Romney's pit bull

Eric Fehrnstrom, the traveling press secretary for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, is best known for his recent verbal tussle with AP reporter Glen Johnson, which erupted after Johnson challenged Romney's statement that lobbyists weren't running his campaign.

As it happens, Fehrnstrom, who is profiled this week by my Boston Phoenix colleague Adam Reilly, graduated ahead of me from BU, and we crossed paths a few times back when he was reporting for the Boston Herald. In particular, I remember giving him a ride to work one day after he had returned from a reporting trip to Haiti, and we talked about the dramatic case of Ted Jeffrey Otsuki, who became the subject of a manhunt after opening fire with a 9mm pistol on a Boston police officer in a Back Bay alley.

Anyway, Reilly makes some interesting points on the relationship between Romney and Fehrnstrom, who could be expected to play a high-level role -- and to be even more aggresive with the press -- if the former Bay State governor wins the presidency:

A controversy toward the close of Romney’s gubernatorial term made much the same point. In November 2006, the Globe reported that Romney had appointed Fehrnstrom to the Brookline Housing Authority. The posting itself wasn’t lucrative (it paid only $5000 annually), but it would have made Fehrnstrom eligible for a state pension when he reached retirement age. And given his salary history — at the time, Fehrnstrom reportedly was making $160,000 — that pension would have been a whopper. (In Massachusetts, pensions are set by the recipients’ three highest earning years.)

Given Romney’s carefully cultivated image as a Beacon Hill reformer, the story was catnip to the press. Romney defended the appointment, saying that Fehrnstrom’s future pension gains were a nonissue. But Fehrnstrom gave it up two days later, saying he wanted to protect Romney from “unwarranted political attacks.” Still, the fact remains: by giving Fehrnstrom such a high-profile role in his presidential campaign, Romney is practically goading his rivals — and the press — to subject his “reformer” persona to further scrutiny.

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