Massachusetts hacks enjoy end-of-year shakedown bonanza

If you’re not in the hackerama, you may not appreciate the significance of Dec. 31 to the payroll patriots of Massachusetts.

The ball didn’t just fall in Times Square on New Year’s Eve — it also fell at One Ashburton Place at the top of Beacon Hill, the headquarters of the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

If you’re not in the hackerama, you may not appreciate the significance of Dec. 31 to the payroll patriots of Massachusetts.

Years ago, in an ill-advised outbreak of “reform,” the Legislature decreed that no one individual could contribute more than $1,000 to any political candidate in a calendar year.

Thus, it became necessary for politicians to shake down, er, solicit contributions from all their cronies and pals before the New Year, so that they can then be shaken down yet again in the next year.

Electronic banking has a lot of advantages — think direct deposit of paychecks — but for the hacks, it’s difficult now to “backdate” the checks from the foot-draggers amongst the donor classes.

Hence the gold rush to grab all the cash by midnight on New Year’s Eve. And you can learn a lot by watching the contributions come in, minute by minute, to the OCPF website.

What Christmas Eve is to most normal people — last-minute shopping for gifts — New Year’s Eve is to the hacks, as they relentlessly hunt down victims of their prior extortions, looking for more cash before the ball drops.

Which explains why ‘tis the season for guards to give to the sheriffs who employ them, for the assistant clerks to kick up to the elected courthouse clerks to do likewise. Ditto, for “self-employed” attorneys to scrap up some cash for the governor’s councilors who might someday have to approve their $174,000-a-year early retirements as judges.

One hack stood out in this year’s New Year’s Eve stampede.

C’mon down, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen, now a candidate for state auditor. After an inauspicious start in politics (google her name and Rep. Mark Cusack’s for details), she has come a long way.

And she showed the hackerama a lot on New Year’s Eve. Between 6:23 and 7:37 p.m., according to the OCPF report log, she listed contributions from 100 of her nearest and dearest, for a total of $45,335. That includes 24 individuals maxing out with $1,000 kisses — on the last day of the year.

She collected from some of the state’s leading proponents of good government, such as Pipefitters Local 537 out of Dorchester and the Boston Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 534, not to mention Steve Tolman, the hacki di tutti hacki of the state AFL-CIO.

Diana was obviously paying attention during her pre-State House days as an aide to Edzo Kelly, the boss of the firefighters.

Another indication she may be poised to move up the greasy pole – Diana’s smart enough to be squirreling the dough away for the upcoming campaign. According to her last monthly OCPF report, she had $341,000 on hand and only spent $888 in November. Her main opponent, Chris Dempsey of Brookline, had $180,000 but blew through $13,500 — a common rookie mistake.

How about Maura Healey, the Hamlet of state politics? Is she or isn’t she? She did a little work in the final days, but not all that much.

Last Monday she reported grabbing a grand from bigtime Mintz Levin lawyer Bob Popeo. She also clipped John Sasso, erstwhile Dukakis hack, for $1,000. Others from the forgotten-but-not-gone brigade maxing out included Tom Reilly, another failed AG.

Also chipping in were Bill Weld (party affiliations mean less than nothing in these matters) and such minor coatholders of yesteryear as Paul Pezzella and Nick Mitropoulos.

They all gave $200, which is significant, because that’s all a lobbyist can give, under state law.

That saves lobbyists a lot of money, when you consider that they’re pursued by more than 200 hungry hacks 24/7, 365 days a year.

But there are ways around the $200 limit. Say, you’re married, and your wife is not a lobbyist, but a “homemaker.” Like, for instance, Kelly Travaglini of Nahant, married to former state Senate president Bobby Travaglini, a lobbyist.

She just chipped in a grand to Maura — there’s a smoke signal that maybe she’s running. Kelly Travaglini also dipped into her Christmas Club account to max out to state Sen. Mike Rodrigues, the Senate chairman of Ways and Means.

Rodrigues, a hack’s hack, knows that December is a very, very big month for alcohol, in more ways than one. He just reported reaping $14,000 from assorted beer distributors across the commonwealth.

You see, the Legislature regulates alcohol. They’ve been tinkering with the number of licenses allowed to individuals, and suddenly, the wallets are open. On the other hand, maybe it’s just a coincidence that on Wednesday, a Mr. Robert Trone of Potomac, Maryland, maxed out to State House Speaker Ron Mariano.

Trone happens to be the CEO of Total Wine. Massachusetts — especially the General Court — has been very, very good to Total Wine, wouldn’t you say?

Trone’s become very popular in the hackerama. He’s made 28 contributions — for $27,000. His nickname should be “Max.”

So much turns up on the OCPF log in the final hours. Karyn “Pay-to-Play” Polito, the lamest of lame ducks, filed for another $24,150, $21,000 of which came from guys named “Max.” All of it was collected supposedly before she took it on the lam.

Happy New Year.

Join Howie's Mailing List!

You have successfully subscribed!