Mister Speaker, you have the right to remain silent

The tradition continues.

Today the gavel in the House of Representatives will pass from the unindicted co-conspirator, Robert DeLeo, age 70, to his consigliere, er deputy, one Ron Mariano, age 74.

As we await the august proceedings, let us ponder the statesmen who have gone before, and how many of them have had to utter the magic words, “Not guilty, Your Honor.”

I was going to start with the legendary Speaker John Forbes Thompson, the Iron Duke from Ludlow. But as I did some research, I realized that when he was indicted on state bribery charges in 1964, among his co-defendants was another former Speaker named Charles Gibbons of Stoneham.

Gibbons was the last Republican House speaker, back in 1957. Then he got a hack job as secretary of administration and finance, and you can guess the rest.

Incidentally, a third defendant in that case (among many) was the last GOP House majority leader. Frank Giles was his name and he was the public safety commissioner, meaning he ran the State Police, he was crooked, and he was from Methuen.

Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before.

Anyway, the Iron Duke had the proverbial thirst so great it would cast a shadow. His drink of choice was stingers. He once took a drunken swing at the governor’s state-rep cousin in a Beacon Hill elevator. An enraged relative of a woman he’d wronged took an axe to his office door on the third floor.

The Iron Duke drank himself to death in a girlfriend’s house at the age of 45.

He was succeeded by John F.X. Davoren of Milford, who, with a state senator, once borrowed $25,000 from Raymond L.S. Patriarca, “the Man” who ran the Mafia in New England.

Speaker Davoren and his pal (a future judge) schemed to peddle Tropicana orange juice to local school districts. Being hacks, they went bankrupt. They thought they might stiff the Man on the loan. The Man thought otherwise, according to FBI records released in 2015.

“The report stated that PATRIARCA advised the two men to ‘pay back the money or else.’”

Davoren was replaced by Robert Quinn of Dorchester, who was responsible for the Quinn bill, the since-repealed phony-baloney scheme to give cops extra dough for their “educational credentials.” The grift continues, however, in rotten boroughs like Methuen – does that name ring a bell?

Next up was David Bartley of Holyoke. He seen his opportunities and he took ‘em, bailing out quickly to become president of Holyoke Community College. Bartley is forgotten but not gone, retired since 2004 with a pension now up to $156,886 a year.

Then there was Tommy McGee of Lynn, former drinking buddy of the Iron Duke. His most famous moment was when his indicted whip was recorded on an FBI wire.

The crooked Somerville solon told the undercover G-man how he was once collecting the leadership’s $50,000 payoff for racing dates and his mark “(bleeped) me on the big one, left me holding the bag with the Speaker.”

McGee was soon ousted (although it didn’t stop his son and namesake from his own career at the public trough, currently as mayor of Lynn).

Next in line was George Keverian, D-Papa Gino’s, as he became known, after getting caught parking his car (with the SPEAKER plates) in a handicapped space at the Charlestown pizzeria. He was grabbing a snack to tide him over on that arduous five-mile commute between the State House and his home in Everett.

Keverian’s defense was that he weighed 400 pounds. His most famous quote: “I am not a hack, you are not a hack, and we ought not be treated as such.”

After the gentleman from Papa Gino’s, the parade of street thugs begins — Good Time Charlie Flaherty, Felon Finneran and Sal DiMasi, BOP #27371-038. And finally the unindicted co-conspirator.

A scurvy crew, but despite the misdeeds many of their minions have become millionaires, usually on the state payroll. One of the above has a former son-in-law, retired from the hackerama, now collecting a pension of $155,791 a year.

Another had a top aide — not even a relative, just a payroll patriot. One of this henchmen’s sons is a judge for $184,694 a year, and the other son is, after all these years, still slurping down $385,589 a year at the public trough.

What did any of these speakers actually accomplish, other than feathering the nests of their families and cronies? Not much. In fact, I would say the one with the most to show for his squalid career is John Forbes Thompson.

After all, he now has a craft brewery, the Iron Duke, named after him, in his hometown of Ludlow.

Incidentally, wielding the gavel today for Mariano’s ascension will be the “dean” of the House, Angelo Scaccia, about to retire at the age of 78. Scaccia won his Hyde Park seat back in 1980, defeating an old-timer named Michael Paul Feeney, who once ran for speaker against the Iron Duke, back in 1963.

What goes around comes around. Mister Speaker, you have the right to remain silent …

Join the list for a chance to win Lunch in Studio with Grace!

Each week, we'll draw a lucky winner to enjoy lunch with Grace in-studio.

You have successfully subscribed and your name is entered into the contest!