By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Appointment viewing

You have got to watch Herald reporter Dave Wedge chasing state Rep. Thomas Petrolati up the stairs at the Statehouse. Actually, you can’t see Wedge, as he’s the guy holding the camera. “You don’t have money from Frank Colantoni in your campaign account?” Priceless.

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  1. Guy

    The video is priceless. But I don’t get the point of the story. Are we supposed to be outraged that some convicted felons made campaign donations to state politicians? Are we supposed to be mad at the felons? The politicians? I just don’t get it. Do you?

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Guy: The story makes it clear that there are politicians who scrub their list of contributors pretty carefully and return money from dubious characters. Petrolati reportedly doesn’t do that. Read Pam Wilmot’s comments in the story — I think that gets to the heart of it. I’m not saying this is a huge deal, but Petrolati has created an appearance problem for himself. And good grief, why didn’t he just stop and answer a couple of questions?

  3. Anonymous

    Great story. And great effort by the Herald. I would have liked more on why the donations were made, but it was a great start and the Herald deserves a big pat on the back for doing something more than just sitting around and waiting for the next handout. If you’ve ever been in the business, you know being aggressive like this brings a ton of pain with it. The disincentives to do this type of reporting are huge. You can be sure the Herald and Wedge will be punished for this, as leaks will start going to other papers and he’ll be the last to get callbacks for comments from friends of Petrolati and DiMasi. As for Petrolati running away, it was his best strategy. There’s nothing in it for him or DiMasi if people start hearing the typical Mass. legislator trying to string together a coherent sentence.

  4. Anonymous

    Not as priceless as Adrian Walker berating a Duxbury electric company exec who was tired of losing his, ahem, electricity. Not everyone is allowed “connections”, apparently.

  5. Anonymous

    EB3 That is good journalism. That is a story that needed to be told.These stinks like Deval’s book deal.Screw Petro. Shame on him. This is an unneeded black mark for Italian Americans and specifically Italian American politicians. Because he and Sal are Italian this has future repercussions. Subtle perhaps, but important. Perception is everything. Unfortunately it is stuff likes this makes all Italian pols look bad. And they are not.I can’t say the F word here, but on behalf of Italian Americans,Screw You Petro! You just screwed a lot of good people (Italian Americans) by acting like New Jersey Joe

  6. Peter Porcupine

    EB (and DK by extension) – Cheer up! LOTS of people have odd donations.For example – did you know that Barney Frank (as of a couple of weeks ago) hadn’t returned his campaign contributions from the family who owned the New Bedford business where the infamous ICE raids occured? Even though they are all now under indictment?

  7. Anonymous

    I don’t have a problem with the story, but I find the notion of newspaper reporters carrying around digital cameras to film their confrontations a bit, ah, unseemly. Do we really need to see this? Does it add anything to the story? A simple “Petrolati retreated to his office at the State House yesterday, ignoring questions about the donations” would have sufficed in my mind. Call me a dinosaur, I guess.

  8. Neil

    I’m with anon 4:12. The ambush shouldn’t be part of the story. In fact this story is all “meta” and little story. Dan says it’s no big deal, and Pam Wilmot’s objection is that although the contributions are legal, “they could pose a public relations problem for politicians”.That’s a double equivocation–it “could” pose a problem. What kind of problem? A “public relations” problem. As opposed to an actual problem. The public relations problem being that it “could” cause wisenheimer ambush-types to embarrass you if you don’t handle ambushes well. It’s self-referential and trite.It’s not bad. It doesn’t even look bad. It could look bad to you know, somebody. How about the guy convicted of lying on a loan application 18 years ago. Oh how unclean! And the bit about returning money from people who commit crimes in the future! Holy cow now it’s the time police.Felons did their time. (Excepting of course the future felons.) They should be able to give money to whomever they want. And they can. A politician can accept the money, and explain it if he likes, or not. The problem isn’t legal. I don’t see the “actual” problem.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Lots of dubious donations out there, agreed. Every one of them deserves some attention. It’s the video that makes this special.

  10. Anonymous

    EB3 hereWhat makes this so important is this.Whispers of Sal getting $$$ from someone to stop gambling. Petro Sal’s top guy.Petro from Springfield area.Springfield always controlled by New York mob. Real mob. Boston always controlled by Providence mob. They leave politicians alone.The person who use to stop expanded gambling in this state was former Rep. Tony Scabelli. Also from Springfield. He was very powerful at one time, then stayed on til a few years ago.People in the State House know all this. This story about Petro is much more that the usual donations from a few knuckleheads that campaign didn’t catch. Or. childhood friend and candidate says “big deal”. Joe DiNucci has a few of them. Not as many and none with reputations and records like Petro’s guys.It is the fact that it is Petro, this is Springfield (not boston) and casino gambling went down in flames.If wise guys paid politicians off on casinos more likely then not it came from Springfield. Meaning new York mob does not want casinos in Mass.That is why the is serious in the state House. A small fact that playus into a big picture with many questions. Why is Petro even involved with these guys. That is the BIG QUESTION.

  11. Anonymous

    Is it possible that some or many of these donations have happened before the person was convicted?If so, does that change the story in your view?

  12. Peter Porcupine

    Anon 10:29 – As someone who advises politicians about this, these are my guidelines:Never take money from people you know to be involved in shady dealing, even if you think everybody’s forgotten.As soon as anybody on your donor list is arrested/indicted, let alone convicted, return the donation with a note of regret – if possilble (like if the guy WASN’T behind the wheel with an open bottle of Chivas in his fist at the single car accident, or otherwise behaving like a…but I digress…). Explain that you still value their support, offer them best wishes in trying times, and explain that it is appearance alone which makes you take such an action, as you fully expect them to be exonerated. Say anything bad about the other party and the media that you like – but return the check.

  13. Anonymous

    PP,If Deval tightens CORI reporting on convicted felons, how will MA reps know how to vet their contributions? From their time spent “in the district”?

  14. Peter Porcupine

    Anon – every Rep. has access to the Court Report. SOMEBODY in their office should be reading the newspapers in the district!

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