Robert DeLeo's 'Bulletproof'
March 26, 2012
by Chris Cassidy
An indictment-free House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo can swagger back up Beacon Hill today wielding a more powerful gavel - as yet the only speaker in two decades to avoid criminal charges, he'll be better positioned than ever to squash rebellions and advance his agenda, political observers told the Herald.
"When you're in leadership in the Massachusetts Legislature, any day you don't get indicted is a good day," said Marc Landy of Boston College. "As long as there are no new allegations putting him back in the spotlight, it reinforces his power."
DeLeo is the first Massachusetts speaker in 21 years not to be indicted by a grand jury. That may seem like a low bar to clear, but given that the past three speakers have all been guilty of felony charges, DeLeo's off-the-hook status - at least for now - will only heighten his hold on power, pundits said.
"He's largely untouchable," said Peter Ubertaccio of Stonehill College. "It makes it very difficult. If he's able to escape any kind of indictment, what's the rationale for another Democrat to sweep in and try to create division within the caucus?"
That's bad news for DeLeo critics such as state Rep. Charles Murphy (D-Burlington), whose fiery resignation as majority whip last year, when he blasted the speaker's "top-down leadership model," let him become a rare outspoken Democratic critic of DeLeo.
"What's the issue that's going to allow a substantial number of Democrats to launch a coup against the speaker and be successful?" Ubertaccio asked. "An indictment could have given a plausible reason. Now it doesn't exist."
Murphy could not be reached for comment yesterday. DeLeo, through a spokesman, declined comment.
But what's good for DeLeo may not be good for his underlings - the damaging revelations of patronage in the Probation Department and the trial courts have only rattled taxpayers' already-eroded faith in Beacon Hill's competence, said one observer.
"He'll probably emerge more powerful in the sense that he can say, ‘Now nobody can get me. I'm bulletproof,' " said Tom Whalen of Boston University. "But I think the Democratic Party will suffer. The perception of a one-party state where it seems like scandals are piling up - that cannot be good if you're running for office."
DeLeo's gavel may be safe for now, but loyalty can vanish in an instant, Whalen said.
"If something comes up, or some news organization digs something up," Whalen said, "it'll be like rats on a sinking ship."
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.