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Heavy metal
Why is ironworker-turned-senator Stephen Lynch the Ninth District candidate of the downtown power crowd?

BY SETH GITELL


YOU WANT TO play in Boston? You want juice? Then you eat at the Capital Grille, Grill 23 or, better yet, No. 9 Park. And your candidate in the Ninth Congressional District is State Senator Stephen Lynch of South Boston. (Especially if youíre headed to No. 9 Park, owned by Lynchís cousin Barbara Lynch.)

On August 7, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi made note of the way the cityís insiders are backing Lynch despite the negative stories about his tax lien and defaulted student loan. " Lynchís flaws arenít hurting his support from the downtown power crowd, " she wrote. " The power people want to protect the status quo, and Congressman Lynch would maintain it, at least when it comes to doing business in Washington the way theyíre used to doing it. " The column was mostly about mayoral challenger Peggy Davis-Mullen ( " Can you believe it? Sheís about to qualify for the fall ballot! Who does she think she is? " she imagined Tom Menino saying), but Vennochi also painted a general picture of a political scene where the " old Boston " still rules and the " new Boston " is " still mostly a pile of dirt. " (Vennochi is somewhat less of a cheerleader for the so-called New Boston than most at the Globe.)

So who exactly makes up this " power crowd, " why might these people be backing Lynch, and to what extent are actually doing so? Last week the Federal Election Commission made available the first batch of contributor information for the Ninth District race, so we can get a sense of who is backing whom. Itís only a preliminary account, representing the first month of the campaign to replace Congressman Joe Moakley, who died on Memorial Day. But the results hint that Vennochi is absolutely right about where Bostonís insiders are putting their money in this race. Senator Brian Joyce of Milton began his dialing-for-dollars in February ó an act so blasphemous, given Moakleyís illness, that much of the establishment dropped him like a stone. Senator Cheryl Jacques of Needham wasnít running for Congress during the period the reports cover, so the accounts donít yet reveal who her supporters are, and Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton is from so far outside the city, he isnít on the power crowdís radar screen. But it is clear that Lynch is winning the support of Bostonís VIPs, and his planned fundraising activities show that itís only the beginning.

WHY? WELL, for one thing, itís safe to back Lynch, who, according to last monthís Boston Herald/RKM Research and Communications poll, led Jacques and Joyce by at least 20 points. Political sources say that subsequent internal polling has continued to show Lynch with a sizable lead. Insiders like to back a winner, and if they perceive momentum flowing in the direction of a certain candidate, theyíll rush to get behind him or her; this is magnified, of course, when that campaign sends out the message " If youíre not with me, Iíll never forget it, " as sources say the Lynch campaign has done. As Lynch attempts to create an air of inevitability around his candidacy ó telling the Globe after a visit to Washington, DC, for instance, " I just want to be able to hit the ground running here so I donít have a long learning curve " ó numerous insiders are scampering to raise funds for him.

Political sources say the FEC filing shows merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Lynchís fundraising. The influential Thomas P. OíNeill III and his colleague Michael Vaughn, a former Boston Redevelopment Authority official, were scheduled to host a major fundraiser August 15 at the offices of OíNeillís FH GPC USA, an international government and public-relations firm. The firmís political-action committee, GPC America PAC, has already donated $500 to the Lynch campaign, according to FEC documents. Richard Mintz, name partner at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, gave Lynch $500; the offices of the prestigious law firm, whose Robert Popeo is regarded as the most influential litigator in the Commonwealth, were the site of a fundraiser for Lynch. Both Robert Beal, a local real-estate developer, and John Drew, a developer of the World Trade Center, are planning to host fundraisers for Lynch.

And if thatís not enough, Democratic bigwig Michael Whouley, a former adviser to Al Gore, is planning to host one as well. George Regan, the powerhouse public-relations guru, is also planning to raise money for Lynch. " I like him a lot, " says Regan. " Heís the best thing for the city, and we intend to raise him some money. Thatís not something we normally do. " All this is adding up: Lynch-campaign sources say the candidate will have raised $900,000 by this week.

Behind some of this support, Lynch backers say, is pure geography: Lynch is the only Boston candidate and thus the only candidate who can carry the interests of the city forward on Capitol Hill. Says one Lynch backer: " Bostonís the only major city in the country that doesnít have a congressman. " (Representative Michael Capuano, who represents the Eighth Congressional District, is from Somerville.) It is assumed, of course, that Lynch would keep funds flowing to the city in the tradition of the seatís previous occupant, Moakley. Already city insiders speculate that Representative James McGovern, of the Third Congressional District, will relinquish his seat on the House Transportation Committee to replace Moakley on the powerful Rules Committee. The Transportation Committee, ultimately, is the congressional body that oversees money that flows to the Big Dig. Lynch, whose home community lies in the middle of the Big Dig, could take over McGovernís spot on the committee ó and keep the money rolling in.

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Issue Date: August 16-23, 2001


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