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DNC study sparks harsh words

Boston Herald business columnist Cosmo Macero Jr. is upset with the Beacon Hill Institute (BHI). Or as he puts it on his Web site, CosmoMacero.com, "I am bullshit about this."

Hereís why. On March 30, the BHI, a conservative think tank based at Suffolk University, issued a report predicting that the Democratic National Convention this summer will boost the local economy by some $122 million. That was $28 million less than had been claimed in a study commissioned by the city and Democratic Party officials, but still a significant benefit. The Boston Globe, which got an advance copy of the study, played it on the front of the Business section the day it came out.

Then, on April 2, Macero wrote a column ó teased on page one ó claiming that the $154 million payoff touted by Mayor Tom Menino would be virtually wiped out when you started adding up events that have been canceled to make way for the Democrats, such as Sail Boston ($85 million) and the US Olympic Gymnastic Trials ($15 million), philanthropic and charitable contributions that have gone to the convention rather than to other worthwhile causes ($40 million), and lost productivity caused by closing I-93 and North Station. Beneath the characteristically unrestrained headline DNC PAYDAY: THE $154 MILLION LIE, Macero wrote that "weíll be lucky to break even when our big week in the national spotlight is all over."

There matters stood until this past Tuesday, when the Globe led its Business section with yet another advance copy of a BHI report. Headlined CONVENTION SEEN YIELDING A NET LOSS, the story, by Kimberly Blanton, revealed that BHI now believes the convention "will cost area businesses $23.8 million in lost productivity and push the economic impact of the event into the red." Factors cited by the BHI included ó you guessed it ó the closure of I-93 and North Station and the cancellation of Sail Boston and the Olympic trials. The total loss to Bostonís economy, according to the new study: $12.8 million. Significantly, the new BHI study was not carried in the Herald, which, Macero told me, got passed over in favor of its larger competitor. "I do know that it wasnít a mistake, it wasnít a missed press release," Macero said. "It was a targeted leak to the Globe."

BHI executive director David Tuerck told me that he was aware of Maceroís April 2 story before ordering up a new study. But when I asked him whether Maceroís story was a factor in his deciding to revisit the issue, Tuerck replied, "No."

So why was a new study conducted just two weeks after the previous one? "When we released the first study, we had only an unconfirmed story that Sail Boston and the other event were not coming to Boston because of the convention, and we had only a rumor that I-93 and North Station would be closed," Tuerck replied. "We didnít know that when we wrote the first report. We wrote the second report on the basis of new information."

As for why an advance copy of the report was given to the Globe but not the Herald, Tuerck said, "I think thatís a matter that I donít want to discuss. Iím not sure that I want to discuss our policy about handing things to the media here." (Blanton did not return a call requesting comment.)

I also asked Tuerck about a particularly incendiary passage that Macero wrote on his Web site: "I feel their [the BHIís] methodology is sound. Too bad they forgot to do the complete analysis before they issued their first press release a few weeks ago! Now they look like chumps for playing catch-up to a ... newspaper. The Suffolk University trustees ought to kick some frigginí ass over this humiliation."

Tuerck declined to respond, saying, "Iím not really interested in having a fight with Cosmo. If Cosmo says that about us, I suppose heís entitled to his opinion. I donít want to be part of an escalating battle between him and us."

Macero, for his part, says he thinks itís "absolute nonsense" that his April 2 column had nothing to do with the BHIís reassessment. "I respect David Tuerck a tremendous amount, but I donít think itís credible at all," Macero says. "They looked silly, and to their credit they sought to rectify it. I do wish from a competitive standpoint they had thought to tell us, since it was our story that got them rolling to begin with."

Issue Date: April 16 - 22, 2004
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