charges. And perhaps he is.

Tierney and Hudak will meet tonight at 7:30 in a debate sponsored by the Salem News and the Jewish Journal. Should be a wild time.

Tierney versus Hudak on Fox 25

U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, faced off against his Republican challenger, William Hudak of Boxford, in a nine-minute debate last night on WFXT-TV (Channel 25).

As you will see, Tierney was sharp and focused, but so rude that he may have done himself more harm than good. I know he’s had a bad week, but I’ve seen Tierney behave this way in the past.

If Tierney had kept quiet for a minute or two, viewers might have noticed that Hudak was shooting blanks.

Tim Cahill’s wacky yet serious lawsuit

Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill’s lawsuit against his former political consultants is the craziest Massachusetts political story since — oh, since U.S. Rep. John Tierney’s wife pled guilty to federal tax-fraud charges involving her rambling, gambling brother who’s holed up in Antigua. Since Suzanne Bump thought she had two principal residences. Since —

Well, you get the idea. It’s been a nutty week. And the temptation is to make fun of Cahill, the state treasurer who’s mounting a hopeless independent campaign for governor. It’s as though he’s trying to outlaw politics as usual.

But let’s let this play out a bit, shall we? There are two competing explanations for what’s behind the suit, and I’m not sure we can say which is more credible at this point. Cahill is claiming dirty tricks on Republican candidate Charlie Baker’s behalf by people who were on his payroll. Cahill wants to stop the turncoats from giving confidential campaign documents to Baker, which is reasonable, even if it adds to his reputation as a figure of fun.

The Republicans, meanwhile, argue that Cahill is trying to stop the disclosure of possible wrongdoing such as the use of state employees on his campaign.

Well, now. Couldn’t both be true? If the ex-Cahill folks have proprietary knowledge of such wrongdoing, they have no business bringing it to Baker. If they think it was actually illegal, then they should take their information to prosecutors. Otherwise, they cashed their checks and they should shut up.

At times like these, I turn to one of my favorite political pundits, the Outraged Liberal, who observes: “The only winner in this bizarre but entertaining tale of political intrigue is Deval Patrick, which is obvious in the silence out of his campaign.”

Indeed, Patrick has proved to be incredibly resilient during this campaign. An unpopular incumbent in a bad year for Democrats, Patrick has run slightly ahead of Baker, long seen as the Republicans’ best hope, all year.

I still think it’s going to be difficult for Patrick actually to win re-election. But he has been surprisingly lucky in his opposition.

For Democrats, a couple of taxing situations

When the word came down Tuesday night that Patrice Tierney, wife of U.S. Rep. John Tierney, would plead guilty to federal tax-fraud charges, many of us political junkies were dumbstruck. With exotic elements like $7 million in illicit foreign gambling profits and a ne’er-do-well brother holed up in Antigua, it was not your typical political scandal.

Today’s news that Suzanne Bump, the Democratic candidate for state auditor, has tax problems of her own may prove to be more important come Election Day. More about that in a moment. First, back to the Tierneys.

Republicans and the media are both calling on Tierney, a Salem Democrat, to reveal what he knew and when he knew it with regard to his wife’s tax woes. They’re absolutely right. As soon as possible, Tierney should sit down for a wide-ranging news conference and answer any and all questions. And woe be to him if any of those answers turn out to fall short of full disclosure.

But the media have an independent role here, too, and I hope they are working on it even as I write this. For me, the big question is whether the Tierney scandal resulted in any taxes being unpaid. It would appear that it did not.

Based on the stories I’ve seen, it seems that Patrice Tierney’s crime consisted of accurately reporting her brother’s income, but labeling it as legal commissions rather than as ill-gotten gains. Congressman Tierney said in a statement that “there are not any allegations of any income-tax loss to the government.” Nor are federal prosecutors seeking any sort of restitution. Along with the question of the congressman’s involvement, that is the big issue the media should be investigating.

Will this endanger Tierney’s re-election prospects? Put it this way: North Shore Republicans are eating their collective heart out that their candidate isn’t Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins or former congressman Peter Torkildsen, whom Tierney defeated in 1996.

Instead, Tierney is facing William Hudak, an extremist who has compared President Obama to Osama bin Laden and who has flirted with the birther movement, which believes Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is thus ineligible to serve as president. For good measure, Hudak’s campaign wrongly claimed last winter that U.S. Sen. Scott Brown had endorsed him.

Unless there are more Tierney-related bombshells, it is still difficult to imagine a Hudak victory.

The Bump matter, though it does not involve anything as spectacular as federal charges and foreign intrigue, is likely to have a more deleterious effect on her campaign for state auditor. A veteran political figure who most recently served in Gov. Deval Patrick’s cabinet, she was caught claiming both Great Barrington and Boston as her principal residence, saving more than $6,000 in Boston property taxes.

The story, which appears on the front page of today’s Globe, was reported by my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson’s students. Bump insists she did nothing wrong, but the state Department of Revenue says otherwise.

The difference between Bump and Tierney is that Bump’s actions, whether legal or not, definitely cost taxpayers. They raise serious questions about her ability to act as a watchdog over how state agencies spend our money.

What’s more, the Republican candidate, Mary Z. Connaughton, is credible and visible. As a former member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, she was an outspoken advocate for cracking down on runaway spending at the Big Dig. Moreover, if it looks like Democrats are going to do well on Nov. 2 (no sure thing), a lot of voters — even Democrats — may want to elect a Republican to keep an eye on the books.

The paradox of the Tierney and Bump stories is that the more serious matter is less likely to have an effect on the election. More broadly, though, both stories put Democrats on the defensive at a time when they can least afford it.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.