Thursday, March 19, 2009

MassGOP Research Briefing

A Brief Timeline Of Events Surrounding Patrick Administration Secretary James Aloisi
Governor Patrick wanted him from the beginning, but he was the only one...

December, 2006

Shortly after being elected as Governor, the Boston Herald reported that Deval Patrick is looking to appoint James Aloisi as Transportation Secretary:
After months of decrying the ``Big Dig culture'' on Beacon Hill, Gov.-elect Deval Patrick is eyeing one of the project's longtime insiders as a possible pick for transportation secretary, the Herald has learned. Several sources said James A. Aloisi, whose firm made millions as legal counsel for the Turnpike Authority and wrote a Big Dig book, is on a short list of people being considered for the post. (Boston Herald, 12/14/06)

The Boston Herald notes that Aloisi is a long time Big-Dig insider, and was also the chief defender of James Kerasiotes, who was fired for concealing cost overruns: Because of his familiarity with the project's inner workings, Aloisi has remained involved in the Big Dig as an outside legal consultant - work for which he has billed the state more than $3 million. He was also the chief defender of former Big Dig Boss James Kerasiotes, who was fired for concealing billions of dollars in cost overruns. (Boston Herald, 12/14/06)

The Associated Press also noted that Aloisi was an advisor to former Turnpike chief Matt Amorello: He also helped advise former Turnpike Chairman Matthew Amorello in the wake of last July's fatal accident in one of the Big Dig tunnels, helping convince Amorello his legal options were running out in the face of efforts by Gov. Mitt Romney to oust him. Amorello eventually resigned. (Associated Press, 12/14/06)

Governor Patrick said he'd be "crazy" not to consider Aloisi as Transportation Secreatry: Gov.-elect Deval Patrick said he would be ``crazy'' not to consider longtime Big Dig insider Jim Aloisi for transportation secretary, even though Patrick demonized the project's political culture during the campaign for governor.``He is a very strong and well-respected expert in transportation,`` Patrick said of Aloisi during a press conference yesterday. ``And I think anybody would be crazy not to consider him.'' (Boston Herald, 12/15/06)

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette Editorialized that Aloisi presided over "a golden age of patronage, waste, abuse and political manipulation.": When word got out that lawyer James A. Aloisi Jr., a well-wired mover and shaker in Democratic politics, was being considered for the position of state transportation secretary in the Patrick administration, reporters' questions focused on his billing for legal work relating to the Big Dig. Far more troubling is his record at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.As general counsel, he and former chairman Allan R. McKinnon presided over a golden age of patronage, waste, abuse and political manipulation. (Telegram and Gazette, 12/17/06)

The Telegram noted that Aloisi once dismissed an Inspector General's report slamming the Big Dig, calling the IG "the Grinch that stole Christmas.": Two state inspectors general, Joseph R. Barresi and Robert A. Cerasoli, found a pervasive pattern of spendthrift policies, including high-cost perks to executives, donations to private charities, and lavish vacation, attendance and sick-leave policies.In a 1991 report, Mr. Cerasoli concluded the authority - which the Legislature intended to have a 30-year life span - had pursued a hidden agenda aimed at self-perpetuation, staying alive by increased long-term borrowing. Mr. Aloisi dismissed the report condescendingly, calling Mr. Cerasoli "the Grinch that stole Christmas." (Telegram and Gazette, 12/17/06)

Patrick ended up naming Bernard Cohen Transportation Secretary: "It's probably a good thing that somebody comes into a job like this with some strong experience but also a fresh eye and a clean slate," Aloisi said. "Patrick's going to be well-served by this pick." (Boston Globe, 12/24/06)

February, 2008

Governor Patrick appoints James Aloisi to the MassPort board: Gov. Deval Patrick has appointed James Aloisi Jr. to the Massachusetts Port Authority Board. Aloisi is a transportation law expert at the Boston firm of Goulston and Storrs. The law firm's Web site says Aloisi was a principal author of legislation creating the framework for financing of the $14.79 billion Big Dig, the nation's costliest highway project. Aloisi served in the Dukakis administration, eventually becoming general counsel for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority in the early 1990s. (AP, 2/11/08)

November, 2008

The Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was burdened with excessive debt and its credit rating was close to junk:
In the mid-1990s, state lawmakers were desperately searching for a way to pay the state's share of escalating Big Dig costs. To borrow the billions they would need, they found a financially stable government agency with a consistent source of income: the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. More than a decade later, the authority is unable to afford needed maintenance, has a credit rating just above junk bond status, and is in such a shambles that Governor Deval Patrick is drafting a plan to split it into parts and wipe it from the face of state government. (Boston Globe, 11/12/08)

