The Boston Herald has a wonderful expose today on the abuse of campaign war chests and the complete lack of ethics of some Massachusetts House and Senate members.
Now is the time where everyone is being squeezed. Companies are laying off employees, raises for 2009 will be in jeopardy at many companies, food prices are high, and if you work in Boston the price of taking the MBTA or driving on the Mass Pike is going up. However, if you are a Massachusetts lawmaker, life is GREAT. Particularly, if you have a campaign war chest left over from the last brutal campaign in which you ran unopposed.
While technically not illegal, the use of campaign funds to pay for luxury automobiles, and the willingness to accept per diem travel allowances, shows that our lawmakers are not serious about any sort of ethics reform nor appropriately managing the state budget in a time of major economic trouble.
I wasn't aware that it was actually legal for legislators to use such campaign funds for day to day living expenses. Why would anyone in their right mind, donate any money to these people when their campaign donations go straight to letting them drive the car of their dreams? Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford may have a 120 mile round trip commute to Beacon Hill, but at least he's riding in style in a campaign funded Infiniti with the gas already paid for, thanks to his per diem allowance. Senator Montigny hasn't had a serious challenger for his seat in his 16 years in the Senate, yet he has one of the largest warchests on Beacon Hill.
Why does Speaker Sal DiMasi need a travel per diem allowance, when he lives 3 miles from the State House? Big Pimpin' Sal is rolling around in an $845 a month Lincoln Navigator; naturally paid for by campaign funds. The tree huggers aren't going to be too happy with Big Pimpin' Sal, when they read he's driving a large and thirsty SUV that only gets 15 MPG. I thought only Republicans polluted the environment? Where's Al Gore when you need him to lecture Sal that "the earth has a fever"?
However, I'm certain any sort of ethics reform in this regard will occur around the same time the Detroit Lions win a Super Bowl. So, the next time you read about a deficit in our state budget, remember, our lawmakers are doing all they can to contribute to it.