According to the indictment, Sal DiMasi deliberately, knowingly, accepted -- nay, demanded -- thousands of dollars in payments from a company in exchange for DiMasi doing their bidding with the state government. So, I'm not sure why the word "bribe" hasn't yet appeared, in the indictment, in the US Attorney's press release, in the US Attorney's press conference, and in the media reports. It seems to me that the word was used early and often with Dianne Wilkerson, and the only differences I can see in the allegations are that A) there was a lot more at stake in this one, as befits the power DiMasi wielded; and B) DiMasi was sophisticated enough to use a bag man.
A little over a year ago, shortly before the allegations started hitting that have ultimately led to today's ugly indictment -- I wrote a big cover story about how Sal DiMasi ran the House of Representatives as Speaker. I highly recommend reading it, mostly because it makes me look awfully damn good, but also because it paints you a picture of what type of culture has to be in place to allow this kind of corruption to allegedly take place. The piece was titled "DiMasi's Sheep," because through a combination of his leadership skills and his colleagues' quiet acquiescence, Speaker DiMasi was basically allowed to do whatever he wanted without question.
As if to prove my point, those same legislators defended DiMasi all along the line; even defending his claim that he shouldn't have to show anybody -- anybody, even them -- documents that might prove or disprove his involvement in naughty things he was claiming to have been uninvolved with.
Legislators and other Beacon Hill veterans will tell you (as they have told me, many times) that if a pol is pushing you for something -- say, if Dianne Wilkerson is pushing levers and pulling strings to get a liquor license -- then as a legislator you have to assume that they are doing so for a valid reason. How can you know if they're doing it for crooked motives?
And I have this conversation all the time, where I suggest that if you let the wheels of government operate without public debate, discussion and justification, then you are facilitating crookedness.
Now, I'm not naive about government; I understand that much of it works -- has to work -- by pushing levers and pulling strings behind the scenes. And you can't always do full diligence about the reasons behind every lever-push request.
But there have to be limits. And sometimes, you have to ask questions.
Take a look back at my article two years ago about Therese Murray's exhaustive lever-pushing, in which, as I put it, Murray "appears to have personally directed $11 million of taxpayer money to a man who had been caught bilking the state before."
I didn't know then, and I don't know today, what Murray's motivation was for doing that. Neither did anybody in the state legislature who let her do it. And nobody found out from her after my article came out. The attitude seemed to be: if we don't have evidence in front of us that it was done for direct payment, then we really don't need to know what the reason was.
That same attitude has prevailed among most Beacon Hill Democrats about DiMasi right up until today, when we were in fact given evidence that it was done for direct payment. Just last week, in fact, I groused (among other grouses) that legislators had still never called for DiMasi's documentation to be released. No legislators responded to my point. We'll see how they respond to today's news.