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The Herald gets amnesia

 

Today's Herald cover story, by Dave Wedge, makes a convincing case that there are some bad dudes working in the government-subsidizied Massachusetts film industry. But it provides an awfully spotty history of how these bad dudes came to benefit from the Commonwealth's largesse.

First, let's take a look at the Herald's description of the nature and origins of the problem:

A Herald probe matched criminal records to the names of nearly a dozen Teamsters who drove stars and crew on the set-in-Boston Bruce Willis flick “The Surrogates” this summer, among them an armored car thief, a murderer-turned-accused rapist and various thugs, including a Hells Angel identified by law enforcement sources.

The cop drama, like other movies shot in the Bay State since 2007, received generous film industry tax breaks championed by Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray. [emph. added]

 In an accompanying sidebar, Wedge zeroes in on Patrick specifically:

After [ex-Local 25 Teamsters boss George Cashman] was sent to federal prison [in 2003] in the culmination of a federal probe into Teamster Local 25 shakedowns and intimidation, most major studio heads vowed never again to do business in Boston.

But Gov. Deval Patrick lured back the industry with generous tax breaks, resulting in several recent big-budget productions, including Martin Scorcese's "Ashcliffe," the Bruce Willis cop drama "The Surrogates" and "Edge of Darkness," starring Mel Gibson.

Now, Wedge is right to mention Patrick. In May 2007, the governor signed expanded tax breaks for movie and TV production into law. But the key word, as you may have guessed, is "expanded. What Wedge fails to tell readers is that these industry-friendly tax breaks were first signed into law in 2005, by then-Governor Mitt Romney. (Here's the press release.)

Also worth noting: the Herald editorial page was a huge fan of these breaks when they were first being discussed. In April 2005, for example, the paper urged the state to become Hollywood-friendly in an editorial titled "Pass a tax break, pass the popcorn." And in July '05, after the House passed its version of pro-industry legislation, the Herald cheered the development in another editorial, "Making movies in Mass.":

Massachusetts has produced its share of movie stars--paging Matt and Ben--and seen quality films made here.

But the Bay State is trailing the pack in offering incentives to film companies shopping their productions around. More than 30 other states already make it cheaper for Hollywood to do business in their back yards. With stars in their eyes, the House yesterday took the first step. The Senate should quickly follow suit and get this bill--with its payroll tax credits, sales tax exemptions, and production tax credits--on the desk of our tax-cutting governor.

In short: if you're incensed that ex-con Teamsters are making big bucks on "taxpayer-subsidized movie sets" (to use Wedge's phrase), there's plenty of blame to go around.

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