The Globe noted that Aloisi drafted the law that made the Turnpike responsible for the Big Dig's finances: "No one is going to want to repeat the mistakes of the past," said James Aloisi Jr., an informal Patrick adviser and one of two Patrick appointees on the seven-member Massport board. "And one of the mistakes is that in the mid-'90s, we burdened the turnpike with excessive amounts of debt. And I don't believe anyone is contemplating anything like that in this plan." Aloisi should know. He was the Turnpike Authority's lawyer from 1989 through 1996 and drafted the law that made the agency responsible for the Big Dig's finances. He now regrets that decision. (Boston Globe, 11/12/08)

December, 2008

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen resigns:
Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen resigned Monday, having lost the confidence of the Patrick administration as it geared up for a major push to resolve the state's sizable and lingering transportation woes. (Associated Press, 12/16/08)

Republican lawmakers opposed replacing Cohen with Aloisi: Aloisi called a "ghost of Big Dig past," by Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth): Horrified lawmakers and transportation officials were outraged that Patrick is considering Aloisi, who made millions as legal counsel for the Turnpike Authority and was behind tying the $15 billion Big Dig boondoggle to the agency. ``He's a lingering ghost of Big Dig past, and he's partly responsible for getting us in this mess in the first place,'' said Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth). ``I can't believe there's nobody else out there capable of serving at this crucial time.'' (Boston Herald, 12/16/08)

The Boston Herald editorialized that Aloisi "helped ensure that Turnpike tolls would live on in perpetuity": Reports are swirling that Gov. Deval Patrick might soon replace his top transportation aide - with the man who helped ensure that Turnpike tolls would live on in perpetuity. Not quite the ``reform'' the commonwealth is crying out for. Yes, before he cashed in as a high-priced lawyer and consultant to the Big Dig James A. Aloisi Jr. served as general counsel to the Turnpike Authority. And in the waning days of the Dukakis administration, he helped engineer a controversial sale of Turnpike bonds that breathed new life into an authority marked for oblivion. (Boston Herald, 12/16/08)

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette editorialized that Aloisi played a key role in "placing the burden of paying for Boston's Big Dig on Central Massachusetts and MetroWest toll payers.": If transportation reform is the goal, Mr. Aloisi's part in securing the perpetuation of the turnpike authority in the 1980s and '90s should give Mr. Patrick pause. The authority was supposed to be eliminated when the construction bonds were paid off in the 1980s. As Pike general counsel and adviser to chairman Allan R. McKinnon, Mr. Aloisi was architect and chief defender of a borrowing strategy, hatched in 1989, that gave the authority a new lease on life. Two state inspectors general, Joseph R. Barresi and Robert A. Cerasoli, concluded that self-perpetuation was the turnpike authority's "hidden agenda." Mr. Aloisi also played a key role in legislation creating the Metropolitian Highway System that, contrary to its stated purpose, places much of the burden of paying for Boston's Big Dig on Central Massachusetts and MetroWest toll payers. His declaration in 1995 that the authority's "hope and expectation" was that any toll hikes would not be to pay for the Big Dig has proved to be disingenuous or naive. (Telegram and Gazette, 12/17/08)

The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi said that Aloisi "helped create and nurture the culture of arrogance and secrecy Patrick pledged to change," and that the selection was "puzzling at best.": When he ran for governor, Deval Patrick promised to end what he called "the Big Dig culture." Now, Patrick is thinking about putting James A. Aloisi Jr. - a key architect, enabler, and beneficiary of that culture - in charge of reforming it. The prospect of Aloisi as the state's next transportation secretary is puzzling, at best. Aloisi, the Big Dig's former chief counsel, has no obvious track record as someone who tried to reform the system from within. In fact, he helped create and nurture the culture of arrogance and secrecy Patrick pledged to change. (Boston Globe, 12/18/08)

Even Democrats called Aloisi "involved in creating the disaster": ``I wish anyone well convincing the public to support tolls, a gas tax or any reforms if you have the very people involved in creating the disaster at the helm,'' said Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). (Boston Herald, 12/17/08)

Governor Patrick names Aloisi Transportation Secretary: "After railing against the "Big Dig culture" on the campaign trail, Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday tapped a key Big Dig player to serve as transportation secretary and spearhead the overhaul of a state transportation structure imperiled in part by the $15 billion project's debt." (Associated Press, 12/19/08)

Note: Governor Patrick was so excited about his appointment, that he announced the pick during a blizzard: There is a time-honored tradition among public officials of releasing controversial news late on a Friday afternoon. That Gov. Deval Patrick chose to announce the appointment of James A. Aloisi Jr. as secretary of transportation during a Friday afternoon BLIZZARD well, maybe the administration just wanted to pay tribute to the old way of doing things. Because that really is what the appointment represents - a return to the good old, bad old days. That Patrick could bill the appointment as part of his effort to ``reform'' the state's transportation system, well, it's frankly laughable. (Boston Herald, 12/22/08)

