DiMasi indictment reaction runs gamut in Dot caucus

For state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, it was a “sad day.” Rep. Brian Wallace described it to a reporter as “heart-wrenching.” And Rep. Willie Mae Allen declined comment altogether.

Lawmakers’ reactions to the indictment of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi ran the gamut, including others who said they felt a sense of betrayal and disappointment.

DiMasi pleaded not guilty this week to eight federal charges of corruption, with the U.S. Attorney’s office alleging that the North End Democrat and three associates – former accountant and close friend Richard Vitale, lobbyist Richard McDonough and software salesman Joseph Lally – conspired to assign a pair of software contracts in exchange for money.

DiMasi resigned in January, three weeks after House Democrats, including the all-Democratic Dorchester delegation, voted to keep him in the speaker’s chair. He became the third consecutive House speaker to be indicted. DiMasi’s predecessor, Thomas Finneran, a Mattapan Democrat, eventually pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction of justice in a case over his handling of a 2001 House redistricting plan.

The state Republican Party, with 21 lawmakers on Beacon Hill, vowed to make “household names” of the 135 House lawmakers who voted to support DiMasi.

“While the federal government seeks to hold Sal DiMasi accountable, we will seek to hold accountable the 135 Democrats who ignored the obvious scandal and re-elected him as speaker in January,” said MassGOP chairwoman Jennifer Nassour. “Every House member who supported DiMasi will be called out for endorsing his corrupt leadership.”

Several lawmakers have privately expressed fury at having to take the Jan. 7 vote. Publicly, they’ve been slow to defend him. But others have also pointed to DiMasi’s record of protecting gay marriage and helping pass sweeping health care reform legislation, which is currently being viewed as a possible model at the national level.

Rep. Wallace (D-South Boston) has known DiMasi since he was a House aide and DiMasi was an assistant district attorney at South Boston District Court.

“He always was a good friend, and it’s just heart-wrenching,” Wallace told the State House News Service. “There’s a lot of stuff in there that isn’t good for him. And the other thing is that it paints all of us with that brush.”

Rep. Forry defended her vote for DiMasi. “We made amazing strides under DiMasi’s leadership,” she said. “It was tough to hear what came out,” she added, referring to the indictment. “It has to go through the court system.”

Asked about the DiMasi indictment while leaving a meeting in Mattapan, Rep. Allen, who had previously said that DiMasi had done an “excellent job” during his tenure as speaker, said she would not comment.

Rep. Marty Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat who frequently clashed with DiMasi, has said he voted for DiMasi in January as a tactical maneuver. The move was meant to buy extra time to win votes for Rep. John Rogers, whom Walsh was backing to succeed DiMasi over Rep. Robert DeLeo, who won the job with 90-plus votes after DiMasi stepped down.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.


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