Hey, thanks for having me back for the Third Annual Boston Phoenix Memorial Day Political Roast! Good to see so many of you here — the last time I saw this many Beacon Hill insiders in one place was on the prospective witness list for the SAL DIMASI trial!

So settle in while the staff serves the rubber chicken, and US Attorney CARMEN ORTIZ serves the subpoenas. Sorry for the pat-down at the door; that wasn't security, it was House members checking for wires. Speaking of which, did state representative and center-of-all-scandals TOM PETROLATI make it inside?

Boy, how about this DiMasi trial, huh? Really makes DIANNE WILKERSON and CHUCK TURNER look like street punks running a three-card Monte hustle.

The truth is, there are really two parts to the story about DiMasi and the Cognos software contract.

First, there's our political system — which as Paul McMorrow of Commonwealth magazine recently wrote, has been "described by witnesses and lawyers on both sides of the DiMasi case [as being] wired for moneyed insiders, controlled by a few powerful politicians, and abetted by a servile legislature."

And secondly, there's the stuff DiMasi's on trial for.

Seriously — the only difference between the Cognos story and things that happen on a daily basis on Beacon Hill is that DiMasi was allegedly getting paid in money, rather than power, influence, friendship, or favors.

I mean, it's one thing to spend millions on something the administration didn't want, with no justification or explanation for the price tag, through a "competitive bid" process subverted to shut out other bidders, while lower-ranking legislators whose salaries and perks you control assist the scheme without even the pretense of understanding why.

It's not like someone pocketed a $50 bill, or let a lobbyist buy them a salad. You gotta draw the line somewhere.

I tell you, political ethics is complicated stuff. Thank goodness we've got the living public-service-announcement known as Lawrence Mayor WILLIAM LANTIGUA. The new Massachusetts ethics commission Web site is going to be a running Lantigua news aggregator under the headline: "DON'T."


I'd like to pause for a moment and invite our 10 esteemed MEMBERS OF CONGRESS to come up; we have a special seating area here for you. Thank you — oh, I'm sorry, it looks like we only have nine chairs. Hey, stop that fighting! Somebody take that knife away from JOHN TIERNEY.

Speaking of redistricting, didn't you just love the serious consideration Beacon Hill gave to an independent commission that would de-politicize the process? As soon as it was suggested, leadership announced it was already too late.

Hey, maybe next time. Wait — I've just been handed a note. It's from House Speaker ROBERT DELEO. Says it's already too late for 2020, too.

Anyway, good luck to State Senator STAN ROSENBERG and State Representative MIKE MORAN, the co-chairs of the redistricting committee. And by that I mean good luck in your inevitable grand-jury testimony.

Our congressmen aren't the only pols playing musical chairs. Former at-large Boston city councilor — and latest recipient of the quadrennial TOM MENINO mayoral pummeling — Michael Flaherty has decided he really likes the City Council after all. That means one of the four incumbents has got to go.

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