January, 2009

The Boston Herald reported that Aloisi received a state pension while consulting for the Turnpike authority as recently as last year:
New transportation secretary James Aloisi has made big money off the Big Dig debacle, rolling up in the past two years nearly $1 million in his law firm's consulting fees from the Turnpike Authority while taking a $31,000 a year pension from the state agency. Critics blasted the transportation chief - who was profiting as a consultant from the $22 billion boondoggle as recently as last year - for taking $343,000 in pension payments while also working for the state...Aloisi, who's been on the new job for four days, worked for the state and the Turnpike Authority for almost 18 years combined, and began taking early retirement in 1996. Shortly afterward, he went to work for the now defunct law firm Hill and Barlow, which was a Big Dig consultant. Aloisi also collected consulting fees when the Turnpike later hired his firm Goulston and Storrs, taking in a total of $3 million off the project. (Boston Herald, 1/15/09)

The Boston Globe reported the Aloisi may have to recuse himself from some policy decisions because of financial ties between the turnpike authority and his previous employer: Governor Deval Patrick's new transportation secretary has acknowledged he may have to recuse himself from some policy decisions because of the extensive financial ties between his former law firm and the agencies he is now being asked to overhaul.
That firm, Goulston & Storrs, where James A. Aloisi Jr. was a partner, collected $2.8 million from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and $1.6 million from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority over the past five years, Aloisi's spokesman disclosed in response to written questions from the Globe last week. Aloisi, now chairman of both agencies, declined to be interviewed yesterday. Neither Aloisi nor his spokesman elaborated on which decisions, if any, he may have to avoid. But significant limits in his participation could jeopardize his ability to direct a complicated and controversial transportation reorganization that has become a top priority on Beacon Hill. In his new job, which he assumed last week, he is expected to lead Patrick's push to restructure and bail out the bureaucracies that run roads, tunnels, bridges, subways, buses, trains, and airports. (Boston Globe, 1/22/09)

The Associated Press reports that Governor Patrick is weighing a .27 cent gas tax hike: Gov. Deval Patrick is considering asking the Legislature to raise the Massachusetts gasoline tax by 27 cents per gallon as part of a comprehensive package aimed at solving lingering state transportation problems, The Associated Press learned Monday.(Associated Press, 2/9/09)

February, 2009

Aloisi continually interrupts Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton as she proposed alternatives to toll increases: Board member Mary Connaughton voted against the hikes and said she wanted the board to consider fairer alternatives and cost reductions. As she tried to outline a proposed amendment, Transportation Secretary James Aloisi, who also serves as the board's chairman, continually interrupted her and asked her to remain focused on the vote at hand. As Connaughton sought to explain her amendment, Aloisi stopped her and reread the proposed vote very slowly. (Boston Globe, 2/24/09)

WATCH: Video of Aloisi interrupting Mary Connaughton.

March, 2009

Aloisi tells the Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi that when he worked for the Turnpike Authority, it "wasn't his job to tell people the truth.":
The truth may set Jim Aloisi free. But it's going to cost Massachusetts taxpayers. Aloisi, the new state transportation secretary, argues passionately that the gas tax hike promoted by Governor Deval Patrick is urgently needed to make up for "sins of the past," which include covering up Big Dig costs. As lawyer to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Aloisi knew the sins and the sinners. But, "It wasn't my job to tell people the truth," he said during a visit to the Globe last week. Now, he declared, "I am liberated." A liberated Aloisi admits it was wrong for Big Dig champions to ask the Turnpike Authority to "bankrupt itself" to pay for the project's ever-escalating costs and wrong for the Turnpike Authority to go along with the request: "It bankrupted itself . . . Congratulations." Today, Aloisi labels it bad policy for board members to do what he did: arrogantly decide to run a public authority without transparency or accountability to the people or the governor they elect. Now, he calls it "a disgrace" that state transportation officials increased MBTA fares over the years instead of getting behind a politically painful gas tax increase. "I was part of the thinking of the '90s," said Aloisi. "I don't come in here as Caesar's wife." (Boston Globe, 3/1/09)

