You would have thought that WRKO Radio (AM 680) talk-show host Tom Finneran had learned from his last go-round. Less than three months ago, Finneran was lambasted for signing up to be a lobbyist for the state troopers union. He quickly backed off.
Now, though, Finneran, a former Massachusetts House speaker, has officially registered as a lobbyist, according to the Herald’s Jessica Heslam, and has taken on the Liquor Liability Joint Underwriting Association of Massachusetts as a client. If that sounds a little too obscure to worry about, just consider that Finneran’s new best friends will be very interested whenever there’s talk of new laws regarding underage drinking, drunken driving, liability insurance and the like. According to the organization’s Web site:
LLJUA is a liquor liability insurer of last-resort. To be eligible for coverage from LLJUA, the business owner has to be turned down for coverage in the voluntary market. LLJUA’s liquor liability insurance is available for owners of taverns, hotels, restaurants, social clubs, package stores, caterers and other businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.
So, let’s see. A man staggers out of a bar, wraps his car around a telephone pole and is seriously injured. His family sues the bar, claiming the bartender should have known he was drunk and refused to serve him. Finneran the talk-show host rails against the suit, claiming that the driver should take responsibility for his actions and that tort reform is needed to prevent such frivolous lawsuits. And Finneran the lobbyist pockets another check from the organization that stands to benefit from such “reform.” Got it.
My Northeastern colleague Steve Burgard is rightly appalled (I’m thinking of renaming this blog “Husky Nation”), telling the Globe’s Carolyn Johnson, “For a serious news organization, it would be unthinkable.” Hosting a talk show may not be journalism, but it’s an activity with many resemblances to journalism. Finneran doesn’t owe his tiny band of listeners much, but he does owe them his independence.
You’d like to think that when Finneran’s expressing his opinion in his tortured, rococo syntax that his opinion isn’t bought and paid for. But it is. He should be gone. And perhaps he will be — the Herald account suggests that WRKO management is none too happy about this.
More: The Outraged Liberal has further thoughts.