Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Nothing Doing

Clearly feeling heat on the Governor's many trips out of state, Massachusetts Republican party executive director Tim O'Brien has released a statement (sub req) blasting the legislature for, among other things, not being productive enough.

"This absentee Legislature needs to stop neglecting the Commonwealth and get to work on the important legislation filed by Governor Romney and Lieutenant Governor Healey, or it needs to stop taking a paycheck from the taxpayers of Massachusetts," said Tim O'Brien, Executive Director of the MassGOP. "Only on Beacon Hill is an 87 percent decrease in productivity rewarded with a full-time salary. Anybody else would be out of business."
"It's ironic that the Legislature likes to poke fun at Governor Romney for his out-of-state speaking engagements, when he has easily accomplished more than Democratic lawmakers who appears to spend their time rearranging offices in the State House," O'Brien said.
O'Brien uses as his measure the number of roll call votes taken since the start of the session this year compared to last year. Of course, that fails to take into account a couple of facts. First, the legislature went through a real reorganization this session. They actually reduced the number of standing committees. Of course, we all know how the GOP hates smaller government... Anyway, when a company undergoes a reorganization it is expected that some time will be lost as people settle into their new roles. The legislature is no exception to this.

Even without taking the reorganization into account, voting is not the only way to measure activity in the Legislature. House speaker Sal DiMasi said he is asking committee chairs to hold more oversight hearings this session. And we know how much the GOP hates government oversight. Oh, wait, that one's true.

O'Brien's claim that the governor has "filed several initiatives and pieces of legislation" does not hold up. Recall way back in November when Romney unveiled his Health Care proposal. At the time even he admitted that he had no plans to commit the plan to paper. We all knew that at some point the governor is going to have to come up with something better than an op-ed and a powerpoint presentation, but it was only yesterday that Romney said he would file a bill at some point in the future -- three months into the legislative session and five months after introducing his plan. I'm not sure what O'Brien would list among Romney's actual accomplishments. So far Romney's only impact on the state this year has been a few vetos that were quickly overridden -- some unanimously -- and a few wisecracks to GOP true believers.

Now, let's turn our attention to Mr. Tim O'Brien himself. What would happen if we applied an aribtrary measure of productivity to him? As we've noted before, O'Brien's salary is paid by the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee. The purpose of that committee is, ostensibly, to promote and support Republican candidates for Congress in Massachusetts. Now, whether it's strictly legal for a state level figure like O'Brien to get paid with funds earmarked for federal candidates is a question for election lawyers, so we'll just leave that discussion for another day. What's interesting about the MRSCC, however, is that they managed to spend over 3.6 million dollars in the 2004 election cycle. How much of that do you suppose went to Republican candidates for Congress? A whopping $385. By my math, that means that 99.99% of the MRSCC's expenditures went to overhead (things like rearranging offices, I'm sure) and not towards their stated goal of funding GOP candidates. And O'Brien has the nerve to call the legislature do-nothing? I wonder if he is going to stop taking his paycheck. I'm not going to hold my breath.