In response to Aloisi and Patrick's proposed "carbon fee" for parking at Logan Airport, the Boston Herald editorialized that "When it comes to arrogance Transportation Secretary James Aloisi is without peer.": When it comes to arrogance Transportation Secretary James Aloisi is without peer. Aloisi, of course, is the brains behind Gov. Deval Patrick's 19 cent gas tax hike and the rest of the governor's transportation reform plan. Among the ``reforms'' in that plan is a new $2 ``carbon fee'' that Aloisi and Patrick want assessed on anyone who parks at Logan Airport - whether for 10 minutes or 10 days. Aloisi told the Boston Globe last week that it SHOULDN'T be convenient to drive to Logan and park. ``We need people to understand that there are better ways to get to Logan,'' he said. Tell that to the mom traveling to Logan from Roslindale with her toddler, a baby stroller and luggage to make a 6 a.m. flight. (Boston Herald, 3/3/09)

The State House News Service then reported that Aloisi then referred to "reform before revenue" as a "meaningless slogan": Taking direct aim at the central mantra behind Senate President Therese Murray's transportation reform policy, Gov. Deval Patrick's top transportation aide on Wednesday derided her insistence on "reform before revenue" as a "meaningless slogan." In a closed-door, standing-room-only meeting with lawmakers and aides, Transportation Secretary James Aloisi stunned several of those in attendance with his harsh dismissal of the policy, to which Murray has clung despite the administration's approval of a $100 million toll hike and a 19-cent-per-gallon gas tax as mutually exclusive measures. Aloisi said he would advise Patrick to veto a nine cent-a-gallon gas tax hike, one in a series of proposed increases to the state's existing 23.5-cent levy. (State House News Service, 3/4/09)

Even Democrats said that "reform before revenue" was "certainly not meaningless": Senate leaders said they were bewildered by the criticism. "I don't even know what to think," said Senate Ways and Means chair Steven Panagiotakos. "I would say it's certainly not meaningless to the citizens of Massachusetts," said Panagiotakos (D-Lowell). "Everywhere I've gone, people have thought that was the proper approach: clean up the transportation system, make it as efficient as possible, then you have an idea of how much it's going to cost." (State House News Service, 3/4/09)

Aloisi then referred to Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton as a "gadfly": Patrick's new transportation secretary and the chairman of the authority's board, James A. Aloisi Jr., is not nearly as charitable. His treatment of her during a recent vote to raise tolls - in which she was the only dissenter - attracted criticism from Senate President Therese Murray and a call for an apology from the state Republican Party. ``Respect is a two-way street,'' Aloisi said, a few days after cutting Connaughton off repeatedly during the Feb. 24 meeting and removing her from a spot on the authority's audit committee, where she had freer access to agency documents. ``And I wasn't treated with respect and I haven't been treated with respect by her since the first day I took this job.'' ``She's a distraction,'' he continued. ``She's a gadfly. And I have more important things to do.'' (Boston Globe, 3/9/09)

The Boston Globe then reported that Aloisi's sister Carol had a no-show job at the State House: Her title was chief of staff, but she had no staff and reported to no one. That did not prevent Carol Aloisi from collecting a $60,000 State House salary for six months, until a state representative found her - literally - sitting in his new office and put her to work. Aloisi, the sister of state Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr., was assigned in August by House leaders to the onetime office of former state representative Rachel Kaprielian months after Kaprielian had vacated her post to head up the state Registry of Motor Vehicles. When aides to Representative Garrett Bradley of Hingham, named as Kaprielian's successor as floor leader this year, arrived to take over the office two weeks ago, they were baffled to find her there. (Boston Globe, 3/17/09)

The Boston Globe editorialized that Aloisi "isn't the most obvious symbol of reform" and is a "tainted messenger.": While Governor Patrick wants to fix the state's transportation bureaucracy, his new transportation secretary, James F. Aloisi Jr., isn't the most obvious symbol of reform. The Globe's Andrea Estes reported yesterday that Aloisi's sister, Carol Aloisi, holds a state job that paid her $60,000 for doing nothing. It's hard to imagine anyone without connections getting such a plum deal...Passing these reforms - which Patrick says are as vital to his plan as the gas tax hike - means convincing unions and their political allies that the state's fiscal stability is at risk. Aloisi, who is supposed to press the governor's message of reform, is a tainted messenger. (Boston Globe, 3/18/09)

Then Aloisi attacked the Boston Globe in a blog post for the story about his sister. He later apologized: State Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr., abruptly reversing course yesterday, publicly lashed out at the Globe for a story describing how his sister recently held a legislative job with no apparent duties and then issued an apology to the paper and one of its reporters. The episode, one in a string of high-profile conflicts involving Governor Deval Patrick's recent appointee, began with a strongly worded blog posting on Tuesday night. In it, Aloisi criticized a Globe story that disclosed Carol Aloisi's lack of responsibilities for six months despite her $60,000-a-year salary. Aloisi called the story "misleading," "inaccurate," and "disgraceful." (Boston Globe, 3/19/09)